Killzone 3 Review

By Mitch Dyer - Posted Feb 03, 2011

Killzone 3's campaign suffers from the odd low point, but the fast pace of its excellent missions, outstanding online multiplayer, and an all-around better feel more than compensate for the missteps. This is a vast improvement over earlier franchise entries, and the superb multiplayer suite will keep us playing until the inevitable sequel.

The Pros
  • Improved shooting and overall feel
  • PlayStation Move works wonderfully
  • Great variety of environments and enemy encounters
The Cons
  • Inconsistent campaign quality
  • Plot holes aplenty
  • No online co-op
  • Clumsy reload and melee gestures with Move

Killzone 3 Review:

It may have been a big, dumb action game with big, dumb characters, but you can’t deny, despite its story’s silliness and shortcomings, Killzone 2 had a soul. It began questioning the ethics of invasion and it ended with nuclear devastation. With severe losses on both sides, the ending squashed any sense of hope for the ISA, our ever-noble human heroes. With their escape plans foiled by the evil Helghast’s fleet, the ISA’s forced to retreat to hiding deep within the planet Helghan.

The now-stranded Sergeant Sevchenko is the center of Killzone 3, but the train-wreck aftermath he’s stuck in doesn’t make him melancholy. Sev just wants the war to end, and even as the war spirals further out of control – political unrest leads to a new Helghast plot: invading Earth after peace negotiations – he keeps his chin up. He’s desperate and willing to try anything to stop the Helghast’s feuding military leaders’ genocidal intentions. Killzone 3 benefits most from this recklessness, and suffers only when Sev’s not doing something stupid.



Dead Zone

Picking up from the moment Killzone 2 cut to credits, Killzone 3 sees the ISA unsure how to react to the last game’s events – namely, the unwanted martyrdom of a major military figure, courtesy of Sev’s trigger-happy squad-mate Rico Velasquez. As the Helghast fleet starts scorching the planet from the sky, the ISA’s forced to flee back through the city they’d just finished fighting through.

This introductory hour occupies some too-familiar territory. We’ve traded bullets with the Helghast in the Helghan capital city of Pyrrhus before, although the wake of their self-inflicted nuke blast lends the city a captivating, dilapidated beauty. It’s here where Killzone 3 is at its weakest. The annoying frequency of cinematics brings the slow start to a grinding halt – not that tailing Rico from one stop-and-pop shooting gallery to the next is a tremendously exciting way to kick off a game in the first place.

It takes time for Killzone 3 to find its groove, but it eventually starts presenting cool ways to complete objectives in interesting new settings. Once it breaks free from itself, Killzone 3 transforms from a predictable first-person shooter into a terrific sequel whose quality utterly trounces that of its predecessor.


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Pick Up The Pace

It’s only because Guerilla Games goes to such great lengths to keep its campaign varied that the follow-the-leader doldrums (which appear a couple times later on as well) stand out so starkly. Naturally, it’s far more exciting when Sevchenko’s going for broke to, say, infiltrate and destroy a Helghast communications camp, only to have to escape the onslaught of giant robots that catch him once he’s painted himself into a corner.

This particular scene spotlights Killzone 3’s stellar level design. Getting into the base undetected requires crawling around the outer area and silently picking off enemies scattered between buildings. Once busted, we dashed through the center, slipping from one of these structures to the next before flanking enemies in the outskirts’ tall grass.

Killzone paces its action sequences in such a way that there’s always something rad right around the corner. Firefights are much more enjoyable when surrounded by robot suits, vehicle sequences, gigantic rocket launchers and jetpacks. The jetpack – one of Killzone 3’s big bullet points – doesn’t overstay its welcome, either, so it’s awesome to finally find one in the middle of a warzone.



Point, Shoot, Move

The most notable enhancement over Killzone 2 here isn’t the stellar mission pacing, but the feel of Killzone 3 as a whole. The clunky, sluggish movement Sev suffered from last time is gone. He’s limber and athletic, allowing him to slide into cover and leap over barriers, which makes him easier to control. Even better, shooting a Helghast soldier in the melon flat-out kills him – mercifully, there isn’t that irritation that came with having to remove their helmets before a headshot kill.

The PlayStation Move controls benefit most from the tighter, more precise shooting mechanics. This is largely the reason we not only played most of Killzone 3 using motion controls, but why we preferred it to the SixAxis. Killzone 3 responds beautifully to the Move, and the button layout became second-nature almost instantly. Aiming is faster with a flick of the wrist, so it’s easier to squeeze through the (irregular) frustrating areas of the game.

The main issue with Move here is the gestures. Jabbing outward to perform a “Brutal Melee” – cutting throats, stabbing eyes, snapping necks, etc. – doesn’t work as well as intended, and frequently resulted in a quick and disorienting adjustment to our aim. The same goes for twisting the Move controller to reload; it’s almost always easier to reach for the square button to avoid accidentally staring at the sky.



Moving on to Multiplayer...

The on-the-fly objective rotations engineered in Killzone 2 return, throwing new missions into the mix without changing the map or ending the match. This, along with mounted weapons, deployable turrets and flying sentries give the standard game modes – shoot everybody, capture the control points, attack and defend, etc. – the extra oomph they needed to stay away from sterility.

Pouring experience points into specific classes’ unlockable weapons and abilities – reviving wounded allies, disguising as an enemy, and turning invisible are our favorites – is a much cleaner means to progress than Killzone 2’s more confined system. Allocating points where and when you want allows unlocks that are more in tune with players’ personal play style and preferences, and, as always, knowing that sweet new upgrade is just a few hundred XP away is what’ll give Killzone 3 such long legs online.

While Killzone 3 improves on its predecessor in every necessary way, both online and off, its half-hearted attempt at co-op is incredibly disappointing. The game rocks, and it’s naturally more enjoyable with a friend, but lack of an online cooperative campaign really hurts. It stings worse because the local co-op is so poorly done – the split screens are too small to see much, even on a 52” television, and the black bars eliminating what must be a third of the screen absolutely kill it. Why bother?



In The Zone

Provided you’re not a stickler for narrative continuity, everything about Killzone 3’s presentation rocks. If an abrupt and unexplained change in story direction is likely to strike a nerve, no amount of stylish cinematics and memorable scenes will take your mind off some of the game’s glaring plot holes. Seriously, two main characters receive horrible knife wounds that go completely unaddressed after the fact – nobody thought to acknowledge this?

Oddities like this don’t take anything away from Killzone 3 as a whole. Killzone 2 tested the waters of what the console was technically capable of. It planted the seed for what the franchise aspired to be, and it paved the way for Killzone 3 to become one of the PlayStation 3’s most valuable exclusives.