Review: Killzone 3 (PS3)

Title: Killzone 3
Format: Blu-ray
Release Date: February 22, 2011
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB: M
Extras: PlayStation Move Compatible, 3D Compatible

I don’t think it’s a secret that I’m a huge fan of Killzone 2, and my expectations for Killzone 3 have been at an all-time high since I played a bit of it at E3 in 2010. Before I get started, let me preface with a couple of specifics. I finished the Campaign twice, once using the standard controls and one using nothing but the PlayStation Move controls.

As such, I will write the gameplay info separately for each control scheme, as the Move controls especially are quite a hot topic right now. Both times that I played-through, I did so on “Veteran” difficulty, but I also tried “Elite” to help set a benchmark for the difficulty. Also, this review was done with Review Code, which is said to be the exact same as Retail Code for Killzone 3.

Gameplay (DualShock 3):
If you played Killzone 2, not much has changed with the core mechanics, except for some pretty sweet improvements. Added to the cover system this time is the ability to slide into cover when running to it, and also the ability to bound-over cover instead of trying to jump over it.

Unlike Killzone 2, you really need to use cover effectively, as the Helghast AI is vastly improved. Instead of simply spamming grenades, the Helghast will work to flush you out into the open by effectively placing grenades near you, or they’ll use covering fire to suppress your movements while another soldier attempts to flank your position. The AI isn’t perfect, but it’s definitely improved over the past titles.

The overall controls just feel “smoother” though. There’s still a weightiness to everything, but the movements just feel better throughout. Also, the dead zone has obviously been tweaked, as homing-in on your intended target feels much more natural than before.

Another addition is the “Brutal Melee” kills, which allow you to launch an automated melee kill instead of simply trying to land a blow with the butt of your weapon. The animations are contextual, and not all enemies can be taken out with a single strike. In certain points during the campaign, these moves are vital as they are a “silent kill” and won’t alert other enemies in the vicinity.

On top of those additions, all of the weapons have been retooled and tweaked. The weapons all have a different feel now, be it a changed sight or new sound effects. Even some of the fixed turrets can be pulled off of their mounts and used on the go, with some truly devastating results. There will be moments where “the right tool for the job” is available, but not all of the time. You’ll find numerous weapons along your way to pick up and use, which plays to the individual’s play-style.

Simply put though, this is more of a good thing. Everything’s been tweaked from stem to stern, and it’s obvious that GG took a step back to address some of the complaints that were made against Killzone 2.

Most of the time, these changes are great, but there is one section of the campaign that is so similar to what I played in CoD4, that made me actually go back to CoD4 to make sure that I wasn’t crazy. The level definitely works, but it was a bit of a let-down that it was so similar. Luckily, the similarities only last a few minutes, and really, it didn’t make this any worse of a game.

The story has probably been the biggest point of contention with a few reviewers, and honestly, I just don’t see the problem. I thoroughly enjoyed the story all of the way through, and the performances by the likes of Malcolm McDowell, Ray Winstone, and James Remar are phenomenal.

The cutscenes help break the action up a bit, and where they’ve taken the story is something that I really loved to see unfold. Sure, there are those “DudeBro” moments that anyone should expect with a game like this, but what are people expecting, Platoon? Out of the “military” FPS that I’ve played, I’d actually say that this is one of the more compelling stories that I’ve encountered.

Mixed-in with the standard FPS action are points where you’ll pilot an Exo (mech) and a Jetpack, and even act as gunner in some other vehicles. These sections are placed perfectly throughout and really help to keep the player from getting into a rut.

All of them are great, minus one exception. At one point you’ll drive and gun in an Ice Saw vehicle, and honestly, this is the weakest point in the game. It doesn’t ruin anything, and actually, my 2nd time through it was a bit more favorable since I understood the mechanics better. If you’re looking for the requisite “weakest part of the game” though, that section is it.

I’d love to go into the story more, but I don’t want to give anything away. Once you see how GG handles the story, and certain transitions, I think you’ll see why I love how they did it, especially if you’ve played the Single Player demo (which is fantastic by the way.)

*PlayStation Move Gameplay
Again, I don’t think that it’s a secret that I’m not a big fan of motion gaming. I honestly thought that I’d play the Campaign for about an hour and get frustrated with the game, but surprisingly, this is not the case.

Now mind you, I played a section of the game using Move at PAX last year, and I hated it. I kept losing the cursor, and I just thought the whole thing was merely a gimmick. But in the few months since then, they not only tightened the Move controls up, they effectively made Killzone 3 the best example of Move controlled gameplay on the PS3. many people have asked if I used the Move Shooting accessory, to which I’ve replied with a definitive ‘no’.

I expect that many people have the visual in their head of holding the controller out in front of one’s self to play this game, and that’s probably the worst possible thing that you could do. Instead, you should use the idea that this is a 3D mouse of sorts, and it really only requires subtle movements to be effective.

What I did for the entire game was to hold the Move controller in my right hand, which I rested on my right leg. I used my pinky essentially as a pivot-point and never had to make any wild motions to get something to work.

Another thing that GG did with the Move controls was to stay away from the gimmicky stuff somewhat. The melee action of thrusting the controller forward honestly doesn’t require much motion at all, and is actually more effective than using R3 on the standard controller.

You can reload your weapon either by using the “Square” button, or by quickly twisting the Move controller (which I didn’t particularly like.) So, to throw a grenade, you don’t have to make some flailing throw motion and instead, you simply hit L1 on the Nav/DS3 and aim where you want it to go with the cursor, which is far more effective.

Settings-wise, and after much messing around with them, I found the most effective settings to be to set both Dead Zones to “0” and to set the camera movement to either 20 or 30. These settings got me all of the way through the Campaign, and I’m pretty confident that you can succeed using the same.

So, to conclude, the Move controls don’t just work, they work extremely well. Believe me, I’m surprised that I’m even saying this! I’m really not sure about using Move in multiplayer though, as that gameplay seems a bit more “twitchy” that getting through the Single Player.

Visuals:
This is the best looking FPS on any console, period! Take what you saw in Killzone 2, increase and solidify the framerate, add more colors to the palette, add more depth and detail to essentially every texture, add a lot more lighting effects, and improve the animation and facial rendering in the cutscenes, because that’s what Killzone 3 brings to your TV.

The architecture is more complex than before, the addition of smoke and dust brings even more impact to the experience, and the explosion effects are truly something to behold. Seriously, this is the benchmark for FPS visuals on any console (and most PC titles as well.)

The 3D implementation is one of the best so far, and after some tinkering with my TV settings, the ghosting that I was seeing in the cutscenes early-on are now completely gone. The depth of field is truly superb, and as I saw at E3 even, sighting my enemies was actually easier to do in 3D. Everything has depth now, and many objects and soldiers are even easier to detect in crowded situations. If you have a 3DTV, get ready for an awesome journey.

Audio:
Again, they’ve taken what we loved and added more to it. In full surround, the audio envelops you in the experience, with even more layers of audio than before. The soundtrack is awe-inspiring, and enhances the action on the screen. For a “simple FPS,” GG has done a great job of pulling the player into the world that they’ve created, and the audio has a lot to do with that. The guns all sound unique now, the voice acting is top-notch, and especially the explosions will rock your subwoofer. If you have surround, crank this mother up!

Online/Multiplayer:
So, the first aspect of this category is the inclusion of cooperative play through the entire campaign. Unfortunately though, online coop is NOT included, which sucks for people like me that have no gaming friends within 2 hours of where I live. Fortunately though, I had a chance to play through a good portion of the “on the couch” coop recently and was pretty impressed.

The screen splits vertically, but leaves a bit of black space above or below each window. It works very well, unless you have a coop partner that keeps lagging behind. If that happens, the game “warps” that player forward as to keep-up (I’m looking at you Krakerjak.) It’s a feature that was probably the most requested when Killzone 2 hit, so it’s good that GG found a way to add it to Killzone 3.

Online itself is fantastic in my opinion. They do have a patch hitting at least close to Day 1 that adds many tweaks that resulted from the most recent Open Beta. The new maps are definitely varied, and a couple I can already tell are going to become instant favorites. Most seem to have pretty complex architecture, and the placement of the Tactical Spawn Points are well thought-out.

The lack of Squads within a match is pretty annoying though, as now your “squad” is simply an online party, which does have a couple of advantages inherently, including voice chat for 8 people in the “squad.” Also being added in the first patch will be one-button friend invites, which is always a great option to have.

I’ve spent days in Killzone 2’s online, and I already know that this will become my new online obsession for months to come. The new progression system has been completely overhauled, using a more “CoD’ish” system using unlock points that can be applied to any class, which I love in this instance. weapons and classes have also been re-balanced to great success, and items like turrets have been tweaked a bit as well, all making the game a much more balanced experience.

Conclusion:
As you see, there’s a lot going-on in Killzone 3. I held-off on doing this review so that I try to cover as much as possible before release, which is why I played-through twice. It’s true, I love this game. It’s not perfect, and there are hints of influence from the Call of Duty series at times, but this is still Killzone, and it definitely retains its identity, and even adds to it in this instance.

This is a game you can use to show your PS3, Move controller, and 3D TV to your friends, all in one package. The online will keep you occupied for days (son) and the campaign at roughly 6 hours on Veteran is the perfect length of time to spend on Helghan. The continuation of the story from Killzone 2 is very satisfying and a lot of fun to watch, especially with the performances from the heavy hitters that joined the cast.

This is one of my four “must-have’s” for 2011, and it exceeded every expectation that I had. Also, the fact that that both the 3D and Move implementations went beyond simple gimmicks is refreshing, and both really brought something substantial to the table. Yeah, I love this game!

Score:
9.0

Written by Glenn Percival

Glenn Percival

Just a guy that loves games, movies, Golf, Football, and Baseball.

Podcast Co-Host, Editor-in-Chief, Video Producer, and whipping-boy

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  • Great Review Torgo ^^

  • what are the settings for optimal 3d viewing? i still have some crosstalk on samsung c7000

    • On the TV, I had to change the 3D settings to not use “Auto,” then I set the depth at 80% I believe. Luckily, the weirdness I was seeing in 3D was really only during cutscenes, but it was still annoying.

  • Mike H.

    Great review, but you didn’t mention any minecart level. XD

  • Glenn, glad you enjoyed playing through the story. I can’t wait for this game to come out so I can play with everyone!

  • Anonymous

    Great review as always Glenn! I have one question, is there split screen offline multiplayer? My older brother will be stopping by and I was wondering if I will be able to beat the muthaf#ckin pants offline. Otherwise, I’ll just have to do it online.

    Once again, great review and thanks for mentioning the other reviews that seem to believe that negativity equals journalistic integrity.

    • As far as I can see, the splitscreen offline is only in Coop.

  • Nice review. Cannot wait to get my hands upon!

  • Anonymous

    great review – would have been interested in hearing your thoughts on what was not carried over from KZ2 such as spawning on squad leader – nonetheless great review of a game I am really liking

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