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Killzone 3 - My Review

Posted by Terrorized666 on April 21, 2011 at 11:55 PM

I always overlook Killzone when I think about first-person shooters, even though I like it more than I like the other franchises I forget about, like F.E.A.R., Resistance, and SOCOM. For whatever reason, it never left much of an impression, despite the fact that I've now played every installment. In fact, the lasting impression I have about the franchise is that the bad guys were not too subtly portrayed as Nazis... in spaaaaace.

Sadly, I don't think Killzone 3, which is the best one so far, is going to change how I perceive the franchise. Titles like Half-Life, the 'Shock games (System and Bio), and Deus Ex will still spring to mind first as the games that define the FPS genre, and when I do think about Killzone, it'll still be in that "Oh yeah," sort of way. Relegating a big name franchise to second class citizen status might seem odd to some of you (especially you concerned PS3 owners who are already crafting your hate e-mails in your minds), but the fact is, Killzone isn't as good as those other franchises, and it doesn't define the genre in which it competes.

I don't expect every game to innovate -- the truth is that only a handful do, and the rest work almost exclusively with proven ideas -- and I don't think there's anything wrong with something being derivative, as long as it exudes a tangible level of quality and polish, which Killzone definitely does. But the thing that bothers me about Killzone, and it's an issue that's exemplified by this third installment, is that it all feels just a little too rote and formulaic.

It's almost like the developers kept a checklist of popular genre conventions in hand to make sure they didn't miss a trick. The game plays like a greatest hits compilation of FPS "moments": there's the ubiquitous stealth level (bizarrely enough, you're paired up with a companion who looks exactly like Dusty, the Tier 1 operator from EA's Medal of Honor reboot); a sequence where you take control of a giant mecha-robot; loud levels that take place on a massive battlefield and see you running from objective to objective in a mad scramble; an appropriately thrilling stand-off against a towering boss; and, in a sad indictment of the current state of the FPS genre, an ending that drops you off a cliff without providing any real sense of closure or a poignant commentary on the events that just led up to it.

At its best, Killzone 3 can be thrilling and fun, and it does hit some high notes. I absolutely love the meaty bullet impacts -- I think Killzone 3 does rent flesh better than any other FPS I've ever played. The jet-pack level also stands out as one of the better levels I've played in recent memory, and I really appreciated the fleeting glimpses at the power structure of the Helghan high command. Again, the portrayal literally screams "These guys are just like the Nazis!" but watching the fascist leaders bicker was by far more interesting than anything that occurred between the game's actual heroes; the game's main villain is also memorable to the point where I almost wanted to like the slimy bastard, which is a high compliment considering how cookie cutter game villains are these days.

Unfortunately, the game peaks infrequently, and the vast majority of your experience is composed alternately of low points marked by frustrating, repetitive battles which are reminiscent of the worst levels Call of Duty had to offer -- dying endlessly until you either figured out the "right" way to tackle the enemies or you brute forced your way to a checkpoint -- or middle-of-the-road skirmishes that don't stand out from anything you've done in the million other games you've played before.

There are also some bizarre design choices which, considering the maturity of the genre, come across less like quaint eccentricities and more like deep-seeded personality defects: there's a decent cover system, but you lack the basic ability to go prone; and there's no functional grenade proximity indicator -- grenades do beep loudly and flash, but it doesn't work in the heat of battle, and it's ridiculous for an entirely different reason: why would you give your opponents warning that there's an explosive nearby? Every weapon also takes a calendar year to reload; the control schemes are awkward; and most enemies take good advantage of cover, which turns most battles into peek-a-boo affairs -- yet strangely, there aren't very many weapons with a decent scope, so you often waste bullets by the ton in a vain attempt to hit something (good thing there's plenty of bottomless ammo boxes lying around).

And that ending: yikes. I hate to say it, but it might be one of the worst game endings I've experienced in a long time. It absolutely does nothing with the weighty implications of the game's final Event, which definitely deserves the capital E. But despite witnessing, and helping to cause, this horrific outcome, the main characters just sort of shrug their shoulders, the screen fades to black, and a credits sequence begins to roll; my befuddlement was momentarily counteracted when the "real" ending cinematic started, but it manages to be even more contrived because it's basically a recycling of the proverbial "hand emerging from the grave" bit.

I know I've spent the majority of this review ragging on the game, but as strange as this might sound, I never found myself hating Killzone 3. I was just sort of underwhelmed by it, mostly because it doesn't ever rise above the level of a good popcorn movie. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that -- I shamelessly enjoy movies that fall into this category all the time -- but then again, there's really nothing memorable about it either.

PROS: It's a competent shooter with some decent moments; the bullet impacts are extremely satisfying; the jet pack level stands out as one of the better moments in recent FPS history.

CONS: Features a laundry list of regressive design ideas; the ending is completely and utterly bungled; never really does anything to make you sit up and take notice -- there are thrilling moments, but nothing truly inspiring.

Categories: Gaming Reviews, Videogames, Playstation Move

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