Killzone 3 is the most beautiful woman in the room. You know, the kind that makes you turn around and take notice when she walks by. The kind that men want and other women want to be. The kind of woman for whom you would spend half an hour mustering up the courage to approach, and then end up botching up what was supposed to be a cool, nonchalant “hello”. And when she finally opens her mouth to speak…
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Yeah. Killzone 3 is that kind of a woman. You’ll want to love her no end, especially when you see its most spectacular symphony of destruction at display. In several places, it takes a couple of moments to realize that it’s not a cutscene, but actual gameplay that is playing out in front of you. When you finally get down to playing it, you wouldn’t want to blink much because unlike its predecessor, Killzone 3 has a fair bit of variation in the scenery to throw at you. Fighting your way through the ruined capital of Helghan in the wake of nuclear devastation; a fiendish forest, where you must be careful of both the helghast and the environment; an arms facility at the snowy recesses of the planet; the game offers a broad palette of colours, which is a definite plus point over its predecessor.
The story, on the other hand, has clearly gone downhill. The loss of Visari at the end of Killzone 2 has left Helghan without a leader, and the game mostly follows the struggle for power between Chairman Stahl of Stahl Arms and Admiral Orlock to step into the shoes of the charismatic monarch of Helghan. Sadly, both of them are woefully unequipped, and the game spends far too much time following their over-dramatic and borderline laughable volleys of one-upmanship.
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To make matters worse, the player is completely disconnected from this aspect of the plot. You step into the shoes of Tomas Sevchenko again, in a bid to escape from Helghan with the remnants of the ISA force that suffered crippling losses at the end of Killzone 2. With far too much focus on the division within the Helghast ranks, the ISA remain mostly ignored (even though you play solely from their perspective) until the story has no choice but to bring everything together in a rather nonsensical conclusion. It’s sad that the games continue to ignore the surprisingly rich back-story and lore of the Killzone universe.
The fact that Guerilla Games got pretty much everything else right with the campaign makes this flaw stand out even more. Story aside, the campaign is an absolute joy to play, with a balanced mix of on-foot and vehicle sections that keep things varied. There is a lot of variation in the on-foot segments. The aforementioned jungle level has you outnumbered, and hence resorts to a remarkable stealth segment, the Icy Fortress of Stahl introduces you to jetpacks, and the MAWLR battle, which has been showcased in gameplay videos, does an excellent job of capturing the chaos and desperation of a battle against a seemingly insurmountable enemy.
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However, the most impressive aspects of the single player are the basics. Killzone 3 has fantastic enemy AI. The Helghast make intelligent use of cover and grenades, and use tactics to flank you whenever possible. If you are jaded with the pedestrian enemy AI from the likes of Call of Duty, you are in for a treat. The Helghast are ferocious and relentless, and they will have you fighting for your life. Another interesting addition is the savage melee-kills, which is a rather impressive feat. Guerilla Games has managed to turn a mostly mundane and often ignored mechanic into a thrilling one by giving it some of the most brutal kill animations, which made me take the risk of sneaking up (or rushing to) an enemy for a melee kill more often than usual.
The ‘heft’ and ‘weight’ that impacted the player movement and weapon recoil in the previous game has also been reduced, though whether this is an improvement or not is debatable. The player still has weight, though considerably reduced, making movement and turning much faster and less realistic. Personally, I felt that the game lost a bit of its identity in a bid to appeal to a broader audience. The game is quicker and hence closer to its competition in the way it plays. Thankfully, it still retains its characteristic of being a cover based tactical shooter, rather than run-and-gun, largely due to excellent enemy AI.
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The acceleration of pace also impacts the multiplayer, and the action is consequentially faster and more frantic. Warzone, with its shifting objectives, still remains the heart of the multiplayer experience, though two new game modes make their debut with Killzone 3 to mix things up. The first is Guerilla Warfare, which is a standard team deathmatch, and the second is Operations, a series of objective-based missions threaded together by cutscenes.
The developers once again show their prowess in map design, and Killzone 3 features some excellent maps with multiple layers and routes, leaving room for lots of manoeuvres and tactics for deployment, should the teams decide to play out in a coordinated manner. This, coupled with the fact that all classes are accessible from the get-go, puts all the ingredients in place for hours and hours of online gameplay. All said and done, the multiplayer component focuses on iterative changes to the formula rather than reinventing the wheel, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. While a few features such as Valor points and ranked server matches will be missed, all in all, the multiplayer of Killzone 3 is an engaging and rewarding experience.
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Outside the centre, there are a number of peripheral features, which may or may not add value to the game depending purely on the player’s preference. While I wasn’t able to try out the game in 3D, I went whole hog on the Move controller integration. The game does well in adjusting for the extra sensitivity of the move controller through smart use of aim assist. That said, having played FPS with either the keyboard-and-mouse set-up or a controller all my life, it took a bit of getting used to. The game also throws in a full-fledged pseudo-multiplayer experience with Botzone, and a half-hearted attempt at offline campaign co-op, which has probably come in as an afterthought, especially when compared to the high quality of the rest of the game.
For every step forward in gameplay, there is a step back in story. The quicker, more responsive controls come with the sacrifice of the very thing that set Killzone apart in the crowded shooter space. But thanks to the brilliantly paced campaign, outstanding enemy AI, jaw-dropping visuals and addictive multiplayer, Killzone 3 is still better than most of its competition.
She may have the personality of a doormat, but she’s still the most beautiful woman in the room. The one you’d want to take home.