Killzone 2 was a game that for me didn't completely satisfy me for any number of reasons. The campaign I felt was a little dull and repetitive, and while I enjoyed the multiplayer for about 10 hours I found it too frustrating to stay with for much longer. I awarded the game an 8.5/10, which looking back on my memories of the game feels a little high.
Needless to say when Killzone 3 was announced I wasn't excited for the game in the least, but I decided to try out the multiplayer demo (I refuse to call it a beta) as well as the single player demo. I enjoyed my time in the MP demo, although I certainly had my issues with it, even seeing fit to right up a blog about how I felt about it (which can be found here: http://n4g.com/user/blogpos... The campaign demo left me less than impressed. So come February 24th, what did I do? I went out and bought the game, not expecting to enjoy it much at all but needing something to tie me over before Crysis 2 four weeks later.
My first impressions of the campaign where that I didn't feel immersed at all in the games setting or story. This is at odds with most people's experience, and I don't know if this was my low expectations getting in the way or if it was the harsh graphics and stiff controls, but the feeling was nonetheless there.
As I'm sure everyone knows, Killzone 3 is about the ongoing war between the Helghast and the ISA taking place on the Helgahn home world. You play as Sevchenko, an ISA soldier who is probably the strongest, or rather the least weak of the games characters. The story overall serves only to give reason to the shooting, which is a little disappointing but after Guerrilla's previous works not surprising. Let’s be honest if you're playing Killzone you aren't there for the story but there is certainly room in the narrative for something more fulfilling.
The biggest disappointment with the game is surely its reliance on fade out to canned cut scenes. It just completely breaks any immersion and serves no purpose other than to show off the cool but canned and rough looking set pieces. Crysis 2 is a perfect example of what Guerrilla should have done with the bulk of their cut scenes, first person realtime cut scenes! In that game they work so well to keep the game flowing freely, and they could easily work in Killzone as it is especially annoying when the game has to go to a disjointed third person cut scene for every minor thing.
Another major disappointment is that Rico didn't get a bullet in the brain. Quite frankly he is the most annoying character in gaming history. Every time Captain Narville gives an order you can predict that Rico will be pissed about it, and sure enough literally every time he is. The rest of the characters are more or less just as one track, although I actually kind of feel sorry for Sev for having to put up with Rico as a mate.
The actually gameplay is actually pretty strong. I did grow tired of the constant waiting for enemies to pop out of cover before shooting, but overall it is mostly solid. The guns are very inaccurate which comes off as a little odd to me given that the game is obviously set in the very distant future. It's also annoying that some of the guns like the bolt gun and an LMG in the campaign don't let you aim down sights which also hinders accuracy from medium to long range. The inaccurate and heavy feeling guns do at least serve to make the combat feel different to some of the other shooters released of late, so I'm not complaining.
The cover system needs some work though. What good is a cover system when the bulk of the objects you hide behind are lower than head height, meaning that you can still get headshoted? It’s an annoying design choice and I want it fixed, especially seeing as enemies have the ability to go completely in to cover as well as blind fire. You also can't push back into cover if you reload a gun while leaning out from it, you have to leave cover and then duck down to get out of the way of fire or wait for the animation to end, but which point it might be too late. On top of that it also doesn't let you push from one piece of cover to the next like in Uncharted 2 or if it does it is far from smooth.
The levels and the enemies have a good variety, putting you up against anything from a towering MAWLR which is strikingly similar to something from Resistance to your standard soldiers. You'll also fight jet pack wielding soldiers, soldiers that will rush you with melee weapons, tanks, drop ships and there is also a space combat section and the now standard FPS high speed vehicle level which sees you shooting enemy vehicles up in front of you. The only enemy that the game could really do without is the spider like things that explode near the end of the game. Why Guerrilla? They just don't fit in on a space ship and are annoying to fight. Plus why do they take so long to kill?
The AI is sloppy at times and thoroughly lacks the ability to get you out of cover. They don't advance on you, flank you or lay down suppressing fire, indeed the only method they have is throwing grenades, which they are deadly accurate with. As with most FPS games, the AI also unfairly target their fire on you, when they should be concentrating on silencing Rico once and for all.
This leads me into another annoyance. Why is there no grenade warning icon on the screen? It could be said that they are going for a hardcore approach here, but it simply doesn't work with some of their other design choices. For example, if you are very low on health both your vision gets very dark and removes all colours and your hearing gets dulled. This means that it is very difficult if not impossible to judge just where a nearby grenade is as bright lights and beeping emitted by the grenade is how you are meant to detect it.
The last issue I'll bring up with the campaign is how lame it is in several sections where it basically shows that the main characters are indestructible. At one point Sev is piloting a stolen jet pack when it is struck by a piece of debris from something he just blew up, causing it to break spectacularly (obviously this happens in another third person cut scene). This results in Sev taking a rather hard landing which surely should have dislocated a shoulder, cracked a collarbone, given him concussion or done his back in, if not all of the above. On top of that he is then struck by a tsunami which again you would expect to leave him crippled upon being slammed into something metallic behind him. However, not even a scratch is suffered. Likewise Rico and Sev and separately that annoying woman with the rather daft face paint are part of pretty severe crash landings on one of the open top transporters the ISA use. Again, you would expect them to be dead, but actually they suffer no ill effects. Guerrilla clearly put these things in just to look cool as they couldn't be bothered actually making them have an effect on the game, which is very unsatisfactory.
But I will say this for the combat; it is at least intense with decent pacing and good variety. It may take notes from Call of Duty's textbook but the two games don't feel alike and that is refreshing. I did actually enjoy my time in the campaign, despite the many issues I have outlined above.
The graphics are always perhaps the strongest talking point when it comes to Killzone games, and it’s easy to see why. They really are impressively detailed, with clustered environments and reasonably sharp textures. But you guessed it, I don't like them. The lighting for one is decidedly bad. Why is it that as I write this I am in a room with a bright ceiling light which is subsequently lighting up the entire room. Yet in Killzone 3 you can be in the same situation yet the light source will only light up a small circle of say 3 meter diameter on the ground, leaving the rest of the room in utter darkness. Bring on Global Illumination Guerrilla, your game needs it. I also feel that the dull environments make it difficult to pick out targets as they blend in to the monotone colours of the world too much. They are otherwise impressive though, aside from the lighting they are probably the most technically impressive graphics I've seen on consoles, even if it is all pre-baked. You’re take on a ‘forest’ is unfortunately as dull as the rest of the games environments, which is a bit of a letdown.
They have introduced an element of destructibility to the environment with some buildings and some cover being destructible. But I would have liked them to take it a step further. Wouldn't it be great if they made all of the little concrete block that enemies hide behind able to crumble under sustained fire? Of course it would, and it would in turn give the enemies another way to get you out of cover other than throwing those damn grenades. Lost potential that should be capitalised on when the inevitable Killzone 4 rolls around.
Summing up on the campaign, it has good variety in terms of weaponry, enemies, level design and core combat mechanics. It is however let down by weak characters, a very abrupt ending which could have been so easily expanded upon to add emotional impact, amongst other annoyances. It’s of moderate length, taking me 270 minutes to complete (plus more time for retries obviously), which is really all you can expect from an FPS these days. Oh and one other thing, the next time I play a game which re-uses a segment of its campaign but changes the events, I will snap the disc. Pathetic Guerrilla, and just shows that you couldn't be bothered crafting a proper introduction.
The multiplayer is arguably the main component of the Killzone experience, but I include my thoughts on it here merely to accompany a score down below.
There are about 8 or so maps and a couple of game modes included, with the classic Killzone 2 Warzone returning, this time accompanied by Team Deathmatch and a more story driven Operations mode. There is good variety in weapons and skills, and each of the maps has its own play style and feel to it, even if some of the larger maps tend to be a bit boring on TDM.
My user blog that I linked to up the top contains a very in depth look at the multiplayer based on the demo they released, and I don't feel like going over my thoughts again. After all not much has changed. There is still the one minute intermission where all you can do is vote on a map (why can't you view leader boards, stats etc?), there is still no way to know if a nearby player is going to be able to revive you or not (for example in Bad Company a medic is displayed as such on the mini map if you need a revive, something sorely lacking here), and it still all feels rather unbalanced.
On the plus side, there is plenty of content here to keep you engaged with the game if you enjoy it, even if it has failed to keep me captivated. Guerrilla do seem intent on supporting the game for some time to come which is a good sign, however I think they should make some more drastic changes to the gameplay than they have so far in the first 6 updates.
On top of this you can also play the multiplayer maps against AI controlled bots for practice, although as with all modes similar to this the AI doesn't behave as a human opponent would which kind of defeats the purpose. There is also Move and 3D support, neither of which I have tried out, although I may try out Move in the future if I feel like getting raped.
So should you buy it? My recommendation is maybe. If you enjoyed Killzone 2, you'll likely enjoy this. If you didn't enjoy Killzone 2, you likely won't. There are a lot of FPS options releasing this year and KZ3 is far from the strongest, but it is still a bit of fun if you are looking for something a bit different to CoD or a bit better than Homefront.