After an opening section that’s completely disorientating – in the best possible way – Killzone 3 jumps backwards in time to begin its story proper in the immediate aftermath of Killzone 2, and the death of Scolar Visari. It’s immediately apparent from the off that the plotting and dialogue have been stripped right down here, and they’re far punchier and more concise than they were in that first sequel. In addition, Sony and developer Guerrilla have also begun subscribing to the uncommon, age-old maxim that the hiring of top-notch talent reaps its own rewards, and the game features an A-list cast of actors – including Malcolm McDowell, James Remar and Ray Winstone – but it never flaunts them in a hollow attempt to align itself with Hollywood. They’ve been hired simply to bring clout to the story and its characters, and it’s a technique that works brilliantly; even if the overall storyline isn’t as consistently involving as its predecessor’s was.
And although a small band of people always felt that the first two Killzone games were a little too derivative for their own good, Killzone 3 feels in many ways like something that’s bound to be a strong source of inspiration for innumerable FPS titles that will come in its wake. It’s so absurdly full-on, so completely focused on relentless bombast and thrills, and so determined to go its own ludicrous way, that it feels far more original than anyone could possibly have been expecting; especially from the second sequel in an already-established franchise. These feelings are accentuated by the fact that Killzone 2‘s weightless and mildly unsatisfying controls have been revamped completely, and are now capable of standing toe-to-toe with those featured in any other console FPS currently on the market.
The action in Killzone 3 is utterly relentless but never exhausting, and some very antiquated genre cliches (many of which always end up determining your style of play) have been gloriously scrapped. Ammo dumps are absolutely everywhere, so you’ll rarely (if ever) have to worry about running out of bullets mid-battle. If you’re the kind of person who can’t resist the urge to tear a weighty gun placement from its hinges at any opportunity, here those instances are frequent; and not only can you run whilst wielding these beasts, you can also keep hold of them in your dedicated heavy weapon slot, and are able to constantly replenish their ammunition when required. In fact, the game’s opening two-or-so hours feel as if Guerrilla are openly mocking the sissy concept of stealth gameplay.
But then a lengthy stealth sequence comes out of nowhere – and it’s one of the best of this generation. It’s a stage that’s as shrewdly structured as any other in the game; giving you nothing other than a silenced machine pistol (with infinite ammo, naturally) and forcing you to stick to the shadows and utilise some proximity-triggered environmental hazards. The intermittent Mech and on-rails segments are reliably terrific too, and would stand as the ideal places to sample the freshly implemented Playstation Move support, if it wasn’t already utilised definitively everywhere else. As anyone who used them in the recent multiplayer beta will tell you, the Move controls are basically perfect. Make no mistake, adapting to them is a slow process that impatient players probably won’t make any time for, but once you find yourself able to barrel around a corner at speed whilst precisely dispatching multiple enemies in the process, you’ll be won over forever.
As was the case with Zipper Interactive’s superb MAG in the wake of its own Move support patch last year, once you’ve mastered this control method you’ll feel as if you’ve got the drop on all of your opponents in multiplayer. Many of Killzone 2‘s multiplayer gameplay options return here and the pick of the bunch is still Warzone, which offers a rolling set of modes that constantly change at random. Thankfully, the different classes don’t have to be individually unlocked any more and the COD-style progression system that’s taken its place is worryingly compelling, and our experiences with all of the maps were encouraging in the extreme. None of them felt hastily devised or unbalanced, and all of them maintained the palpable sense of atmosphere present in their Campaign counterparts. After only a handful of games, we were left with the feeling that this might just be the finest FPS currently available on the platform.
Killzone 3‘s campaign is not quite perfect – there is the odd unfortunate difficulty spike, the Mech HUDs aren’t massively clear about when you’re about to perish and shotguns tend to crop up when there isn’t much close-combat going on – but these minor faults are rendered entirely insignificant by the sheer majesty of everything else. It’s never less than astonishing to look at, the music and sound design are stirring and awards-worthy, and the multiplayer is a gleaming thing of thumb-caning beauty. Playstation 3 owners have just been handed a set of cast-iron bragging rights that probably won’t expire any time soon, and if there is a PS3 in your home, you really shouldn’t be without it.
Watch the Killzone 3 trailer here: