[Note: Review originally posted February 3, 2011. Since Killzone 3 released today, ten thousand years after our review went live, we're reposting it for your viewing enjoyment.]
Halo and Call of Duty are often held up as the twin peaks of online first-person-shooters. Meanwhile Killzone is regularly overlooked or outright disregarded, and that's a remarkable shame, since Guerrilla's efforts with Killzone 2 led to perhaps one of the most vivid and powerful shooters on the market.
Guerrilla has returned with Killzone 3, and another shot at competing with the top dogs. Halo and Call of Duty may remain at the peak, but in this humble reviewer's opinion, they need to start carving a sizable hole in the top of that mountain.
Killzone 3 picks up six months after Killzone 2. Scolar Visari is dead, murdered by that idiot Rico, and the Helghan fleet is beating the tar out of the ISA. The Helghast, however, are not in complete control, as two rival leaders -- Admiral Orlock and Chairman Stahl -- bicker for control of the military in front of an ineffectual, leaderless government.
Although the plot is typically light, the characterization and style of exposition have increased tenfold since Killzone 2. We get our first look at the Helghast senate -- a bitter group of twisted old men who resemble The Dark Crystal's Skeksis in many ways -- and the utterly brilliant Jorhan Stahl, who has quickly become one of my favorite characters of all time thanks in no small part to the wonderful performance put forth by Malcolm McDowell.
The ISA, as always, are notably less likable than the "villains" of the piece, but they are at least more bearable this time. Even Rico -- the franchise's perpetual "Scrappy Doo" -- has been grounded somewhat and manages to avoid grating on the nerves quite so much. Our main protagonist, Tomas 'Sev' Sevchenko, still lacks personality but has been given more to say and do, and is easier to sympathize with than last time. Although there's still no reason to not root for the Helghast, Killzone 3's story is an enjoyable roller coaster ride that's worth getting into just for the enthralling rivalry between Stahl and Orlock.
The gameplay hasn't changed much since 2008, but it didn't really need to. Killzone 3 is perhaps the most intense shooter on the market, with an emphasis on stressful firefights that piled on the pressure without apology. From beginning to end, the player is literally harassed by an aggressive, brutal Helghast assault. Even during the game's one and only stealth mission, the adrenaline is kept at dangerously high levels, with a pure, distilled, utterly dedicated focus on action, action, action.
There are moments when the game seems more cheap than challenging, with Helghast soldiers hidden around corners and clairvoyantly prepared to cut you up as soon as you appear in view, or infuriating vehicle sections in which you have no ability to avoid damage or take cover. This "ambush" approach to game difficulty was prevalent in Killzone 2 and, while it has eased up a little in this game, there are still moments where you'll randomly fall down dead and you won't even know why or where the bullets were coming from.
For the most part, however, Killzone 3 rewards your perseverance with a gritty, heavy, consistently chaotic campaign, full of varied locations, high octane setpieces, and some of the biggest, toughest boss challenges you'll find in a first-person-shooter.
The game feels a lot faster than Killzone 2, with Guerrilla tightening up the controls to make them more responsive, and adding features like a cover-sliding ability in order to make for a more fluid and versatile experience. While much of the input lag from the last game has been removed, this has not been done at the expense of the franchise's signature "weighty" feel. Sevchenko will sprint faster and aim quicker, but he'll still feel like he has a presence in the game world, and isn't just some floating, disembodied specter with a gun. Killzone 3 is still one of the only games around with a true sense of heft and realism, simply presented in a faster, more receptive way.
Killzone 3 is the shooter to beat.
THE VERDICT - Killzone 3
Reviewed by Jim Sterling
|8:00 AM on 02.24.2012|
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