In the real world, the life of a contemporary soldier in a war zone consists of hours or days of tension-filled tedium, interrupted by often unexpected, brutal, adrenaline-surging combat. In Killzone 3, the adrenaline busting battles are interrupted by even bigger, louder, and more chaotic firefights. Don't these guys ever need a little break? Stop and drink a juice box, for cryin' out loud.
Killzone 3 kicks off where the last installment ended, and features the same fast-paced, gritty action as the second chapter, while juicing the visuals to the latest standard. Players of Killzone 2 will feel instantly at home. Once again, you play “Sev” Sevchenko, and following the assassination of the enemy Helghast leader, you and your company are stranded behind enemy lines. The basic plot of Killzone 3 consists of someone shouting “We've got to move!” and a firefight-filled march towards off-planet safety. Don't come to Killzone 3 looking for subtle storytelling: there are plot holes big enough to hide a Helghast tank, and continuity hiccups abound.
Some excellently-voiced behind-the-scenes political machinations aside, the story is a linear tale of forward motion and survival, though the game does a very good job of adding variety to the experience. There are sniping sequences, stealth sequences, a number of turret-manning sections, mech and airborne vehicle combat sequences, and of course hours of foot-soldiering, dodging bullets and finding cover. The go-to assault rifle gets most of the job done, aided by a pile of other useful weapons such as rocket launchers and sniper rifles. If all this sounds a bit familiar, it is; Killzone 3 doesn't break any new ground.
Where the game shines is in its presentation and gameplay. While earlier installments were visually muted, Killzone 3 is a super-saturated orgy of environmental detail. Though a little lacking in variety—most of the environments are variations on “bombed out metropolis”—every frame is packed with grit, floating debris, background action, and interesting lighting effects. As good as the previous Killzone looked, this new chapter betters it in every way. Character animations are fluid and are coupled with excellent voice acting (including such big-name thespians as Malcolm McDowell) and overall sound design. The musical score is beautiful and a notch or two above the usual action game accompaniment but is buried beneath layers and layers of weapon effects, dialog, and environmental effects.
We all know that stellar visuals don't necessarily make a fun game, but Killzone 3 couples its visual panache with satisfying action. The controls are fluid and precise, and all of the weapons are effective and interesting to use. Enemy AI is smart and brutal and while your computer controlled companions aren't particularly useful, at least they don't get in the way. Killzone 3's action and eye-popping graphics place it shoulder-to-shoulder with any modern combat game on the market. (Though I didn't have a chance to experience it with either option, Killzone 3 supports also both the Playstation Move and 3-D televisions.)
Multiplayer is also a strong component, limited to three modes (team deathmatch, a capture and defend mode, and an objectives based mode) but is boosted by excellent map design, weapon and class choices, and overall polish. For better or worse, the multiplayer aspects of Killzone—from the lobby to the game choices—have been streamlined this time around. Happily, players can practice and learn the maps and weapons against bots before facing off against human opponents.
Though its story lacks imagination and its one-note pacing cries out for greater variety, Killzone 3 looks fantastic and contains an incredible wealth of detail and excellent action. It plays every bit as good as it looks and a compentent multiplayer component guarantees an extended life beyond the single-player campaign. The story may disappoint you but squaring off against the Helghast is still remarkably satisfying.
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