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Killzone 3 Review

This is a first-person experience.

2011-02-03
A lot of games can place you in first person and put a gun in your virtual fingers, but few of them manage to make you feel like you're in the shoes of a person, that you're more than just a moving camera.

It's this idea that separates a run of the mill first-person shooter from what I like to think of as a first-person experience. And Killzone 3, Sony's latest PlayStation 3 exclusive, is definitely the latter. Every action you do in Killzone is immersive; the combat more intense and savage than other shooters. It's this design that makes Killzone 3 so engrossing and fun despite its weak story. With the fantastic pacing and set pieces in the campaign, along with the improved, fun multiplayer, Guerilla's crafted a must own for PS3 shooting enthusiasts.



Killzone 3 is all about a war between two factions of humans. On one side, we have the ISA, the good guys with human faces; on the other side are the Helghast, the red-goggled, mask-wearing enemies who are hell bent on subduing the rest of the universe. Killzone 3 picks up right where two left off, with a small group of ISA soldiers struggling to survive after being effectively cut off and left on the hostile Helghan homeworld. Throughout it all, you play as Sev, the returning hero from the second game, who is out to do as much damage to the enemy as he can before he's caught, killed or rescued.

I won't spoil the story, but I was disappointed with where it went and how uninteresting it was. Killzone 3 jumps around in time regularly, constructing a narrative that gives a good reason to explore different parts of the Helghast homeworld, but it's not engaging. In general, the story feels like an afterthought, like it was figured out after the team planned out a series of cool levels and were forced to figure out a way to tie them altogether. It would have been nice to see Guerilla explore the themes of hopelessness as the ISA struggle to survive in hiding on a hostile planet, but instead Killzone 3 basically glosses over this with a quick fade out and a cut scene. This liberal use of fading between scenes, along with the occasional hiccup when loading, broke me out of the experience repeatedly, exacerbating the generally boring story.

The characters of Killzone are one-dimensional. From our hero, Sev, to the evil Helghast leaders, you pretty much have their personalities pinned from the first moment they swagger onto the screen. The interplay between characters is totally predictable, and we're never given a view of the complex dynamics we might expect out of soldiers at war or a moment of pause or regret about how things play out. Unlike Captain Templar from the original Killzone, there are no likeable characters in Killzone 3. Sure, they're charming in a brutish fashion, but Sev and the rest of the ISA feel more like unthinking meatheads than soldiers dealing with a life or death situation and a feeling of abandonment. They just aren't people you can identify with in any significant way.




Story and characters aside, Killzone 3 succeeds as a superb first-person shooter. Guerilla has once again proven that they know how to make the most visceral feeling first-person combat on the market. The controls are considerably tighter than they were in two, but I love how everything you do in Killzone 3 still feels like there's momentum behind it. From climbing ladders to running to slamming into cover, Killzone 3 makes you feel like your character is grounded in the world around him. Even shooting feels more real thanks to the weight and swing of the weapon – but not at the cost of overly floaty controls.

Killzone 3 also does a nice job at breaking up the levels between sections where you're on foot, and where you're kicking ass in a super powered vehicle. While the entire game is very linear, Guerilla's done a great job at varying what you're doing just enough from moment to moment to keep you from seeing behind the curtain too much. Each skirmish is so intense, and so visually satisfying, that I'm often too engrossed to think about the story or how I'm being funneled in a very specific direction.



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