The Helghast Return. Killzone 3 Reviewed

With the upcoming launch of one of the gaming industry’s most impressive exclusive First Person Shooter titles we go hands on with Killzone 3 to bring you the full review of Guerilla Games’ sizzling combat title.       

With a polished new look and AI so intuitive they even offer you tips on gameplay to improve your rating, Killzone 3 bursts onto the shooter scene like frag grenade through your living room window. Will the Sony’s exclusive action title live up to expectations? Will it dominate the already over saturated FPS genre, or will it flounder once more in heavy control’s with a paper-thin storyline? Join us and find out as we take you on a whistle-stop tour of Helghan in the GamesMediaPro review of Killzone 3.          

Never before has a first person shooter divided the gaming community with all the passionate fanboyism of the Killzone franchise. If Guerilla Games had it their way then no doubt they would keep this kind of debate raging for months, if not years to come, as the arguments and rants that have sprung up right across the internet on gaming forum’s, websites and Youtube has been worth its weight in advertising gold to the developers behind the title that has caused so much controversy.

On the one hand you have the fanboy’s who will just blindly defend anything that Sony puts out regardless of content or quality, and on the other there are the detractors who will blatantly attempt to quash any kind of positive feedback for any title that is not permitted to be played on their system of choice. What you must do, dear readers, is find the middle ground between these soap-box politician’s and formulate your own opinions from the unbiased reporting of a reviewer that bears no favouritism to either flag, but instead enjoys the games regardless of console or platform. Then you may better grasp the game’ positive attributes or negative connotations.

With that in mind we will now attempt to bring you the review of Killzone 3 without having fanboy’s of either camp taking up residence outside GamesMediaPro Towers and looking to string us all up from the nearest street lamp should our findings not sit favourably with their own views. Fanboy’s, eh?

The storyline has come in for a lot of flack in recent day’s from both sides of the gaming press, but we have to say that in a first person shooter title, that has at its heart a complex and fluid combat system, just how much of a storyline did you want anyway? When Sony launched Metal Gear Solid 4, with  Konami, the cut scenes and storyline were an absolute joy to take in, but were, at the same time. condemned by most as overblown, pointless, detracting from the gameplay and far too long-winded. Now we see that when Guerilla Games make the cut scenes where you learn the story, and the actual gameplay is where players will just get into the thick of the action instead of having to sit through an epic yarn detailing the previous thirty years leading up to the event, we find that the same gamers who rallied against MGS4 and raved at the immersive storyline there, are now the same set of reviewers who are now calling Killzone 3 shallow and the plot wafer thin? Well which one is it  people? Do you want Jackanory or do you want to stick your Jack-Knife in the nearest opposing team member? It seems to us that it is more beneficial for certain sections of the gaming media to give controversial ratings and reviews so that they obtain more hits and views on their website and earn those all important 8p affiliate link revenues. Thank the Lord for the independent non-profit reviewers.

The storyline in Killzone 3 is actually a whole lot more engaging than you have been led to believe. The game begins with you immediately jumping back into the familiar boots of ISA reluctant hero Sev, ably assisted by his long-term partner Rico, as you are now in the events that follow on from the ending of Killzone 2 and have to fight your way out of the Helghan stronghold with every red-eyed man and his cyber puppy trying to add an extra ventilation hole to your combat helmet. Even though the first few level’s of Killzone 3 take their formatting from its predecessor the gameplay in these opening turn of events is still highly engaging and deeply immersive as you have to battle your way out of the Helghan fortress. The veteran’s of the Helghan army quickly move in to launch a vicious counterattack against the invading ISA forces in retaliation to the human assault that has led to the death of their beloved, and feared, leader Scolari. And with the advancing enemy dog nipping at their heel’s the ISA must beat a hasty exit or suffer a crushing defeat at the hands of their numerically superior foes.

If you look at the opening levels of Killzone 3 almost as a tutorial utilizing the previous game mechanics of KZ2 in such a way as to prepare you for the vast improvements in visuals, movement and gameplay of the franchises latest offering then you will see the game for what it is and better understand and appreciate the obvious improvements that have been made in every department by its developers.

Such is the difference between the opening few levels to the subsequent chapters thereafter you cannot fail but to be impressed by the style and class that ooze from every frame in Guerilla Games stylish sequel. The game just handles so much better than its previous offering in every aspect imaginable. From the way that the much maligned ‘weight’ of the player affecting the gameplay, to the speed at which you may now move around the stunning locations and environments, Guerilla Games’ have pushed the envelope so far with this title that the even using the Royal Mails guaranteed delivery system would still see it not arriving at its destination for veritable months due to its distant starting point.

The new chief ‘baddies’ of the latest in the franchise are played superbly with the highest calibre of voice over acting being produced by the excellent Malcolm McDowell in the role of the abrasive and acidic Johann Stahl, whilst Ray Winstone’s snarling and menacing Orlock steals the show in the dialogue stakes with relative ease.

The graphics in Killzone 3 are just jaw to the floor, drop dead gorgeous! There really is nothing better in the entire first person shooter genre. Killzone 3 makes an absolute mockery of fanboy comparisons to other leading rival titles in the field by taking full advantage of Sony’s Move and 3D systems and putting them to very good use. The visuals have to be seen to be believed, and if players thought that the Demo graphic’s were good then the final finished product with those extra months of buffing and polishing by the design team will have gamers socks blown off and launched into orbit. The smooth as silk graphics are stunning in 1080p and if you have surround sound then prepare for some staggering moments during firefights when the realism offered by the games remarkable sound quality will see you leaping for cover behind sofa’s and pot plants as you seek refuge from the bullets that sound almost like they are hissing around yours like angry wasps.

The locations are varied and expansive, as unlike Killzone 2 that followed a strict pattern of a one track mind assault in its pursuit of the now expired Scolari, Killzone 3 takes advantage of vastly differing environments that will allow the player to be suitably gobsmacked with every new chapter as they take in the sublime views on offer to them.  Where once the mainstay of the Killzone experience was the grey and gritty streets of a desolate planet on the brink of collapse, Killzone 3 explodes onto your screen in a beautifully crafted blend of urban, jungle and snow-capped locations that look better than anything else out there, even in standard format, but in true 1080p, and taking advantage of the 3D system, Killzone 3 is so far ahead of its competitors that high-powered telescopes would be hard pressed to locate this masterpiece of gaming genius.

There is also a vast array of new weaponry available to players to better allow them to separate enemy limbs from bodies, as well as the return of some true favoured classic’s such as the Luger which caused untold damage in the original Killzone. The control’s are customizable, ( and so you would have thought that this may have put paid to the drivel spouted by the ‘inane brigade’ but alas, no. ), and this allows players to select their favoured positioning for locations of target zoom, trigger and crouch for example. When we took advantage of the ‘wireless controller’ option in the menu we also upped the sensitivity and altered the triggers so that they suited the more standard fare of the left and right ‘zoom and doom’ of [‘left’] target and[‘right’]fire, and we have to say that they felt perfect and were highly responsive and adaptable to any and all situations.

A great deal of the weapons that were already known to the game have seen some cracking upgrades as is demonstrated in the new heavy weapons slot which will allow you to operate such death bringers as the Mini-gun and rocket launchers. But there are also some stunning new additions to the arsenal of doom with the inclusion of such murderous machinations as the simply awesome Arc Cannon or the multi warhead spewing W.A.S.P. All in all the unforgiving and brutal nature of the Killzone combat system makes its welcome return and does not disappoint in the slightest as you charge headlong into the fray like some space cadet Richard III. ” Once more unto the breach Dear Helghan’s, once more! ”

The games single player campaign will, depending vastly on the difficulty level, offer around 10-15 hours of top quality gameplay with the average gamer, we feel, completing the storyline in under the double figure target on a lower to normal setting. For those reviewers out there who try to convince us that they completed the full game on its hardest setting in six hours we scoff at your claim and ridicule your misplaced and misguided attempts to play down what is a stunning campaign that will have even the hardest of hardcore gamers pulling out their teeth as they attempt the seventh chapter assault for the umpteenth time.

But we cannot talk about the qualities of Killzone 3 without mentioning the mode that most will want to experience, and that is the online multiplayer. This is where all those tweaks and techy updates come to the fore and shine through like a beacon of brilliant light as Killzone 3, in its multiplayer guise, has come on leaps and bounds from its baby brother and, dare we say it, even puts up a stiff challenge to the more established FPS titles such as Call of Duty and Medal of Honour. The new gameplay mechanics and redesigning of some of the games problem area’s is obvious for all to see, as you leap into the battle with all gun’s blazing never once stopping to worry a moment about how the weight of your equipment is slowing your response time, or how when you jump you move without being able to aim mid-leap. These niggles, and all others, are long committed to history as Guerilla Games have delivered a product that is the future of  FPS titles.

In multiplayer you have the option to play as any one of a number of classes that range from the excellent Infiltrator to the all important Medic, that is often the unsung hero of the hour in the heat of battle as he run’s around reviving downed allies whilst blasting enemies into next week with his vicious shotgun. There are also the Engineer, which allows you to gain XP from repairing and constructing weapons caches, turret’s and drones, to the grunt busting  Marksman, which is basically your infantryman but with added attitude and weaponry. The Tactician makes for an interesting experience with alternative options and a more sneaky approach, similar to his partner in crime the Infiltrator.

The opportunity to upgrade each class is there after building up the required cost in XP, which is earned through gameplay, kills and a variety of side objectives such as placing the charges on doors, ( or defusing them ), in Warzone modes, to performing stealth kills and those impressively cut scened melee attacks that allow you to sit back for a second and bask in your online multiplayer magnificence as you plunge your thumbs deep into the eyes of your enemy target. Bloodthirsty but brilliant!

There are a wide variety of modes on offer for you to sample online from the afore-mentioned ‘Objective Mode’ to the five mode mayhem of Warzone, and the more obvious Team Deathmatch based Guerilla Warfare.

There are some great new additions to the online experience such as the Mech based EXO skeleton as well as the jetpack’s that allow players to appear as if almost out of nowhere before perching themselves on a rooftop or walkway and raining fiery death on all those unsuspecting snipers.

Whichever you sample you will find that the gameplay is engaging, engrossing and deeply violent, and in truth? Just how we like it! The replay value goes off the scale with this title, as can be demonstrated by the immensely popular demo mode that is currently available to gamers via the Playstation Network and the sheer difficulty in getting into a lobby for such is the demand placed on the games demo servers.

The addition of the Move and 3D support for Killzone 3 has taken the game into uncharted realms as it simply outshines any of its rivals with its high standard of stunning gameplay that is second to none. Although we are primarily people who prefer to use controllers when we do our review playthroughs we did attempt a few levels here and there using the Move control’s and have to say found them responsive and intuitive. There is no lag whatsoever in Killzone 3 and so when you use the Move controller it also akin to playing on a PC with a mouse, such is the level of speed and accuracy afforded to you by Sony’s ground breaking motion control system. The 3D visual’s are simply astounding and without wanting to sound like a fanboy ourselves we can only tell you that when you see this game played using its 3D capabilities you will understand just how promising the future of Sony gaming is with technology as remarkable as this added to an already amazing title.

So in the end we come to the summary and have still to answer the question that we ourselves set at the onset of this review, is Killzone 3 living up to its own hype and expectation? Well, quite frankly…Yes! The game is a stunning example of next-gen visuals and gaming mechanics coupled with some of the finest 3D graphics this side of Hollywood. A stunning addition to Sony’s already glittering line up for 2011 and one that should be on the shelves of every Playstation 3 owners collection. If you are one of the unfortunate masses that have yet to purchase a PS3 then maybe this could just be the title that brings you on over to the Dark Side to sample the world of literal gaming delights that await you on Sony’s masterful system. When Sony said ‘It only does everything’ they meant every word of it. The finest shooter title of 2011 thus far.

Graphics: A shining light of hope in the stale sea of mediocrity that has come to represent the FPS genre. Swapping all for the elusive multiplayer success, and ultimately alienating everyone who played your  game for its single player experience, does not a great game make, and Guerilla Games have, thankfully, not adopted this tactic. With Killzone 3 what you get is a cracking campaign mode which offers the very pinnacle of gaming graphics and takes that same highly polished look and feel over to its online modes. Truly staggering at times, and when seen through 3D glasses almost so realistic that you feel like you could reach out to throttle the life out of a Helghast stormtrooper with your own bare hands, Killzone 3 is an FPS title like no other. Not sticking to the tried and tested formula of every other game in its genre, Killzone 3 instead makes its own rules as its raises the bar once more by its stunning attention to detail.   10

Gameplay: An excellent campaign that has been harshly criticised by an over abundance of controversy seeking ‘Ree-Voowers’ to better their own viewing figures and not that of the title in question. Killzone 3 has a cracking storyline that, whilst not exactly being the Iliad of videogaming, does at the same time keep the player hooked as the game takes you from one deeply engaging location to the next. The modifications to the game have seen all the previous whines and moans addressed and so with little else to moan about the critics have pounced on the game’s story to vent their over exuberant and misguided anger. ( How else are they to attract the viewers if they score it a perfect 10, as it so obviously deserves? ). The control’s handle sweeter than homemade sticky toffee pudding, and the gameplay is smoother than freshly spun silk. Astounding all-action combat gaming at its very best. 10

RePlay Value: When you have finally managed to crack the campaign on all its ever-increasing difficulties, a fete alone that should award you a standing ovation from friends and relatives, you will then be able to enjoy months upon months of glitch fee, lag-less gaming that will have you hooked from the moment you first switch on your active camouflage. Additional content already confirmed, Killzone 3 has got it all.   10

Presentation: There are so few truly exclusive titles around these days, and even fewer FPS exclusives. So when the opportunity arises to play one of the best ever to be created, and on such a powerful platform, then our advice to you is grab it with both hands and forget what the detractors are saying. Just enjoy the game and take the negativity offered by the media with a large pinch of salt. Killzone 3 is a powerhouse of a game. A true gaming diamond in the rough grass of monotonous ‘same old,same old’ that is offered up by its rivals and competitors. You’ve tried the rest, now play the best. Killzone 3, does exactly what says on the tin!  A well deserved 10

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We are an independent cyberzine dedicated to bringing the very latest in news, reviews and interviews from the Games Industry
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