The realms between what we want, what we get and what sells are as massive as they are hard to predict. There’s no universal, we’ll as soon cheer a sequel, reboot or new property as much as we’d jeer it. We’re also picky, and it can be one of our ugliest qualities. When Killzone first entered the fray in 2004, the FPS scene was as violent then, with Halo and Battlefield, as it is now, with Call of Duty and, well, Halo. While it certainly is one of the most furiously pushed Sony games in a crowded room, in its history Killzone has never seemed to stick with either picky first person shooters or snooty bloggers. Now onto the third iteration, Killzone 3 hopes to finally stop being another brick in the FPS wall but a cornerstone. Working out some kinks, sharpening up and taking some risks, how does that world war of the worlds pan out?
Starting where the second ended, the ISA have successfully located and accidentally killed the reigning lord of the constantly gloomy Helghast planet. However, this hasn’t really made things totally fireworks for the ISA members, now becoming the number one enemy of the planet they are standing on and their back up/ride home having been demolished, they’ll have one hell of a season ahead. Through all of this close comrades and ISA troops split off, either by accident or ideology, but it’s not nearly as dysfunctional as the enemy Helghan hierarchy, now split between successors to the throne and top economic investors. Their deceptive, intricately bearded and Malcolm McDowell voiced antics end up becoming more interesting than even the heroes’ plight. Throw in some rubbery loose parallels and metaphors to the Second World War, dynamic Hollywood-style action sequences and a legitimately jostling finale and you end up with a story that feels mostly limp with moments of delivery.
If there’s one thing to be said about the story campaign it’s that there is quite a lot of variety, though most of the time, be it a vehicle segment or 25 minute sneaking section, it comes off as more indecisive than anything. The game will send you through the wreckage of hollowed out cities, strange jungles and junkyards, yet it really only hits its stride about a third of the way in, at the start of the well promoted tundra segments. Most of the controls are pretty tight, though I would personally suggest not using the default suggestions as it makes cover pretty sticky, otherwise targeting is tight. And if you are tantalized by dreams of jetpacks, then you’ll be very pleased to know they’re a real highlight. The vehicle parts, sans the mech suits, are in contrast a lowlight, seemingly wedged in because so many other FPS have them at this point. They’re a little bit dull and sloppy, delivering the most deaths where I had no idea what actually killed me. You also start off each segment with a preselected roster of guns, which is a real mood killer when the only thing that separated you from your preferred set was a cinematic where two dudes climb over a wall. When Killzone 3 is great, it delivers a ‘frontline’ sensation, you on the face of war piercing the enemy forces. When it isn’t great, it’s you in a confined space with a 20 odd lootbag of Helsghast showering you with lead. It can be borderline nauseating. The illusion of stress is a lot more enjoyable than stress itself.
Of course the life of shooters these days are built upwards on the heels of their multiplayer mode, and while it’s easy to feel mixed and indifferent on the singleplayer side of things, there’s a much more confident online assault. There are three modes, Guerrilla Warfare being the most basic, a team deathmatch, with Warzone and Operations far more intricate and interesting, even compared to what’s offered by other shooters. Operations is sort of an online story mode, splitting the sides and establishing a mission plot as to elaborate why these soldiers will bother shooting each other. Warzone is my personal preference, basically a constantly changing mission mix-tape where during the course of the match mission objectives will rotate, like territory capture or assassination/protect the VIP. The multiplayer does a great deal to keep things from getting dull, it will keep players on their toes, making routines and robotic strategies impossible.
The selectable classes can be a little mild, some classes don’t make a great case for themselves, while others, well, let’s just say expect some very overzealous engineers. Points earned in game can be used to better buffer and specilize some of the classes, which means you’ll be a little outgunned in your first outings, but points aren’t hard to find, and are earned easily as a medic. You will soon catch up. What I liked most about the online mode were the maps. Designed to be large, but detailed, the maps encourage experimentation. While some e-jerks have already selected some cheap vantage points, you’ll be pleased to see just how many alternative routes are still available. The Akmir Snowdrift was easily my favourite, with the blaring snow and dozens of angles, it felt like a very uncanny experience in a mostly canny game, overall one of Killzone’s greatest arguments.
Killzone is a well made game with unusual intentions. For all its steam, the story mode is riddled with signs of low self esteem, ripping so many traits and tropes from other titles, be it familiar scenery or an actual Big Daddy lookalike, it ends up being little more than a hybrid between Halo and Call of Duty. I always wanted Killzone to just have something all its own. Even when I first saw the red glare of a Helghan shocktrooper, I couldn’t help but wonder why they looked so much like the same from Jin-Roh. The multiplayer shows a great deal of talent in level design and strategic thinking, but the core to which they are designed around just feels too familiar to games already out there. The latest COD and Halo iterations have already been out for months, so if you have already juiced all you need from them, then migrating to Killzone isn’t a bad call. If you are picky and looking for something that can’t be found anywhere else then you’re only killing yourself.