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Killzone 3 review

Excellent
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Killzone 2 may be one of the most divisive games of its generation. Even discounting the weird furor leading up to its release, a lot of gamers seem just as likely to decry its shortcomings (dull-looking environments, shaky enemy AI, etc.) as they are gush about how fantastic it is. Killzone 3 should be a hell of a lot easier to agree on, though, because while it delivers more or less the same gritty shooter action in the same bleak, blasted city ruins, it also delivers a ton of improvements that make it a hugely entertaining game.


Your Helghast enemies are now smarter, able to cover more effectively and react better to your actions (often with grenades). Your allies are more useful, too; not only will you have to revive them a lot less often than you would have in Killzone 2, but they can now revive you (although they’re not particularly good at it, often getting hung up on obstacles or distracted by enemies). The guns are bigger, the action’s more varied, the multiplayer’s more accessible and it’s now possible to tackle the campaign with a co-op partner. It’s as if every complaint critics leveled at Killzone 2 was taken into account and fixed.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Those who played through Killzone 2 can probably already guess where a big chunk of KZ3’s plot is headed – after killing Scolar Visari (leader of the fascist Helghast army) in the last game, heroes Rico and Sev quickly go from scrappy invaders to hunted fugitives after finding themselves on the receiving end of a massive Helghast retaliation.


That’s really all you need to know going into the campaign (which takes around six to eight hours to finish). Interestingly, though, Rico and Sev’s story intertwines with another one involving the game’s two villains, Orlock (played by Ray Winstone) and Johann Stahl (Malcolm McDowell). A Helghast admiral and industrialist, respectively, the two steal the spotlight by continually trying to politically outmaneuver one another and fill the power vacuum left by Visari’s death. You’ll never play as either of them, of course, but their hammy machinations add an interesting dimension to a story that would otherwise be about a couple of grunts and their focus on (what’s left of) their mission.


See (more of) the world

Story aside, the most striking changes Killzone 3 brings are to its new environments, which are a little livelier and a lot more colorful than the rubble-strewn industrial hellscapes of Killzone 2. That’s not to say there aren’t a lot of rubble-strewn industrial hellscapes here, or that they’re not saturated with grays and browns – but their palettes have been broadened to include other, more striking colors. The levels are also a lot more diverse than before, and include a brightly colored (and hazard-filled) jungle that looks like a slightly murkier version of Avatar’s Pandora, a high-tech weapons lab, a gleaming space station and the iceberg-surrounded oilrigs that were, for many of us, our first glimpse of the game.



Above: The jungle mission also encourages you to play it stealthy

You’ll also do a lot more within those levels. The bulk of the action still revolves around ducking behind cover (made semi-sticky by holding down the L2 trigger) and trading shots with gasmask-wearing Helghast infantry – and that’s gotten a few upgrades. Certain weapons now feature improved sights, and a heavy-weapons slot has been added to your inventory for things like miniguns, rocket launchers and a couple of bizarre (but awesome) sci-fi weapons, like the multi-warhead WASP rocket launcher and the enemy-liquefying Arc Cannon.

The fight is a little easier than before; ammo caches are everywhere, ensuring that you’ll rarely have to resort to your sidearm, and checkpoints are usually pretty forgiving. To offset these advantages, there’s more diversity in the enemies you’ll battle, with standard Helghast stormtroopers joined by things like eerie, dog-like mechs and Capture Troopers, who wear thick armor and enjoy sprinting right up and stabbing you in the chest.



Note: Do not let them get this close. They are dicks when they're this close

Time a counterattack against them just right, though, and you’ll trigger one of the best additions to Killzone 3: the so-called Brutal Melee attacks, which replace the knife-slashing of KZ2 with nasty close-quarters kill moves. Your enemies might get off with a slit throat or a snapped neck, but you’re also just as likely to jam your thumbs through their red lenses or twist a knife in their eyes. These attacks can sometimes leave you too vulnerable – especially in multiplayer – but that doesn’t make them any less satisfying to pull off.


Above: Gross 

There’s more to the campaign than shooting and stabbing, though, with the traditional FPS carnage now regularly broken up by huge action set-pieces, vehicle segments and a stealth mission, three things that were mostly lacking in Killzone 2. These arguably give KZ3 more of a Call of Duty feel, since they’re mostly linear, self-contained departures from the action (i.e. now that you’ve fought your way through that arctic lab, it’s time for a dramatic escape in some high-speed monstrosity called an Ice Saw!), but they’re nonetheless meticulously crafted and make for an exciting change of pace.

True, some of the vehicle bits amount to little more than rail-shooter sequences (particularly in the game's final stages), but they’re also joined by a couple of rides you can move around in freely, most notably the machinegun-equipped jetpack (which, sadly, only shows up for a little while) and the towering EXO mechs, which are heavily armed and fantastic for literally stomping the life out of Helghast troops.



Above: HURR HURR HURR 

Best bring backup

They’re even better if you can bring a friend along, so those of you disappointed to see co-op left out of Killzone 2 will be happy to know that it’s been added to KZ3, with Cpl. Shawn Natko (who’s otherwise completely absent from the story) filling in as Player Two to Sev’s Player One. There’s a catch, though: it’s split-screen only, and your progress in the co-op campaign is completely separate from your single-player progress.


Above: Dammit 

While the lack of an online option (or, for that matter, a jump-in/jump-out feature) is a letdown, the split-screen feature actually works pretty well. There were times when the square onscreen windows felt a little restrictive (turns out Helghast are very good at hiding in our peripheral-vision blind spots), or when the framerate stuttered a little, but overall there wasn’t any significant slowdown or loss of clarity. Here, watch it in action for yourself:


Much as we like the addition of co-op, it’s hardly the best multiplayer experience Killzone 3 offers. For that, you need to go online.


Endless battle

Multiplayer in Killzone 3 is, like we said earlier, much more accessible than what Killzone 2 offered. In Killzone 2, for example, everyone started off as a grunt, with basic weaponry, and it wasn’t until you’d ranked up five times that you’d even get the option to play as a medic. By contrast, Killzone 3 offers five classes right off the bat – Tactician, Infiltrator, Engineer, Field Medic and Marksman – and gives you points with each rank-up that you can then put toward class-specific perks.

The difference is clear: with all the classes open from the start, multiplayer becomes less about grinding and more about experimenting with different weapons and abilities to see what suits you best, and things are kept fresher in the process. As an Infiltrator, for instance, you can disguise yourself as an enemy and take them out at close range for a big score – although Tacticians will be able to see through your disguise and point you out to other players (and can also capture territory more quickly). Meanwhile, Engineers can build turrets, Marksmen can turn invisible (and, eventually, hide their teammates from radar view), and Field Medics can not only rack up experience by healing teammates, but can also revive themselves from “death” once per round.

The maps feel a lot bigger than before, with a couple even featuring jetpacks and EXO mechs to drive, and the actual gameplay’s divided into three modes: Guerrilla Warfare (basically just team deathmatch), Warzone (which cycles through a series of five different objectives), and Operations, a new mode in which a defensive and offensive team fight over a series of mission objectives. Operations games are like self-contained, multiplayer campaigns, in that the offensive team gradually plows through defenses (or is turned away from them) to open up more of the map, with cutscenes (featuring the best players) following each stage of the fight. So far, we’ve had the most fun with Operations, although it’ll be interesting to see whether it or Warzone will have more staying power in the coming months.


As fun as the multiplayer is, it’s far from KZ3’s most talked-about feature. So now that this thing is winding down, let’s move on to the two things Sony’s been pushing hardest:


Move and 3D

Some people love playing shooters on the Wii. I’m not one of them; it’s awkward, and having to keep the Wii remote aimed at the TV is a wrist-cramping drag. By contrast, playing Killzone 3 with Move felt much more comfortable and responsive. Minimal movement was needed to aim, the few “gesture” commands were as simple as flicking the Move wand, and a lock-on feature ensured pinpoint accuracy. It’s still not quite as natural as simply using a controller, but if you’ve been eager for a “real” game to play with Move, it won’t disappoint.



Above: Apart from a floating crosshairs and different onscreen prompts, Move doesn't make any visual difference

Move also makes for a fun complement to KZ3’s 3D feature, which is pretty slick if your TV supports it, adding a cool depth-of-field effect to what’s already a very pretty game. You won’t miss much by not having 3D (and to be honest, it felt a little eye-straining), but it does help make some of the game’s more explosive moments – like the jetpack flight, or the near-endgame battle against a skyscraper-sized mech called the MAWLR – even more visually impressive.


Is it better than…?

Killzone 2? Yes. While some die-hards will disagree, Killzone 3 keeps its action moving at a faster, more entertaining clip than its predecessor, and ends up a much more varied, exciting experience as a result. The scale feels bigger, the battles more important and the story a little more personal, making this much more than just another bleak follow-up.

 

Call of Duty: Black Ops? No. The campaigns are about on par, so this one comes down to multiplayer – and this is where Black Ops has the edge (PS3 bugs notwithstanding), with more maps and more play modes – including, of course, “Five” zombies. A 24-player Operations match in KZ3 might be something to behold, but so is getting swarmed by legions of the undead at the Pentagon.


Halo: Reach? Yes if we’re talking about single-player; no if we’re talking multiplayer. Again, KZ3’s multiplayer action is great, but it’s damn hard to hold a candle to something as endlessly customizable, replayable and silly as Reach’s version of same. But KZ3, with its relentless gunfights and ridiculous set-pieces, easily outshines Reach’s comparatively so-so campaign, and looks a hell of a lot prettier in the process.



Just for you, Metacritic!

Correcting seemingly every complaint critics had about Killzone 2, Killzone 3 is visually impressive, relentlessly entertaining and far more fun than we expected. This is everything a good sequel should be.

Feb 3, 2011

More Info

Available Platforms: PS3
Genre: Shooter
Published by: Sony
Developed by: Guerrilla Games
Franchise: Killzone
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language
PEGI Rating:
18+

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96 comments

  • IAmARobotWhoTurnsIntoATruckAndIFindNoLevityInThis - February 4, 2011 7:04 a.m.

    So. Killzone 3 has worse multiplayer than Halo: Reach, but it still gets a higher score? This is an outrage!!!
  • AlpineGuy - February 4, 2011 7:13 a.m.

    I think it's kinda cool to see Move and 3D support being used in something more...substantial. Anyway, thought I'd post before the sh*tstorm that can come with a major console-exclusive review happens. Let's hope I'm wrong, though...*nervous laugh*
  • QWERTYCommander - February 4, 2011 7:14 a.m.

    @IAmARobotWhoTurnsIntoATruckAndIFindNoLevityInThis The "Is it better than...?" section also mentioned that it has a better single-player mode, which is probably why it's a point higher.
  • Mexicutioner - February 4, 2011 7:14 a.m.

    Wait, when is this out again? 2/22/11? Wow, when the hell did this happen?!
  • GamesRadarMikelReparaz - February 4, 2011 7:15 a.m.

    @AlpineGuy: I confess I'm curious to see what happens when I don't give a PS3 exclusive a 10, but also say it's better than last year's biggest 360 exclusive.
  • Lozier10 - February 4, 2011 7:16 a.m.

    Not sure weather to get this or play one of the thousands of other FPS's I have...
  • GamesRadarMikelReparaz - February 4, 2011 7:16 a.m.

    @Mexicutioner: Just today. Sony always sets its review embargoes early.
  • Mexicutioner - February 4, 2011 7:19 a.m.

    @GamesRadarMikelReparaz I was just surprised that this game is coming out so soon. I somehow thought this game was at least another year away from being released. Lol @ QWERTYCommander for not getting the joke....
  • NanoElite666 - February 4, 2011 7:27 a.m.

    So to beat out Black Ops, it seems there is only one other thing that Killzone needs... Helghast zombies.
  • ChrisAntistaLikesLittleBoys - February 4, 2011 7:33 a.m.

    BIAS BIAS BIAS Just Kidding, but, I was never too interested in Killzone 2, and this one doesn't look like it's going to change my mind
  • garnsr - February 4, 2011 7:38 a.m.

    It also seems to me like this game should be a while away still, and I still don't know why all the Sony games get reviews so early, and nobody else ever does it before the day of release. I have no interest in FPSs, though.
  • lolwizards - February 4, 2011 7:39 a.m.

    I'm pretty bored with bleak, gritty FPS. I can't wait for Bulletstorm.
  • CoktorBloktopus - February 4, 2011 7:47 a.m.

    so now the real question is do I pose as a Halo fanboy and bag on the score being higher than Rrach or should should I fake outrage and demand that Mikel Reparaz be fired for having a valid opinion about a gamez? Well friends this is a hard one I beleave that I will have to gor with neither and just say that Mass Effect is the greatest game on the face of this earth and never will a story line, combat system, or R-Ape simulator (haha stupid news people) will ever top it as long as the earth is still spinning. Thank you all now all I have to say to you is "Good night and good luck." P.S. good review Mr. Reparaz if I had a PS3 I would be getting this game and enjoying it very much.
  • Unoriginal - February 4, 2011 7:53 a.m.

    Considering all the crazy, crazy shit that happened prior to release of Killzone 2 it's odd that I didn't even know this was comming out this year. Great review, but I'm tired of theese "real and gritty" FPSes.
  • ThePigHostage - February 4, 2011 8:12 a.m.

    Looks good, but I'm not sure if I should get this or just wait for Resistance 3... I really don't need more than one FPS a year.
  • CH3BURASHKA - February 4, 2011 8:26 a.m.

    KZ2 wasn't a game, it was an event. KZ3 feels much more subdued than that, much more a physical boxed product than any kind of statement. Whatever the reason, I'm much less interested in it.
  • sonicskateboard - February 4, 2011 8:30 a.m.

    can you play splitscren online multiplayer? Also, great review Mikel. Will you be reviewing it for Ptom?
  • HumorTumor - February 4, 2011 8:48 a.m.

    My only question is the controls. KZ2 had a really sluggish aiming/looking to it that did not feel tight at all ruining the game for me in most part. I'm curious if this entry improved that control lag/sluggishness.
  • marioman50 - February 4, 2011 8:49 a.m.

    Mikel, you probably don't even care, but if you don't want to point your wii remote directly at the screen when playing wii fps's, THAN LOWER THE POSITION OF YOUR SENSOR BAR! IT WORKS! You can play the game while resting your hands in the comfort of your lap. Ask Brett, he knows!
  • 435 - February 4, 2011 9:08 a.m.

    What?!?!?! A -9-?!?!?! Let me guess, Microsoft paid you to do this, didn't they? Obviously, Killzone 3 will cure cancer and solve global climate change, but NO, you couldn't put that in your review because MS gave you a hojillion dollars to give this saviour of the galaxy and deific creation of YAWHEH himself a mere and lowly NINE. How dare you, Mr. Reparaz. You spit in the faces of ALL owners of the PS3 by claiming that the horrible shit of a game known as Halo: Reach could outclass it in any regard, let alone that torrent of pus that is the multiplayer! And Black Ops? It's still better, despite the fact that it's TREYARCH that developed that game, ultimately dooming it immediately to being merely a third-rate Modern Warfare clone? For SHAME, sir! For -shame-. I hope that money Microsoft gave you was made by HASBRO, you bastard! I hope you're HAPPY!

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