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Killzone 3 review

Before we consider the present allow us, for a brief moment, to recall the past; issue 123 of Play in particular. It was during that issue that we first reviewed Killzone; a much-hyped title that many hoped would surpass Halo has the must-have platform-exclusive FPS. Unfortunately the 2004 shooter didn’t live up to the lofty expectations PlayStation fans had set for it.

A few choice quotes from the review: “Killzone shuns peripheral tasks – only two or three switches need to be pressed throughout – puzzles are non-existent. Instead the player’s experience is aiming, squeezing the trigger and finding cover.”

And another: “The gun fights are extremely tense and atmospheric – and as they should be, as this is a game that relies on them for entertainment.”

And, finally, one more. “The focus on fire fights means that anyone who doesn’t relish the thought of scrapping for territory, yearning for puzzles, switches, or woe-betide aliens, should look elsewhere.”

Now back to the present, and an upsetting revelation: any one of these quotes could just as easily be applied to Killzone 3, a game released some six years after the fact. Naturally, Killzone 3 is a great deal more comprehensive than its forebear, but these criticisms can still be levelled at the core of the experience. This is a game about shooting. And then shooting some more. And then, shock horror, shooting some more again. Killzone 3 aspires to be little more than a shooting gallery.

Not that there’s anything particularly unagreeable about gunning down hordes of Helghast. Starting where Killzone 2 left off (or, following a brief flash-forward prologue which we won’t spoil here) we rejoin the mowhawk-sporting Tomas ‘Sev’ Sevchenko where we left him last: sitting on the steps of Visari Palace and fretting over the impending Helghast onslaught. Killzone 3 wastes little time launching the player back into the action, with ISA attempting a hasty retreat from the planet before whatever scraps left of its military are crushed under the heavy Helghan boot.

The combat is as satisfyingly chunky as ever – unlike Call Of Duty, in which a few short, deliberate shots are enough to drop an insurgent like a sack of bricks the Helghan’s padded Jin-Roh inspired armour means they can absorb a magazine of bullets before falling, giving firefights a full, powerful sense of feedback. The AI certainly complements to this; it’s not necessarily improved over Killzone 2 but it’s certainly no worse, with the Helghast ferociously intelligent, cleverly utilising the space and cover available to them in levels. These aren’t enemies that will sit back and take a punch; they’ll manoeuvre, flank, and reposition themselves in order to give as good as they get.

And they’ll get it. Killzone 3 may be set on another planet, but garrulous purple aliens and guns that fire needles have no place here. This is a shooter about bullets, sweat and muscle. All weapons sport a substantial heft, which is further amplified by the fact that firing them deliver reverberations like a pile driver cracking through concrete. These bullets don’t just hit enemies, they pound them into submission. Even when a later level does present a laser-based weapon – one which causes enemies to explode in a thick splotch of dark red blood – the sound of it isn’t a mere zap, but of metal screeching against metal and a thumping punch to the gut. Melee kills are similarly visceral, with a press of R3 close to a Helghast trooper causing anything from a slashed throat to popped eye sockets. These animations may repeat a little too often, but there rarely anything less than a reminder that this war is no joke.

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