Killzone 3 Single-Player PreviewBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Dec 16, 2010
The first things I notice when I drop into battle are the muted booms and pops in the distance, somewhere northeast of my drop point. As I make my way to my troops, who are attempting to make headway against an entrenched swarm of Helghast, I take cover behind some crates as laser scopes flicker past my head and my tank rolls into the narrow battlefield, unleashing rockets at the various Helghast mortar and fire teams perched on the rocks up ahead. A grenade whizzes by my head just as I run up to the nearest enemy soldier and plunge my knife into his chest before twisting his neck to a fatal degree. Trails of rocket smoke crisscross the air like ghostly clotheslines, as the last of the Helghast forces are dropped by the remaining members of my squad. With explosions and gunfire still ringing in my ears, I calmly put the PlayStation 3 controller down, and let my brain have a moment to breath as I wait for the next section of the preview level to begin. That was just my first five minutes with Killzone 3.
The scene described above was just the opening portion of a single, multi-part campaign level from Guerilla Games’ eagerly awaited threequel that I recently had a chance to play through. Without any proper context, I couldn’t really tell you what the purpose of all the gorgeously rendered and skull rattling gun fights were all about, other than that the primary goal of this section was to bring down a a Mawler, a skyscraper-tall Helghan mech (presumably because a world with one less Helghan mech is a much better world).
The handful of cutscenes in this preview level establish that some very clear tensions have risen between the player (aka Sgt. Tomas Sevchenko), Sgt. Rico Velasquez, and Capt. Narville. Once it becomes clear that Narville is in the wrong regarding the current plan of attack (i.e. taking out that huge mech I mentioned earlier), you fight your way through a trench lined with Helghasts packing flamethrowers. The fire effects, and all the effects in general, are quite spectacular.
As you move through the trench, the mech towers above, unleashing a massive energy blast every few seconds that rips apart the sky with light and sound, and raining down mortars and missiles all around you. As you can probably tell, if there’s one thing Killzone 2 fans don’t have to worry about in Killzone 3 it is whether the follow up will deliver a sensory overload on par with the previous game, because even after this 20-30 minute section, it felt like my ears and eyes had run wind sprints and been punched in their naughty bits about 14 times.
In order to bring down the giant machine, you have to use the multi-missile launching Wasp to destroy ventilation panels located on the top of the spidery mech’s head. Firing from the hip with the Wasp unleashes a flurry of missiles that twist and turn wildly and then decimate their intended target. Using the gun’s sights lets you lock onto a target and fire a single cluster bomb of sorts that creates one massive explosion, perfect for taking out, say, exposed ventilation panels on a 300-foot tall death machine.
This section of the battle also features some great demonstrations of environmental destruction. There are a series of three concrete bunkers that house ammo and weapons that end up as nothing but piles of rubble and steel framing by the time this phase of the battles is completed. Blasting holes through the walls has a clear Battlefield: Bad Company 2 feel to it, which could end up lending a nice sense of strategy and choice to certain battles later on in the game assuming there are environments that allow for it.
The concluding sequence of the level has you riding aboard a transport ship, circling the weakened yet still highly functional mech, and packing a powerful machine gun with unlimited ammo. As you are flown around the behemoth, you have to take out more panels, turrets, and missile launchers. The scope of this final showdown is simply spectacular, with ships, rockets, and exhaust blasts encircling your field of view, and the sound design just further drives home the epic scale of the battle.
In terms of controls, Killzone 3 feels more fluid and snappier than its predecessor. I actually played through the Killzone 2 demo again to compare the feel of both games, and the differences were pretty apparent. Even on the default sensitivity, the aiming was much faster than even the highest sensitivity setting in Killzone 2. I also tried out the game’s entirely optional Move control scheme, and while they did grow on me a little bit by the second time I played through the level, it’s just too clunky to be a viable option for hardcore players.
One of the main problems is that you have to aim at the borders of the screen in order to move the camera where you want to look, which means a lot of overturning and then having to aim back to the other side of the screen to bring the camera back to the center. Of course, by then an enemy has had more than enough time to unload an entire clip into your neck.
Presentation wise, the game doesn’t seem leaps and bounds beyond what was seen in Killzone 2, but the exhausting mech-battling section I played through featured more than enough visual flourishes and details to definitely make me excited to see what the rest of the game has in store when it hits shelves on February 22, 2011, even if it does turn my head into an over-stimulated ball of mush (and I mean that in the best way possible).