Unfortunately, the Third Time Wasn't the Charm
I know that I'm a little late to the Killzone 3 party,but this was just one of those weird games that just totally compelled me to write a review--even though it's been out already for two months. Please note that this is a single-player campaign review only (I played two matches of multiplayer, didn't care for it, and turned it off).
Let me start off by saying that I wanted to like this game. Like, really, really wanted to. Long heralded as the flagship of PS3-exclusive shooters, the Killzone franchise has always been under an unfair amount of pressure and scrutiny to not only step out of the shadows of current titans of the FPS genre (such as CoD and Halo), but also to surpass them in stature. Unfortunately, Guerilla Games has never been able to quite hit the mark that they themselves and everyone around them has set for them, and their titles always seem to flounder in one area that just brings down the rest of the package. Killzone 3 was expected to be their magic number--the title where everything was supposed to come together. I mean, the third time is supposed to be the charm, right?
The single-player campaign for Killzone 3 basically begins as a flashback of the events immediately following the ending of Killzone 2. Visari, the leader of the Helghast army, has been killed, and now it's time for you (playing again as Sev from Killzone 2) and your forces to get the hell out of dodge. From here, you're introduced to the two new main villains game (Admiral Orlock, a Helghan general, and Jorhan Stahl, Helghan's leading weapons manufacturer). One thing leads to another (which is to say that Sev and Rico basically playing a game in seeing who can disobey the most orders and ignore the chain of command), and eventually you along with the rest of the ISA forces become stranded on the planet.
First, let's talk about what Guerrilla does right: they took to heart the criticisms of the first game, which included the lack of story, the poor handling of the controls (often perceived as being too "floaty"), and general lack of variety in setting, and addressed them. There game expounds on the fiction of the Killzone universe through the use of numerous cutscenes, where more or less hit the mark. The controls for the game are also far more responsive, leading to a much quicker pacing by allowing the players perform actions much quicker. Lastly, rather than revisiting the drab old factories of the previous game, players will now explore other parts of the planet, which include an exotic alien jungle and arctic wasteland. Unfortunately, although Guerrilla did their best to address all their previous games' flaws, new ones quickly sprang into place.
Another super-frustrating aspect of the campaign were just some of the poor design choices in the foundation of the gameplay itself. Weapons feel really similar to each other to the point where you'll just want to stick to whatever default weapon they give you at the beginning of the maps. Also, throughout levels there are ammo crates that you can use to refill on ammo, giving you little incentive to ever switch out in the first place (these crates also affect the balance of the game, since you can just replenish and spam an infinite amount of grenades at enemies).
Finally, another fatal flaw is the fact that the game itself seems to have a difficult time deciding what kind of shooter it wants to be. Contrary to the run-and-gun open-endedness of Halo, Killzone is much more of a "stop-and-pop" kind of shooter that encourages the use of cover. However, when using the game's cover mechanic, a part of your body is often left exposed in which you have no control over (such as having your head stick out over the wall so that you can see while still "behind" cover), which often leads to a lot of cheap deaths. Additionally, enemies will begin throwing an absurd amount of grenades at you, forcing you to either retreat or to simply charge forward with guns blazing, to which they'll respond by killing you with insanely accurate blind-fire or even worse--the dreaded arms-clipping-through-wall-to-shoot-you-but-you-can't-shoot-back fire. I literally saw one of the knife-soldiers clip through a solid wall with a melee animation to kill one of my ally NPCs. It's frustrating to say the least.
The game tries to compensate for these shortcomings by having a "revive" system in which instead of instantly dying, you have a chance of being revived by a partner A.I. (you will be accompanied through most of the game by at least one). At best, this is a contradictory to the "stop-and-pop" gameplay philosophy because it allows you to charge at the enemy gung ho without repercussions there's no consequence for dying. At worst, the system is completely broken and completely aggravating in its inconsistency--often I would die literally a foot away from an ally to which he would shout, "I'M SORRY! I CAN'T REACH YOU!" Other times, they would charge across the battlefield, ignoring enemies, machine gun fire, and explosions just to revive me. I would take a rocket to the face to have them say, "GET UP! YOU'RE NOT GOING TO DIE TODAY!" and other times I'll take a stray bullet only to hear them shout "YOUR INJURIES ARE TOO SEVERE!", again, while being right next to me. The total unreliability of the revive system is infuriating, nonsensical, and really disengages you from the experience.
Lastly, I'm not sure why Guerrilla insists on ending their Killzone games on a cliffhanger, but it has got to stop. The cliffhanger to this game wasn't even a good one--it ends abruptly with a character wondering out loud, "Jesus...I wonder how many people died down there?" That's it. No closure. No ominous threat of future trouble. Just a really, really stupid question. It's like Guerrilla's saying, "WANT TO KNOW EXACTLY HOW MANY PEOPLE DIED?! TUNE INTO KILLZONE 4 TO FIND OUT!!!!!" The answer: who cares.
To say that I was underwhelmed with my experience in Killzone 3 is an understatement. There were flashes of brilliance in this game, which ultimately just makes the experience that much more disappointing. Whether it was an exhilarating battle that was interrupted by a cutscene or a breakthrough in the gameplay only to be met by a cheap death, Killzone 3 didn't end with a bang or a whimper, but rather just an indifferent, "Meh."