The Killzone franchise has had a tough history of living up to the standards set forth for it from the hype machine. Whether its because it was the supposed “Halo” killer in Killzone 1, or because it had to match an impossible “target render” trailer for Killzone 2 - whatever it was the first two games in the series seemed to have high expectations to live up to. Killzone 3 on the other has been relatively quiet though, that is, except for the focus on its technical merits - PlayStation Move and 3D support. Perhaps though, this is where the game fails - its more of a tech demo for Sony to showcase its bells and whistles and less a polished product.
Killzone 3 starts with the traditional getting acquainted with controls “intro” sequence, but what’s odd is - you find yourself starting as the Helghast soldier in one of their facilities. To make things even odder, this intro is actually from the middle of the game and once you reach the end, you flash back 6 months. From there the game picks up immediately after the face palm ending of Killzone 2, you once again jump into the shoes of Sgt Sevchenko to face the Helghan hordes. Your journey includes some impressive locales that look great and rarely get stale. You’re taken across the Helghan planet into a freshly nuked city, a warm jungle with exotic and dangerous plants, a frost covered Helghan fortress and even find yourself in space.
The story of the game revolves around the unrest and splintering within the Helghan senate has two men try to rise to power. Its almost unsettling how close these character resemble ruthless leaders of our past like Joseph Stalin and Adolph Hitler, something that most likely was done on purpose. The story itself for your character on the other hand isn’t as fleshed out, its basically your traditional kill everything that moves and continue pushing forward in doing so. Right from the get go something felt off about the game - this was due to some annoying bugs with the sound cutting in and out on the voice overs. Chatter with characters in the game would get cut off mid sentence - or worse - it would get stuck repeating 4 or 5 times. This really was a shame because the rest of Killzone 3’s audio, namely the use of surround sound and gunfire is phenomenal.
Like I said, while most missions are cut and dry - the game does try to do some different things, or at least tries to borrow from numerous other titles. You have your vehicle mission on a tank, a mission where you’ll drive a mech like robot, another which feels very much like the sniper mission from Modern Warfare. It seems that Killzone 3 lost a lot of its identity and instead just tried to borrow a lot of ideas from other games and not always for the better. Grenade spam from the enemies especially frustrated me throughout the campaign - this is something I thought we were moving past.
As a co-op player, perhaps the most bizarre thing I found was that the game gives you an AI buddy right from the get go in Rico. Like Army of Two, if you go down, the AI is actually capable of reviving you, and you revive him. But he’s not there for every mission. I was surprised to see when playing the two player local co-op (the only co-op the game has) - Rico isn’t controlled by your friend, instead it adds in Natko from the previous game for your co-op partner. While not too big of a deal, it does make the cut scenes a bit fragmentary because the second player is no longer included.
These are just a few of the oddities we found while playing the campaign in co-op. It’s clear that the game wasn’t designed for this mode from the start, but instead Guerrilla found a way to add it in. As we said, co-op in Killzone 3 is a split screen only affair - and it uses the offset box technique but still keeps an odd aspect ratio for display. I’m not quite sure why its done this way - usually when there’s the offset boxes it keeps a 16:9 ratio on the perspective. Still I never did feel like I was cramped playing split screen, so that’s a good thing.
While I never found a memorable moment throughout Killzone 3, I don’t think there was necessarily a bad moment either. There’s an odd focus on the new (and brutal) melee kills, but the weapons themselves are all a lot of fun to use and there’s a good variety. Most weapons return from Killzone 2, but the few new weapons are incredibly satisfying.
Speaking of weapons I did pick up Sony’s “Sharpshooter” attachment for playing the game in single player (it's not available for co-op) using the PlayStation Move. While I can’t see myself using this as an alternative to the controller, I gotta admit it really adds to the immersion of the game. Guerrilla has gotten really close to creating a motion controlled system that works for first person shooters. There are times when you can get into a zone and just work through sections of levels with no trouble at all, but then there are times - usually with tight corridors - where you realize the limitations of the motion controls. Basically your trade off is more precise aiming for less precise movement.
After you complete the 6 hour romp through the story there’s a pretty beefy multiplayer mode to enjoy - that is when it works. I had a heck of a time trying to get into matches, usually joining a game only to be immediately put back into a matchmaking queue. When it does work the Warzone multiplayer mode is where you’ll want to spend most of the time. This class based, team based mode puts dynamic changing objectives into a single match that gives it a distinct flavor unlike any other multiplayer versus game out there. Add on an XP based progression system, ala Call of Duty, and you have addictive, fun and replayable multiplayer.
While Killzone 3 didn’t have any excessive rhetoric to live up to like its predecessors, perhaps it would have benefited from something of a lofty goal. 3D and Motion control are fine for some, but you’re only hitting a very small segment of your market when this becomes your focus. Game design and quality clearly suffered here and while the co-op is a lot of fun, its clearly not fleshed out. Its not that Killzone 3 is a bad game, but for a major AAA title that’s considered a flagship for your platform, it just makes me face palm.