After Killzone 2 delivered critically and commercially on some impossibly high (and drawn out) expectations, you would think that the developers at Guerrilla Games would relax a bit and rest on their laurels. Nope. Almost immediately after finishing work on 2009’s PS3-exclusive shooter, they embarked on the development of its successor, which they intend to make bigger than ever: Killzone 3.
Sony has just revealed the latest installment of what has become one of their flagship first-person shooter titles (next to Insomniac Games’ Resistance series) with a first look at the game in action, in addition to some hands on time for the media in attendance. And it wasn't impossible-to-believe cinematics, argued over ad nauseum by fanboy legions this time, but real live gameplay. (On behalf of the nerds, let me just say: thank you.)
Spoiler Alert! Killzone 3 picks up where Killzone 2 left off, pretty much to the minute. It begins with Rico and Sev witnessing the destruction of the ISA forces by the Helghast after executing their emperor. The war is decidedly over, and the ISA has clearly lost. But there’s still a matter of survival at hand for our heroes, and Killzone 3 is about that escape in the face of an overwhelming Helghast force. From the point of view of our protagonist Sev, Guerilla describes it as a David vs. Goliath story. But for the Helghast, it’s a tale of political intrigue, as two rivals fight for control in the power vacuum left behind in the wake of the assassination.
As you fight your way across a variety of environments on Helghan (frozen arctic, a nuclear-annihilated wasteland, lush jungles, and ultimately, outer space) you’ll notice how much bigger the environments and play areas are. The theme of “bigger” extends to everything, actually, from bigger weapons and vehicles to bigger enemies. The concept of big will morph the gameplay into a more exciting and dramatic experience, giving Killzone 3 a decidedly different feel than Killzone 2.
The playable level on display at Sony’s event was set on a derelict oil rig in Helghan’s frozen wastelands was itself ten times bigger than any level in Killzone 2, and the action therein matched the scale. Heavy mounted weapons were made available, with which we shredded multiple Helghast bad guys, and a couple of the other new features like the "Brutal Melee" system and jet packs made the experience a lot more action-oriented. The melee system alone made for some really dramatic moments as we kicked, punched, stomped, and eye-stabbed our way through the horde. The increased mobility offered by the jet pack, which allowed short jumps augmented by mid-air dashes also suggested that the experience of playing Killzone 3 will feel extra fresh for fans of the series.
We also had the chance to play the game in 3D, giving us a feel for how that new feature will work for gamers who own such a television (and a pair of shutter glasses) and want to play it that way. The tech is solid, and the game runs rather smoothly in 3D, an achievement in itself that should tell Guerrilla Games that they’re doing the right things with the new graphical engine they’ve built for the game (which they reiterated they’re doing completely on their own, contrary to reports on the Internet.)
The only other big question we had about the game was about multiplayer, but unfortunately Guerrilla is still holding their cards tight to the chest on that one. What they will say is that they listened closely to the community, and are trying to make the new multiplayer modes more accessible. What that means exactly remains to be seen, but you can expect to see a lot more about that between now and when the game ships sometime in 2011. Until then we can dispense with the arguments about whether what we’ve seen is real or not and simply revel in the big plans Guerrilla Games has for one of the most anticipated PS3 exclusives out there.