Support Jon, click to buy via us...
Killzone 3 for PS3 adds variety but loses the series' visceral experience. I was teed up for a gritty, ear-splitting story in a desolate landscape, but I got a whistle stop tour that emphasised variety over the raw feeling of combat.
A second chance encounter with the previous Killzone led me to a renewed and deep respect for its alternative take on the space marine adventure. I loved how the battles seemed chaotic, dangerous places to be, rather than the shooting galleries we've become used to.
As well as capturing that feeling of "being there" I was hoping that Killzone 3 would add layers of characterisation to flesh out my back story.
With the technical aspects nailed last outing, Killzone 3 was free to concentrate on telling that wider story and punctuating it with more memorable set pieces -- expanding the role I'm playing and my motivation. Within the first couple of hours though, I felt the need to reassess that expectation, facing as I was a rather mundane and frankly dull series of missions.
Despite supporting 3D, both characters and plot felt distinctly lacking a vital dimension. The narrative overreaches itself in scope due to the flimsiness of its protagonists, replacing exposition with barked orders that are invariably ignored.
Instead, development has been focused on increasing the variety of combat -- a mistake as these were never weaknesses of the previous game. The colourful garden level full of alien vegetation, sparking memories of the Shivering Isles from Oblivion, was a particular low point. Throughout this rainbow hued level, shooting is replaced by stealth that soon became frustrating and badly handled.
I was hoping that Killzone 3 would add layers of characterisation to flesh out my back story.
Killzone is not about skulking in the long grass. In fact the obliviousness of the Helghast meant I could almost ignore the slow and steady approach. Popping off enemies whilst their comrades ignore them dropping to ground exposes mechanics that were just about acceptable in the last console generation, but are embarrassing amongst its more recent peers.
Throughout Killzone 3 there seems to be a lack of confidence by Guerrilla - demonstrated by the switch to the controls that now feel very Call of Duty. The fact that I couldn't wield a machine gun with superhuman ease previously was a real plus point for me and contributed to the unique solid feel of unleashing destruction.
To be fair, once I was through tiptoeing amongst the tulips, the pacing of Killzone 3 picked up and from this point some of the shortcomings became less of an issue.
Even outside of the stealth segments the AI is found wanting - for instance enemies blindly follow the same paths each time through the level. This became obvious each time I floundered on one of the many unwelcome difficulty spikes. Killzone 3 shows none of the smart enemy behaviour of my benchmark Halo: Reach. It becomes a string of red eyed troopers to shoot rather than an experience that felt alive or able to surprise me.
The sheer scale of one of the engagements is still etched in my mind as I write this.
This failure leads to situations where multitudes of dumb foes are assaulting me from all angles and no amount of outsmarting them on the fly can even the odds. Progress is achieved by finding a bit of scenery that prevents the hordes from sighting you and picking them off one by one. It's fun but constantly reminds me I'm playing a video game, rather than being able to inhabit the role I was given.
Rather than using Bungie's work for inspiration, Killzone 3 seems to be cut from the same die as the last few Call of Duty's, where variety is deemed more important than just delivering the core tenets of making shooting rewarding. To that end I was offered jet packs, mech suits, turrets and other opportunities to try new things, but because there are so many diversions, their impact is never truly capitalised upon.
Demos of Killzone 3 have emphasised the fighting with rocket packs, but this is confined to just part of one level, which is a real shame. Few games have nailed aerial combat and whilst rocket power only provide short hops rather than true flight it does give engagements the variety that Killzone 2 lacked (but perhaps never needed). The requirement for open levels to take advantage of this mechanic perhaps proved too much for the designers, and the chance to don the jet pack is over far too soon.
Despite the failings, there are memorable moments here and there - the sheer scale of one of the encounters is still etched in my mind as I write this. Just minutes of greatness amongst the hours of playtime tip the balance against Killzone 3, leaving me without the opportunity to feel as I did in the last adventure. It's by no means a poor game; it's just not a great dress up game.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: