Despite a Mediocre Story, KZ3 Is a Visually Spectacular Game That’s a Blast To Play

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Killzone 2, boasting unbelievable graphics, a new robust multiplayer, and an ultimate FPS experience, proved itself quite worthy of these claims when it was released in 2009. With a metacritic score of 91, it’s safe to say that many agreed that the game crushed its predecessors in every category and can be ranked among the shooters today has to offer. Killzone 3 was announced in 2010, and after months of trailers and previews it looked like it was shaping up to be  even better than KZ2. However, KZ3 has received a metacritic score of 84…so what happened? Is the game a step back? Can it stack up against FPS kings like Call of Duty and Battlefield? Should you pass it up? After playing the game for two weeks with a free trial from Gamefly, my answer to these questions is a resounding no. First, I’ll start out with a short retelling of the beginning of KZ3. There is a person I won’t mention due to spoilers, but people that have played KZ2 will know who I’m talking about.

The man that gave hope, purpose, and pride to the Helghan nation has been killed out of anger and hatred by your comrade and friend, Sergeant Rico Velasquez. You, Sergeant Tomas Sevchenko, walk away in disbelief from the scene of the man’s death. He was right in your grasp, only to be murdered in senseless revenge! While reveling in these thoughts, you look up at the dusty, polluted sky and see hundreds of Helghast battle cruisers. One thing comes to mind as you witness what seems to be the beginning of the end. One thing the man said just before he died. “Madness…the madness begins.” It looks like he was right. Your fellow ISA soldiers have been scattered and separated after capturing a pivotal city; it’s a perfect chance for the Helghast to strike. At this point, the odds have become overwhelming. The ISA must retreat from Helghan. You and Rico are immediately given orders by your captain to drive to an evacuation point a few miles off, but it’s too late. The Helghast have already begun their massive assault, and you and Rico are in the thick of it. Suddenly, a missile manages to find its way to your vehicle, causing it to explode and flip off the road down a steep hill. When it reaches the bottom, you and Rico are miraculously still alive. Now with no transportation, little backup, and a military superpower encroaching, you and Rico dust themselves off and get back on the hellish road leading to the light at the end of the tunnel.

Now that you have a good picture of what’s going on, I’ll give you a quick, basic overview of the whole Killzone story (hardcore fans, please don’t laugh at me :P). Helghan was economically devastated and defeated in a war. Then, a guy (can’t say who) brainwashes everyone to work towards establishing a fascist empire bent on becoming a superior race. The ISA are caught off guard and find themselves in a big mess with this sudden uprising, so they have to fight back before the Helghast take over and kill everyone in their way. See how similar the story is to World War II? KZ1 was about the beginning of the war, KZ2 was about more fighting and the death of a certain someone, and KZ3 is about the outcome of this war. I’ll tell you now, KZ3 has a lot of explosions, shooting, and more explosions. Sadly, Guerilla Games (like Michael Bay) sacrificed depth in the story and characters for loads of action and effects. Now, don’t get me wrong. In no way am I saying this is a “Michael Bay game.” The story isn’t that bad, it’s just straight forward and isn’t very creative or innovative. Still, there is a small amount of creativity to be found. You need to delve into the cutscenes that showcase the affairs of Helghan’s political leaders to find it. May sound boring, but these cutscenes are actually interesting to follow.

Everything involving these political leaders is very important and shapes what happens from the beginning until the end. Such as what takes place between two new characters: Jorhan Stahl and Admiral Orlock. These two guys are powerful and influential leaders, and both of them want to become the next dictator of Helghan. Obviously, this isn’t a good thing. The resulting tension and conflict between them is interesting to watch unfold and is a good addition to the mediocre story. Since I’m talking about two characters, I’ll go ahead and give my thoughts on them and the rest. I honestly think all of the characters are unemotional blocks with tacked-on personalities and emotions. However, I do like the ties characters have with one another. For example, I like the conflict between Stahl and Orlock. Others like Sev and Rico may just be headstrong soldiers, but their friendship is a rock-hard foundation that can never be broken…they go to the greatest lengths to look out for each other. The “relationships” are great, but this is only a small positive factor.

I think the story is somewhat bland, but I do think it’s headed in a good direction. The reason why I think this is because of the ending. A lot of people didn’t seem to like it, which I find kind of strange. To me, it was a satisfying send-off with a fun little twist at the end. I think this “twist” has potential to make a surprising story in the future. Also, the characters could be improved on drastically. I would like to see better personalities and more emotion. Guerilla Games, you’ve laid out an awesome universe for Killzone. All you need to do is focus more on the story and characters in Killzone 4.

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Unlike the fast run-and-gun nature of most FPS games, KZ3 is noticeably slower. Sounds bad for an FPS game, but it works rather well for KZ3. Everything you do seems to take effort; everything seems “heavy.” For example, when you run, you can hear and feel the thump of your feet and the click-cling sound of equipment on your body banging together as you run. When you jump, your character bends his whole body, and lifts his gun up as he strains to jump as high as possible. When you shoot your gun from the hip, it bounces back and seems to take a lot of effort to keep still. I applaud little things like this because it’s realistic. You’re a normal soldier fighting a long, hard war that takes up all of your strength. If you’ve played KZ2, I bet you know what I’m talking about. The question is, has this realism been amplified in KZ3? Sure, I think it has, and this is due to several improvements and new additions. To name a few, the controls are tighter this time around. KZ2 had a laggy feel to gameplay due to its slow-paced nature. Thankfully, button presses seem more responsive this time around. New moves also accompany the tighter control scheme, such as sliding and the brutal melee system. Sliding is a cool feature because you can get to cover faster and even slide into your enemies, if you really want to take that risk (sadly, this move isn’t in multiplayer). Now I must tell you about the brutal melee system, because it’s brilliant. Is an enemy too close for comfort? Is he about to give you a mouthful of steel? Press R3 at the right time to break their neck, slice their throat, or plunge your thumbs into their eyeballs. Pulling off crazy, gory attacks like these in the campaign (and especially multiplayer) gives a temporary feeling of satisfaction and awesomeness like I’ve never had in an FPS. Being able to carry three weapons at once is awesome too. One primary (rifle/SMG), heavy (rocket launcher), and a pistol. You could only carry one main weapon in KZ2 because you couldn’t swap out your pistol. I mean, come on, who would want a pistol over a nuclear weapon that blows people up with green radioactive rays? I sure wouldn’t! Speaking of exotic weapons, several new ones have been added to the Killzone arsenal…including jetpacks! Unique weapons like this mix up combat and make it more interesting. There are also many different kinds of vehicles you’ll be to take for a spin, like walking tanks with machine guns and the Ice Saw. These two vehicles are only two you’ll be able to take control of.

Tightened controls, improvements, great additions, and the overall feel of KZ3 make it a really fun experience. When I finished the game, I thought to myself “The story wasn’t that great…but man, I had a blast playing this!” The fun factor is really high and will fill your FPS appetite for months to come.

There’s not much to say about the graphics except that they are amazing. I’d put them on par with Metal Gear Solid 4 and Uncharted 2. Detail to the characters, environments, and weapons is top-notch. The lighting and weather effects are realistic and look great. So…if there is any complaint, it’s that sometimes characters’ mouths don’t move or look strange when they’re talking. Look, I’m trying to find a complaint here! Compared to KZ2, the graphics are about the same. However, something makes KZ3 look better than its predecessor. The campaign in KZ2 mainly took place around a lot of steel buildings. Yes, the graphics were incredible, but mostly everything you saw was grey, brown, and black. Not very exciting. In KZ3, Guerilla Games took advantage of varied environments. Ice-covered mountains in a glacier filled sea, bug invested jungles with weird plants, and are among a few of the awesome places you’ll visit. Like I said earlier, the graphics are just amazing…period.

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KZ3 is one, big KABOOM! A shockwave of stupendous sound penetrating your ears. Since I started off with a boom, I’ll say that explosions sound like they should, as well as weapons being fired and reloaded. Every sound effect in KZ3 combines together to make KZ3 a more immersive game than most FPS titles. I should mention the voice acting as well, which was only okay. Characters like Sev and Rico sound like corny superheroes played by bad actors. Although, if I have to pick a character that had a good voice behind him, it would be Jorhan Stahl. The voice actor conveyed Stahl’s personality pretty well. So yeah, not much else to say about the voice acting. On the other hand, the music was incredible.

Joris de Man (awesome name) composed a beautiful, fitting score for KZ3.  However, his music is very familiar. Being surprisingly similar to John Williams’ music at times. I swear, while I was listening to the music during a cutscene showing the foggy, dense jungles of Helghan, I immediately thought of the scene where Luke Skywalker met Yoda. Moments like this happened only a few times throughout the game. It’s a good thing Joris de Man has his own style of music that is heavy, epic, and explosive (just like the game) and sometimes even slow, soft, and spine-chilling. Great pieces such as “And We Ever Fight On” are a treat to listen to. Look it up on Youtube and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

How long will KZ3 last you? The campaign is about 8-10 hours (on hard difficulty), so that won’t take too long. If you want to play through it one more time, you can do it with a friend in split-screen. Strangely, co-op can’t be played online, which is disappointing. Thankfully, I was able to test co-op with a good friend of mine, and it seems to work fine. Besides the campaign, multiplayer is what will keep you coming back for months. If you don’t want to play with real people, you can play against a whole team of bots by yourself. So here’s the big question…is the multiplayer good? Yes; it’s a good change of pace from other FPS games. Guerilla Games has added public matchmaking with more game modes. The class system has added “perks” and works as a currency system like Black Op’s COD points. As you level up, you’ll earn credits to unlock weapons, perks, and equipment. The multiplayer maps look fantastic too. They have those varied environments I was talking about earlier. The flow of the maps (that I played on) is consistent and lag isn’t an issue. There are some complaints I have about the multiplayer, and it has to do mostly with balancing issues. For example, a specific class allows you to cloak yourself to look like the opposing team, and gives you one of the names of the enemy team. Sounds useful, but a lot of people use this class, which results in some frustrating matches. In one game, I couldn’t figure out who to shoot. Everyone on the opposite team was using this perk and looked exactly like my teammates, I had to shoot everyone to see if they were an enemy. Yes, this can be slightly counteracted with a class that gives you a radar, but it isn’t very effective against this bothersome issue. I found myself getting stabbed from behind by a “teammate” many times. Another thing that bothered me was grenades. For some reason, they won’t go where you want them to go. If your grenade hits an object, it will bounce everywhere. Hopefully Guerilla Games will tone done the ricochet effect of grenades later on. There’s not much else for me to nitpick at.

Just to let you know again, I only played KZ3 for two weeks. So some things I’ve said about multiplayer may have been changed in the past few months. So anyway, the campaign and multiplayer will keep you busy for a while.
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Final Verdict:

Those looking for a good story and voice acting won’t find these things in KZ3, but that certainly doesn’t mean you should stay away from it. In fact, everything else about this game outweighs my complaints. Outstandingly beautiful graphics, realistic and fun gameplay, awesome sound design, and an epic soundtrack make KZ3 a great package. The campaign is worth going through at least two times, and multiplayer is a must-play for online FPS junkies looking for a new shooter to add to their collection. I didn’t get to try out the 3D effect or the Playstation Move, but I’ve heard good things about both. Overall, I recommend buying this game.

8.75/10

This is my review for Killzone 3, which was published on Game Informer as a user review.