Killzone 2 was one of the strongest releases of 2009. The premier first-person cover shooter called for a more methodical approach to firefights, introduced a gripping (though bleak) setting, and featured several challenging boss fights. The visuals were some of the best to be seen on current generation hardware, and the multiplayer action demanded hours of investment. Two years on, and comparions between Killzone 3 and its forebear are inevitable. Sev and (unfortunately) Rico are once again tasked with bringing down the Helghast threat, only this time a political element is introduced in an attempt to give some depth to the enemy. It doesn't work, and while Killzone 3 is a good game in its own right; it's nowhere near as impressive as the last instalment in the series.
Beautiful place to die - Planet Helghan is a dangerous place, yet some of her lands are hauntingly beautiful to behold. Whether it be the raging, icy seas or the glowing, lethal forests: almost every location in Killzone 3 is a fitting place to meet your end (and you will meet it repeatedly). Save for some minor clipping issues during heated firefights, Killzone 3 manages to be as beautiful as its predecessor.
More flexible - I really enjoyed Killzone 2's heavy brand of shooting, however the new Jack in town has ditched the somewhat unwieldy movement mechanics in favour of a lighter, speedier feel. Both the old and new flavours are equally pleasant for the virtual gun-nut as far as I'm concerned. The former may have felt more original and more organic given both the Helghast and ISA's preference for bulky armour and weapons; but this more fluid iteration of the first-person cover shooter works well too.
In the trenches - Speaking of the first-person cover shooter, the action in Killzone 3's campaign is always heated, always loud, and will always keep you on the edge of your seat. The PS3 Killzone games punish the careless charge more than any other sci-fi shooter on the market, and there is nothing more satisfying than advancing on an exhausted enemy. There were some points in later levels where cover didn't seem to provide the protection it should have. Worse yet, on higher difficulty settings there were many scenarios where I would swear my view was completely obscured by my source of cover, but I still took damage. Sometimes lethal amounts of damage. When it works: it's brutal, methodical fun. When it doesn't work: it's brutally frustrating.
High Class - While the single player campaign fails to meet expectations, the multiplayer suite in Killzone 3 is sure to keep players entertained for a while. If (and this is a very big if) you haven't spent a lot of time with its precursor, that is. There have been some tweaks made to the classes, and the new style of play has made the transition to online as well. Another addition comes in the form of EXO mechs (and jetpacks) to certain multiplayer maps; and while they are far from invincible, it is fun to siege an enemy foothold with these heavily-armoured vehicles. All of this praise aside, some of the tweaks to the class system are just plain baffling: like the requirement to unlock a secondary weapon. I can understand having to unlock some of the more devastating sidearms, but I much preferred to spend my unlock points on more essential playthings.
Operations Mode - Also new to multiplayer is the Operations Mode, which is much like Invasion from Halo: Reach or Assault from Unreal Tournament where an attacking team tries to capture strategic targets in sequence while the defending team (obviously) attempts to halt their progress. The top three performers in each team are featured in mini-cutscenes whenever an objective is achieved; which is great if you're on the winning side and some form of back-handed compliment if you're not. Unfortunately, there are only three maps to play through at launch, but it is still a worthwhile addition to the suite.
My eyes! - The most visceral addition to the action both on and offline is the Brutal Melee attack. If you can get close enough to your opponent, you can perform the attack which features a random animation that involves anything from forcing your opponents eyes into their skull, to plunging a knife in their throat. This is war at its most vicious.
Offline - While I haven't spent much (read: any) time with the offline multiplayer, you can play through the campaign with a friend in splitscreen. The addition of Botzone also allows players to engage in multiplayer battles against bots in any of the game maps and modes, with all class abilities and weapons unlocked. While this isn't really for me, it is great to see a developer affording more options to the offline gamer.
What just happened? - Killzone 3's plot jumps across space and time with no sense of purpose. I'll forget about the moustachioed Helghast leaders who often pluck at their beards and furrow their brows. I'm more concerned with how the action is not only poorly paced, but punctuated with nothing of substance. Just when you think you've saved the day, you end up traversing a junkyard for some reason. This facility is also a spaceport, with a (wait for it) space elevator. Another example of the Guerilla's inept narrative comes in the form of the introductory sequence. At first I thought it was cool, but when you're forced to experience it again with some added events to mess with continuity; it felt completely unneccesary. A lot of the campaign feels unncessary for that matter.
Cowboys and Indians - There were so many times throughout the campaign where I swear I'd hit any enemy with ten to twenty bullets, yet they refused to die. Conversely, I felt overly mortal at some points throughout the game, as often the enemy knew exactly where I would be approaching from before I even saw them. In one sequence in particular, which tasks players from escaping from an offshore rig within a short time limit, sometimes the enemy would be laying fire on my next intended location before they had even seen me. Why they suddenly abandoned all regard for their escape was beyond me, but I know that I got pretty f***ing tired of repeating that segment. The whole jetpack sequence for that matter was nowhere near as fun as it should have been.
Doctor Death- Also new to this instalment is the ability for your AI compatriots to revive you. If your partner is too busy fighting, they will often forget to rescue you. They also seem to be subject to an interesting rule set that determines whether or not you're too far gone to be revived. Usually if I was to fall more than three times before a checkpoint, Rico/Narville would state that I was beyond saving. I know that I should probably crave more challenge: but if the ability is there for me to be revived, the AI should do it regardless of how many times I manage to find myself incapacitated. Either that, or remove the option altogether.
Been there - Killzone 3 has shipped with what is honestly, an insufficient amount of maps when compared to the competition. Eight are on the disc while another two (classics from Killzone 2) are offered via paid DLC. Worse still, not all maps are available in all modes and perhaps even more troubling: try and find a Warzone match that is not being played in Salamun Market. I f***ing dare you! I also found myself connecting to plenty of quiet matches. Quiet as in two or three players in a game, myself included. Funnily enough, a match doesn't end; meaning that those more unscrupulous players (like myself) can earn some big points with little to no resistance.
Done that - As above, Killzone 3's multiplayer suite is sure to keep players entertained for hours, so long as they haven't spent any time with it's predecessor. Having reached the rank cap of General when KZ2 was first released, there is very little that feels genuinely new here that I can engage with. After about three hours of play, I can say that I am almost done with this game.
Rico - Very few characters have the potential to derail a game or a series quite like Sergeant Rico Velasquez. In the final hours of the previous instalment, I wanted nothing more than to dispatch this foul-mouthed, aggravating companion for his constant assault on my ears. Imagine my despair when he is brought along for the third game in the series. Worse yet, he saves your life and is the centre of the game's aimless narrative. His constant conflict with your commanding officer is also cause for aural discomfort. There is so much sexual tension between Rico and Narville that I just wish they would get a room and sort it out. I don't want to spoil anything for you, but ultimately the player character, Sevchenko essentially tells these two testosterone-filled dinosaurs to do exactly that.
Worst shotgun ever - No shotgun will ever compare to the boomsticks from Battlefield: Bad Company 2, but that doesn't mean that Guerilla had to nerf their own to the point of redundancy. Most of the weapons are pretty ineffective in the campaign, for that matter. Further to that, there doesn't seem to be any preamble or ceremony to accompany their acquisition. You just happen across it when the developers feel like it. The only weapon that has any kind of introduction is the Arc Cannon, and the novelty of popping enemies wears off reasonably quickly.
Is this it? - During the final mission, several times I remember hearing Narville say "This is it," only to find that it wasn't "it," at all. Guerilla shows a complete lack of regard for pacing. I thought the game should have ended about two hours before I was finally put out of my misery (and it was only about seven hours long). Most of the final act is completely unenjoyable for that matter, with the final vehicle sequence producing many unexplainable deaths. I mean just plain baffling deaths, as there was no indication that I was in any danger. I can't even remember seeing the enemy fighters launching any form of attack, but I would perish all the same.
7.0/10 - Killzone 3 is a powerfully disappointing experience. A great game, but still underwhelming considering the strength of its predecessor. Yes, Killzone 2 was bleak, but it featured a consistently engaging battle against a ruthless enemy; as well as a thrilling, more thoughtful, class-based alternative to Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Killzone 3's campaign was all action with no discernable consequences. There doesn't have to be a winner, but some form of meaningful resolution to the campaign would have been thoroughly appreciated. The multiplayer suite while enjoyable, does not feature enough significant changes or additions to stand up against the competition (at least in the short term). Guerilla appears to have stripped the franchise of its point of difference, leading to a title that, while entertaining, fails to stand tall amongst a crowded FPS market.
Dutch Note: You could add a point to the score if you never took Killzone 2 online. Apart from the jetpacks and EXO mechs, there is not much that has been added to the multiplayer formula that feels subtantial, or successful.