GAMING GREATS #28: Killzone 3 (2011)

Thomas celebrate the recent rise in Sony’s popularity with an FPS too good to be forgotten. 

Who made it?: Guerrilla Games (Developer), Sony Computer Entertainment (Publisher).

Genre: First-Person Shooter.

Platforms: PlayStation 3.

Format: Blu-ray Disc, Download.

Release date: February 25, 2011 (UK).

Things were rough for a while there in PlayStation land. But something happened. The crappy third-party ports became fewer and fewer. Sony’s exclusive titles, such as the award-winning Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and the exciting Resistance 2, were met with great reviews and overwhelming praise from both gamers and critics alike. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots released to some fairly hefty fanfare, glowing reviews and increased system sales. By the end of 2008, consumers had finally stopped laughing at the PS3 and instead saw it for what it really was: a complex game console that had talented developers supporting it that were more than capable of creating true next-gen games. Other heavy-hitters like Uncharted 2: Among ThievesHeavy Rain, and God of War III further cemented the notion that the PS3 was in fact a very capable console with consistent quality in its first-party games that has so far gone unrivalled. Now the world has caught up and awaits the PS4 with open arms.

When I first purchased my PS3 back in February of 2009, I had walked right into the PS3’s defining moments. I wasn’t there for all of the brouhaha prior, but I was there to see the snickering stop and folks finally give the system the credit it so rightfully deserves. February of that year also brought forth another milestone for the PS3 and that was Killzone 2. It was being touted as the PS3’s long-awaited savior and given the kind of hype and press attention very few exclusive games get anymore. If you owned a PS3 at the very start of ’09 you most certainly were aware of Killzone 2‘s imminent release. It was showered with praise upon launch and, even with hard-to-master controls, it didn’t stop gamers (myself included) from naming it one of the best shooters of the soon-to-be-last generation. With the utter excellence of Killzone 2, we could only hope and pray that it’s pending sequel would live up to that initial promise.

And Killzone 3 is precisely that kind of sequel. It is nothing short of pure gaming nirvana. There are only a handful of first-person shooters that you can’t seem to put down, that eat away at your subconscious, begging you to place that controller back into your hands until you finally complete them. Killzone 3 is one such shooter. FPS’s are by design very repetitious and Killzone 3 is really no different. Its mechanics, set-pieces, and ball-numbing displays of outright intensity are what propels the game forward and leaves you wanting more. Way too many shooters spill the beans too early on and everything after that becomes a jumbled mess of everything you’ve played beforehand, but with all previous awesomeness stripped away. Killzone 3 has been blessed with the innate ability to completely avoid this. Just when you thought you had seen everything developer Guerrilla Games could possibly show you, they throw a curveball directly at your forehead that results in the biggest concussion you could possibly ever have.

One of my biggest complaints with Killzone 2 was its undying devotion to placing you in the middle of gunfights that were entirely too bleak and too underwhelming. To this day, I can admit to really enjoying the game but never figuring out why I didn’t love it like many other gamers seem to. I think it has a lot to do with its overall feel. It’s such a dark, foreboding game that it feels less like a futuristic sci-fi shooter and more like something out of a horror film. The environments in which you fight are the darkest, most colourless damn slums I’ve ever seen. Killzone 2‘s opening mission – a beach landing – is what I wanted from the rest of the game: intense, faster-paced, and urgent. The remainder of the game saw fit to do the complete opposite. You and a squad of soldiers proceed to lone-wolf it against relatively small groups of Helghast soldiers. The beach landing places you in the middle of a huge battle whereas the rest of them are best described as moderate skirmishes. I got tired of wading through dark city streets, dark refineries, dark deserts, and dark palaces.

Killzone 3 remedies this and then some. I can’t recall one location that could be described as “dark.” The opening mission – which picks up right where Killzone 2 left off – injects tons of colour and vivid detail into the location. Guerrilla has also taken you out of the cities of Helghan. Early sections of the game find the remaining ISA soldiers fervently trying to escape the crumbling city, yes, but it looks so different in comparison. I doubt you’d find any resemblance between the two iterations at all. Pretty much everything after that takes you into the snow-covered mountains of Helghan, its jungles, a zero-gravity space station, and even the far-reaches of space itself (which I won’t spoil). The locations aren’t just more varied than the second game (which wouldn’t be that hard of a feat to accomplish anyhow) but more varied than 90% of FPS’s currently on the market as well.

The controls of Killzone 2 were a big talking point amongst gamers. So many of them just couldn’t acclimate themselves to the slothy movement and imprecise aiming. Killzone 3‘s controls have also become a topic of conversation but for entirely different (and better) reasons. Killzone 3 shipped right out of the box with PlayStation Move compatibility. If there was a bigger playing field to show off what the Move was truly capable of, I can’t imagine it being bigger than this. I played through the entire single-player campaign with the Move and I can honestly tell you I can’t imagine playing first-person shooters any other way. The Move controls are so intuitive and so damn precise you’d be hard-pressed to argue the notion that they are “just a gimmick.” I played through a bit of the single-player campaign with the DualShock 3 controller and it really felt like something was missing. Playing a game as intense and as visually beautiful as Killzone 3 with such responsiveness from the motion controls has completely spoiled me. You’re not just shooting Helghast soldiers from the comfort of your couch, you literally feel like you’re in the thick of battle with your ISA buddies. Move owners will definitely get more enjoyment out of Killzone 3 than those who aren’t. The immersive qualities of it are absolutely astounding.

The game’s visuals are also of note. Killzone 2 was already a great-looking game, so I won’t sit here and pretend that there is a night-and-day difference between the two. It’s obvious from playing Killzone 3 that the textures have been improved, lighting and shading has been improved, and there’s much more detail on just about everything in front of you, as well as fantastic motion-capture animation. But when you have a game that’s getting compliments on its graphics a few years after release, there’s probably not too much more you can do to it without writing an entirely new engine. The most surprising aspect of the game isn’t even a case of it having better textures or more light sources than it’s predecessor, it’s simply the fact that the game is so impressive visually and so much more detail is present that Guerrilla got the game to run at such a consistent framerate even with all of the added on-screen chaos. Killzone 3 really showed us what the PS3 is capable of in that regard. It’s not only a downright beautiful game, but it’s packed with so much on-screen activity.

The game’s aural excellence also plays a big part in how much I thoroughly enjoy blasting through Killzone 3’s top-notch single-player campaign. I’m very lucky to be able to play my games with the added benefit of a surround sound set-up, and this is one title that beautifully illustrates how  that advantage adds to the tension. Hearing that triumphant orchestral score blare out of the speakers while bassy explosions and the thunderous echo of gunshots fill the air around you gets the blood pumping exponentially. Holding the Move’s motion wand directly in front of you and pulling the trigger, only to hear deafening gunshots parallel to said action, provides immersion I’ve rarely felt since. The cutscenes benefit from this as well whilst also looking sharper than most big-budget films, with inherent action sequences so exciting that they could move just about any summer blockbuster action director to tears.

If you hadn’t noticed, I found Killzone 3 to be everything I wanted and much, much more. I could give two rats asses about the lack of a story or noticeably non-existent character development because, frankly, it’s something we shouldn’t have even expected in the first place. Killzone 3 promised to be a balls-to-the-wall action shooter and that’s exactly what it is. I find it difficult at times to discuss games that are this good. No matter how much I write, I can’t seem to fully illustrate how absolutely essential they are. I could go on and on about how beautifully chaotic Killzone 3 is. This is an absolutely jaw-dropping spectacle of a game that is in every way better than its predecessor. If you have even the slightest interest in first-person shooters, I urge you to purchase this as quickly as humanly possible. This is how you make a memorable first-person shooter. This is how you improve on an already great game. This, my friends, is how you earn your consumers hard-earned money in the pre-owned section. Killzone 3 remains nothing short of near-perfection.

Useless Trivia

(Via Wikipedia)
  • The first game in the series – and one of the first PS3 games – to be presented in stereoscopic 3D.
  • Guerrilla’s managing director, Herman Hulst, has stated Killzone 3 will use close to 100% of the PlayStation 3’s power. The rumours of the intervention of Naughty Dog (Uncharted) in the development were denied by Guerrilla.
  • In the PlayStation 3 exclusive LittleBigPlanet 2, a “Killzone 3 Minipack” was released as DLC on July 12, 2011. This pack includes costumes for players to dress their Sackboy like a Killzone 3 character. On November 15, 2011, in the PlayStation 3 exclusive Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, a DLC pack was released titled “Multiplayer Accessory Pack #1 (Killzone)” which includes the “Capture Trooper Skin”, a “Helghast Helmet” and an “ISA Helmet”, which can also be purchased individually (free for “Fortune Hunter’s Club” members).

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