Killzone 3

Killzone 3 eh? Not bothered. Not one bit. Nope. Why sit through another hour of grunting, grumbling and greyness? Bashing Helghast helmets as an ISA invader quickly became tiresome in Killzone 2, with very little in the way of imagination on show. The game may have pushed the boundaries of gaming technology, but it did nothing for innovation. Perhaps its partly due to lowered expectations, but Killzone 3 manages to somehow outshine its predecessor in every possible way. Not content with simply cashing in on an easy sequel, the latest Helghast adventure manages to put right almost every wrong. It's quite surprising, then, that so many reviews have slated the game for a lack of progression. Inevitably the criteria each person invokes are different, but after finishing Killzone 3's story, many should find themselves genuinely impressed with the leap forward the series has taken.

Killzone 2

It's not to say that everything is different. At the game's core, the fighting mechanics are largely the same, with weapons, movement and aiming feeling very familiar. The speed has perhaps been tweaked a little to move away from the extremely heavy feel of the previous game, although it's still nowhere near as nippy as a Resistance game. Levels are also structured similarly, with the player, often part of a squad, making their way through Helghast positions, securing tactical locations or fulfilling minor objectives to progress the story. There are a good number of checkpoints to avoid repetition on the harder difficulty settings, and ammo can usually be found when needed so that you're unlikely to be worried about maintaining your rate of fire. As you progress through the chapters though, slight improvements start to be noticed. Primarily, your route through the level feels more natural, but not as restricted. Because you feel like you're choosing to traverse a certain path, the fact that the game was going to push you that way anyway doesn't matter. You'll also quickly encounter some genuinely excellent vehicle sections in the game, a rare experience in the FPS genre. Vehicles range from light transports through to mobile attack frames reminiscent of AT-STs in Star Wars or even the construction frame used by Ripley in Aliens. One particularly excellent example is the jet-equipped frame you use to reach enormous industrial rigs in the ice fields. Leaping through the air while firing some fairly hefty cannons is pretty exhilarating, especially when you later learn that you can use them in certain multiplayer levels.

Multiplayer is also another reason to congratulate Killzone 3's steps forward. Despite the competitive multiplayer not advancing to a huge degree, an instant points boost for this edition is the inclusion of co-op play. Being able to play the entire campaign with a friend in offline splitscreen is brilliant, and should be made possible in more games. Other than the fact that the image is smaller, it's difficult to detect any real reduction in image quality. It simply means you can coordinate your attacks, chat about what you're seeing, heal eachother in emergencies, and generally tear the place up with your mutual love of powerful weaponry. Most of the trophies in the game focus on the main campaign, and can largely be achieved in co-op play, leaving just a handful of online competitive trophies to try for. Thankfully the latter doesn't rely on tens or hundreds of hours of dedication, instead simply encouraging people to sample a little of the online game, without forcing hours of laborious grinding.

Killzone 2

Graphically, there might not be a huge amount of technical progress, with Killzone 2 already pushing towards the boundaries of the hardware, but Killzone 3 is far more visually appealing. There are still some levels that are impressive, though ultimately just grey, but now the story takes place across some truly spectacular areas of Helghan, with toxic jungles, ice fields and brightly-lit space stations making an appearance. It's a great relief to see the extra imagination that's been unleashed on the game, and it truly transforms the experience. It's also relatively interactive too. For example, in the jungle areas, there are plant species that have evolved under harsh conditions with strong defence mechanisms. Certain varieties can be shot, causing poisonous spores to be released in the nearby vicinity, bringing death to any unsuspecting Helghast that inhales them. Meanwhile, dusty snow particles are whipped from cliff edges by strong winds in the ice fields, and blue lighting casts an eerie glow across certain areas of the orbiting fleet. Little details, flourishes of colour, and a bit more variety are the sort of things that shouldn't cost a great deal, but elevate Killzone 3 far above its predecessor.

The story and characters, despite continuing on from the previous game, also seem much improved. Instead of coming across as thuglike ISA soldiers, spouting ridiculous lines and generally beating up the little kid, the main cast are now separated from the core ISA, and with heroes Sev and Rico essentially looking after themselves, the game allows you to see the person, not just the soldier's shell they wore up until now. Rico's disobediance under the leadership of the inept Captain Narville becomes quite endearing, especially when he risks all to rescue fellow soldiers. Despite losing the charismatic Visari, the Helghan cast is also quite decent, with Chairman Stahl taking a leading role as the game's main nemesis, and stealing a decent amount of cutscene screen time. As the two opposing forces head towards inevitable conflict, the story ticks along at a sensible pace, never stalling, and never racing past anything too interesting. There are more complicated stories on PS3, for certain, but the story is by no means mind numbing.

Killzone 2

Other points to note are the inclusion of motion control and 3D viewing, both all very nice if you have the hardware to go with it. Many will have bought Sony's move controllers though, and it's nice to see games embracing the technology. With a few tweaks to the flexible control settings, the motion control can be bashed into shape, and works reasonably well, providing a nice change of pace, and a bit of extra novelty for the game. If the competitive side of things grabs you, lastability isn't an issue here. Otherwise, it's worth noting that the campaign is relatively short. That said, with the inclusion of co-op play, and numerous trophy objectives for each level, there's significant replay value that will extend the life of the game without ever frustrating. Overally, Killzone 3 takes a lot of small steps forwards from its predecessor, but in doing so manages to correct almost every mistake made in Killzone 2, resulting in one of the best shooters in recent times. Even if you were uninspired by Killzone 2, there's a chance that this latest game will live up to the Killzone name.

Game details

Game logo

Publisher:

Sony

Developer:

Guerrilla Games

Players:

1-2

Online:

1-24

Release:

2011-02-23

Trophies:

59

Review summary

Gameplay:

Solid, weighty FPS action, with co-op!

Graphics:

Much more imaginative than Killzone 2

Sound:

Stirring music and some standout voices

Lastability:

Decent length story and (yay!) co-op campaign!

9.1

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