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The Killzone series had somewhat of a rocky start but things really picked up with the release of Killzone 2. In my opinion, the first game isn’t really that great. It introduced players to the hard sci fi and gritty world of Killzone but the gameplay is average at best. The game never reaches its full potential and feels like it’s being held back, possibly due to the technology of the time. Killzone 2, on the other hand, feels like the fully realized Killzone experience. From the stunning visual presentation to the incredibly fun gameplay, it’s easily one of the best first-person shooters for the PlayStation 3. It’s one of those games that’s so good, I can imagine creating a follow-up title that aims to be better is quite the daunting task.
Developed by Guerrilla Games and published by Sony Computer Entertainment, Killzone 3 was released for PlayStation 3 in February, 2011. I remember when Killzone 3 came out because it was one of the bigger titles that could be played in 3D and supports PlayStation Move. I was more interested in the Move functionality and I really wanted that Sharp Shooter peripheral which I did eventually get later down the line. I did beat Killzone 3 once years ago, I think around the time it released and remember snow. That’s all I remembered. Some kind of firefight in the snow. So I was eager to jump back into it again.
The plot begins right where the second game left off. Scolar Visari is dead and the Helghast launch a full-scale attack on the ISA. The player is once again put in the shoes of Sergeant Tomas Sevchenko who, along with Rico Velasquez, fight through Helghast forces in an effort to reach an extraction point but get separated. Meanwhile, the death of Visari results in a conflict between Admiral Orlock, commander of the Helghast First Army and Jorhan Stahl, an arms manufacturer who wants to take Visari’s throne and conquer Earth.
In my opinion, Killzone 3 tells the best story in the main trilogy. It’s not the greatest story ever told but I like how it digs into some of the Helghast politics. I found those elements to be more interesting than most of the story beats that focus on the ISA and the conflict between Rico and Captain Narville. The voice cast is comprised of some notable talent including James Remar, Ray Winstone, and Malcolm McDowell who gives a solid performance as Stahl.
Killzone 3 is a lot like Killzone 2 in many ways. It’s an action-packed shooter from beginning to end. Almost everything that made the last game so great has been carried over. But it feels a little different. Killzone 3 retains the gritty action the series is known for but the gloominess has been toned down. It’s not as dark and eerie. Nevertheless, encounters still look and sound like war zones with gunfire and explosions surrounding you as your allies and enemies scream and shout amid all the death and destruction. It’s still great stuff and you don’t have to tackle the campaign solo. You and a buddy can experience it together in the local co-op mode.
Killzone 3 does support PlayStation Move. I played through the entire campaign with a standard controller and then played through a portion of it with the Navigation and Motion controllers and I was surprised at how much fun it was to play like that. I had to adjust the deadzones and some other settings but once I got them how I wanted them, I was having a blast picking off enemies left and right.
As expected, much of Killzone 3 has you running and gunning. The gunplay is still great thanks to a good sense of weight to the characters and weapons, excellent animations, and good audiovisual feedback. Gunfire is loud and often echoes, enemies that are shot will often stumble around before dropping, and blood will splatter on surfaces. Movement feels smooth and, in general, the controls and actions feel a little snappier than those of the previous games.
The jump from Killzone 2 to 3 is definitely not as significant as the jump from the first game to the second. But Killzone 3 does manage to stand on its own and not feel like a rehash thanks to a few things. One is more diverse environments. From a destroyed urban landscape to a jungle to frozen shores to a space station. The second is slightly more varied encounters. One mission encourages you to use stealth tactics like hiding in the shadows and tall grass and picking off distant enemies with headshots. Some missions in the game even let you utilize a jetpack to fly around which can be a lot of fun. And third, the running and gunning is frequently broken up by action-packed scripted sequences. You’ll get to fly around in space and engage enemy fighters, ride in a tank and blow away enemy armor and ground forces, and ride around in an aircraft and mow down foes with a minigun.
The gunplay is by far the best its ever been up to this point, often feeling visceral. Pumping an enemy full of bullets or impaling one with a shot from the Bolt Gun or watching them run around on fire is always a good time. Much of the arsenal will feel familiar to veterans of the series but some new weapons have been thrown into the mix. My favorite is easily the Arc Cannon. It fires a material known as Petrusite and can kill most enemies in one or two shots, resulting in them exploding into a bloody mist.
The varied cast of Helghast troopers we’ve come to enjoy blowing away has returned along with some new foes including Capture Troopers which rush the player and utilize melee attacks and can drop you quickly if they get close. I first encountered one in the jungle. That’s the mission that encourages stealth and if you get spotted, one of the enemies will send up a signal which alerts them to your presence. Every now and then you’ll come up against enemies with jetpacks and that’s always fun because when you destroy the jetpack, that typically sends them flying wildly through the air before exploding.
I want to say Killzone 3 is little more challenging on the Trooper difficulty which I equate to Normal when compared to the last game. It feels like Sevchenko is a little more fragile here but it’s very possible I just suck. Standing out in the open during a firefight is usually not a good idea. Firefights often kept me moving around, usually because enemy grenades would force me out of cover and they sometimes get a bit grenade happy which can become a little annoying. When enemies have you in their sights, they can drop you quickly, especially if they’re wielding heavy firepower. You can be revived by friendlies which is nice, although if you stray too far from Rico or whoever else is accompanying you, they might not be able to get to you in time. That said, the friendly and enemy AI is pretty much on par with that of the last game. My only real complaint is with the friendly AI, usually Rico, not reviving me at certain points for some reason despite literally being right next to me.
As expected, the environments in Killzone 3 are mostly linear. It’s always clear where you need to go and how to get there. Encounters often take place in open spaces with plenty of objects and structures to use as cover. Killzone 3 does feature a nice mix of standard and more vertical encounters thanks primarily to the jetpack allowing you to easily reach higher elevations quickly.
Killzone 3 does support online multiplayer but the official servers were shut down some time ago. The game also comes with a mode called Botzone which is the multiplayer with bots and nothing you do in this mode counts towards your career progression. But all weapons and abilities are unlocked from the get-go. You can select from one of multiple game types, set the amount of bots and their difficulty, and select the map. The multiplayer does feature class-based gameplay and even though I was only able to engage bots, I was enjoying what I was playing.
Visually, Killzone 3 looked great for its time and can be presented in 3D if you have the TV to support it which I do not. The texture work is good, everything is detailed, animations look great, and I love the lighting. What really stands out most to me is the environmental variety. Every environment looks great but each location looks and feels different thanks to not only the general designs and atmospheric effects but also the use of color. The jungle mission in particular is one of the more memorable locations simply because of how the environments look. All the colors and foliage and fauna make it look and feel more alien than any other location. On the audio side, the soundtrack is pretty good with a lot of intense tunes kicking in during firefights. Gunfire and explosions are loud and these along with all the shouting during some of the larger-scale battles often made me feel like there was an active war going on in my living room. On the technical side, the frame rate did noticeably dip here and there when things got really hectic but I can’t say I encountered any major bugs or anything that hindered my experience.
Personally, I think Killzone 3 is the best game in the main trilogy. But I think Killzone 2 was more impressive. That jump from the first game to the second was huge. That said, I think Killzone 2 set a new precedent for the series. It was the new foundation and Killzone 3 kind of builds upon that. But it doesn’t do anything to really “wow” me like the jump from Killzone 1 to 2. What I mean is, at the very least, I expected the same level of greatness that 2 offered. And I’m happy to say it delivered. Killzone 3 has the same great gameplay but with refinements and a little more variety. To me, it feels more explosive. All the set pieces and scripted sequences are not only fun but also make for nice breaks from the typical run and gun action and just when I thought I saw all the game had to offer, I was shown something new or different. I was encouraged to sneak around or I was gunning down foes during an on-rails sequence or I was flying around with a jetpack.
I’m guessing the 3D and PlayStation Move compatibility are supposed to be big draws here. I can’t speak for the 3D but I was impressed with the motion controls. I still prefer a controller but I chalk that up to being simply stuck in my ways. Nevertheless, as it relates to the campaign, the motion controls prove to be a lot of fun and are a viable way to play through it.
I would absolutely recommend Killzone 3. Fans of the genre and series should not be disappointed and I think it’s one of the best shooters for the PlayStation 3. It looks great, it sounds great, and it feels great. Plus, you don’t have to tackle the campaign alone. Definitely check it out.