Rejoin Sev and Rico and the rest of the ISA as they try and haul ass off of Helghan. The Helghan leader was slain after the events of Killzone 2, and now the ISA are in extraction mode, trying to escape the clutches of the Helghan army and their brutal resurgence. With new features both in the campaign and on the multiplayer front, not to mention PS Move and 3DTV support, does Killzone 3 deserve a spot in your game library?
The campaign picks up right after the end of Killzone 2 and leads players on a desperate attempt to escape Helghan and ultimately put their evil planet-destroying plans to a halt. Over the course of the five and a half to six hour campaign, expect plenty of intense firefights, lots of scripted events, and quite a few cutscenes, too.
You will be in the boots of Sev, an ISA soldier who was largely responsible for the successful Helghan invasion from KZ2. Rico, the foul-mouthed heavy gunner companion of Sev's, is also back and plays a huge part in the story. If you played through KZ2, you will remember Rico as the dropping more f-bombs than perhaps any game in history. Guerilla really cleaned up his dialogue this time and it makes for a far less embarrassing experience. Anyway, Rico will run along with you for most of the campaign, helping you reach escape and stop Admiral Orlock and weapons developer Stahl in the process. These two Helghan characters and their interaction and struggle over one another turn out to be the most (and perhaps only) interesting part of the story. Short of Orlock and Stahl's interactions, I didn't find anything about the story or characters interesting.
Gameplay is nearly identical to that of KZ2 and features cover-based first person shooter action. There are several sequences where Sev hops into a vehicle of some kind for heavy gunning and rocket shooting, and there is even a chapter that requires some cheesy stealth (i.e., walking in tall grass). Of course, the jetpack mission that you have probably seen in trailers and commercials pops up too around the halfway point. Weapons are largely the same, but a new brutal melee mechanic was added that is moderately neat. By pressing L1 when close to an enemy and only when prompted, Sev can perform one of a few different killing moves. Just be sure to time the press of L1 properly and hope that there isn't another Helghan around to shoot you during the kill animation. All in all, these new features add, if only slightly, to what is really a very straight-forward FPS experience.
Without a PS Move to test with, I went with the standard controller which, again, works just like in KZ2. Two control layouts are included which vary a bit from a typical FPS but they work well. I did find it necessary to turn down the aim sensitivity from the default 30 to 10 -- otherwise a slight tap of the right stick would often send my crosshair from the left side of an enemy to the right and it made aiming a pain. I never managed to get it exactly how I wanted it, but it worked well enough.
As for the AI, it's strength in numbers (and grenades) for the enemy as opposed to real intelligence. They are apt to take cover and they will move a few inches one way or another while in cover, but it's still ultimately a matter of either flushing them out with grenades or just picking their heads off. The Helghan will keep you hopping from cover to cover with the amount and accuracy of their grenades, too.
The friendly AI left a lot more to be desired though. Most of the game you are teamed up with just Rico, but other times you are running around with Captain Norville, Rico, or maybe you are near a bunch of generic ISA. For the most part, the friendly AI are there to make things a little more believable, divert some enemy fire, and possibly revive you if you take too much damage. It's clear, especially when you are just with Rico, that they also act as a compass to help keep you quickly moving in the right direction (although you can also just press up on the d-pad for a marker). Basically the friendly AI feels more like a prop than a competent ally, but their ability to revive you is helpful at times. You can revive Rico and Norville as well and they will get themselves caught in the open field sometime, making it hard to get to them. The good thing is, you don't have to revive them -- they won't die no matter what, so if you can just clear the area they are automatically restored.
While I'm on the topic of health, I really don't like the damage indicator. Whenever you take a hit, the screen instantly darkens and shows red blood in the direction the damage came from. It doesn't take a lot to get killed in KZ3 but more often than not you will be able to get to safety before getting finished off. As such I found the method used to indicate damage too overbearing on the visual presentation. Something more graphically subtle would have been welcomed.
The flow of KZ3 is another point I would bring up. The pacing is definitely run and gun forward as quickly as you can. There are no alternate routes, no collectibles, no puzzles, nothing but press forward. The game is split into ten chapters, each made up of multiple staged sequences that lead to cutscenes. The formula is quite predictable and most gameplay segments boil down to just getting from point A to B, which is usually just a door or a path in the near distance.
All in all, I found the campaign well worth playing through, but it took me several play sessions to get through it. This was due to a waning interest in the gameplay and story as I played on.
The campaign alone is not a strong offering, but KZ3 was built for multiplayer. The career system from KZ2 is back, bringing with it the Infiltrator, Tactician, Field Medic, Engineer, and Marksman roles. Each career has two unique abilities such as a Cloak Suit for the Marksman and a Revive ability for Medics. Other skills and upgrades can be unlocked by spending points earned from playing and leveling up.
More modes of play are included than we had previously. Guerrilla Warfare is your team deathmatch mode where teams (Helghast Vs ISA) must simply earn the most kills before timer runs out. Then there is the return of Warzone which was a favorite in KZ2. Warzone is compromised of several mission types that change as they are completed or as a timer runs out. The missions include Assassination, Search and Destroy, Search and Retrieve, Capture and Hold, and Bodycount. Most of these are likely either familiar to you or are self-explanatory. Finally, there is Operations which is all about getting your team to control certain areas. Mission types within Operations are similar to that of Warzone and include Search and Destroy, Capture and Hold, and Scavenge and Retrieve.
Thanks to the inclusion of vehicles and jetpacks, multiplayer Killzone is better than ever. The online community seems to be quite strong and growing which can only be a good sign in extending the longevity of this title. I should also mention that you can hop in the Botzone offline to play against bots across all game modes and a splitscreen co-op mode is supported for the campaign. This alone makes the campaign worth a second visit, so I'm glad it was included.
No matter what mode you play, KZ3 looks great. I don't have a 3DTV to test the 3D mode on, but your eyes and ears are in for a visual treat nonetheless. For the first couple of hours, I was worried KZ3 was going to fall in to the darker, post-apocalyptic color palette that so many of these futuristic war games do. I knew there was a snow mission at some point, but as it turns out the game gets a lot brighter and very colorful during a couple of missions (one of which features very vibrant plant life). These changes to the scenery certain keeps things a little more interesting and some scripted events impress as well. I didn't experience any technical issues either, and the load times off of checkpoints is instant, which rocks. Cutscenes and sound effects are on target too, although I think the game could still use a more noticeable soundtrack.
With that, lets get to the summary...