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Killzone 3 (Playstation 3)

The much-anticipated Killzone 3 delivers the FPS action players have come to expect from Guerilla's highly-polished series. It once again takes place on the forbidding planet of Heighan, home of an evil race of aliens. The objective this time is to eliminate as many of them as possible while demolishing their ability to invade Earth. There are a few new twists this time around, with the ability to control tanks, fight new Heighast foes and some expansive levels the highlights of the gameplay. The game also breaks new ground with its support of the Move controller and its 3D effects. Look inside and find out why Killzone 3 is a fairly solid solo game that features exciting set-pieces, decent multiplayer support and viscerally exciting gameplay.

Killzone 3 is the latest FPS title in the long-running series from SCEA and Guerilla Games and brings with it much lower expectations. The last Killzone was weighed down by hype, but this edition seems to have flown in a bit under-the-radar this time around. However, there are a number of impressive features that make the game stand out from the pack. You can tell that the developers have put a lot of work into refining the gameplay in the way that it borrows from other titles while still retaining much of what made the first two games so appealing. You'll see elements of Call of Duty, Gears of War and other shooters, but this is still very much its own game. As in the previous games, players are once again battling the evil Heighast, who have been bruised by the events in their last epic battle. As a member of the SEE forces from Earth, you mission is to wipe them out while trying to escape the enemy planet. Killzone 3's missions unfold in some fairly epic environments and the action unfolds at a breakneck pace. The game is relentless in the sheer number and intensity of enemies it throws at you. As in many recent shooting games, the main character can take damage, and the screen fills with blood. Instead of having to search for medkits, players merely need to stay out of the line of fire for a few moments and they'll regenerate health automatically. If they come under very heavy fire, and fall down, they can be revived by a nearby ally if they're close enough. This makes it difficult to actually die during the game, but there are plenty of save points that make progression consistent. Killzone 3 is surprisingly accessible from this standpoint, and players new to the series will probably find it very easy to get into, even if they've only played more mainstream FPS titles in the past.

The single-player campaign mode offers a good mix between standard ground combat operations and more interesting vehicular missions. Standard combat consists of moving through levels, finding cover and aiming at enemies. Players have a decent selection of weapons to choose from in KZ3 including machine guns, assault rifles, grenades, sniper weapons and the usual selection of grenades. Learning to fire from cover involves ducking behind objects and peeking out to fire at opponents. The game's structure in these sections is fairly straight-forward and most players should have little trouble mastering its controls. The Heighast are a fairly aggressive foe and will stop at nothing to impede your progress. They usually attack in large numbers and their sophisticated AI means they're skilled at taking cover and flanking, so you need to be on your guard. Most of the Heighast you face early on should be familiar to players, but there are some new foes in the game as well. The most dangerous of these are the new genetically enhanced ones, who charge right at the player, take much less damage and inflict a vicious stabbing move at close range that's difficult to defend. Its definitely a twist to the previous games' style and a bit of an unexpected move that makes combat much more personal this time around. You'll also encounter a number of other environmental obstacles throughout the game, which include massive ships that fire on your team and massive mechs that crush anything in their way. Later stages bring other challenges, such as sniper missions, stealth modes and other innovative sections. The game's single player campaign is quite impressive in terms of its pacing and style which makes it a satisfying experience that delivers the intense action Killzone has created consistently.

From a technical standpoint, Killzone 3 excels in most areas. The play mechanics are quite polished and feel quite smooth. There's a small learning curve when switching between the standard weapons and more sophisticated ones like the sniper rifles, but most players shouldn't have much trouble with the interface. Using the standard controller is probably going to be the default choice for most games, and the game's commands are mapped effectively for the standard controller. More adventurous gamers may want to try using the Move controller, which brings motion control to the battlefield. Its not a necessary feature, but it should add to the game's sense of immersion, especially with the navigation controller accessory. By most standards, the FPS gameplay is solid and engaging, with challenging enemies and interesting level maps. However, the game throws a few curves at players as well. One of the more impressive aspects of the game is that it allows you to control and command a variety of vehicles such as tanks and mechs as you progress through the missions. Controlling these is quite simple and you shouldn't have much trouble, though you need to be on completely aware, since enemies fire on you from all directions. These mini-games are well-spaced in the game, and while they provide a respite from the main ground battles, they don't overstay their welcome or hurt the game's overall momentum. Kiilzone 3's campaign mode is well-executed and delivers an exciting, visceral solo gaming experience. As you'd expect, it's a bit narrow in scope with a linear narrative that doesn't offer many branching options. In order to extend its life, Guerilla has implemented an impressive multiplayer suite that includes several unique modes and functions.

One of the more interesting aspects of online play is the fact that your character can be upgraded and earn new skills during matches. You begin at the bottom rung, but can add additional abilities such as speed and accuracy by winning matches. Players can also choose different specialties and teams for their online character. When it comes to gameplay, we found the online mode offered just as much detail as the solo game, with some incredibly challenging maps and missions that do an excellent job in bringing the solo game to life online. As you'd expect, there are several types of online modes. The most basic of Killzone 3's online modes is Guerilla Warfare, where the objective is to kill as many opposing forces as you can. It's basically a deathmatch mode and is nicely done. Players can also compete in the Warzone, which implements several types of missions. These include Assassination, where you have to take out a specific target, Search and Destroy, where you have to obliterate a certain objective and the traditional flag mode, where you have to take over and hold onto certain areas. Playing through the various online modes has advantages, which can help you in the solo game, with increased skills you learn in this mode allowing you to make quick work of AI opponents. Overall, it's a great addition to the game that definitely adds to its replay value.

As mentioned earlier, the game displays a high-degree of polish in its overall presentation. There are huge massive set-pieces on the aline world of Heighan, ranging from burned-out cities overrun by squalor and destruction, surreal jungles filled with deadly fauna and plants, and desolate frozen sections. This gives the game a very polished look throughout, with an impressive scale that brings the huge massive battle between two huge forces to life in vivid fashion. The game runs at a consistently smooth frame rate throughout and there is little in the way of slowdown, despite the sheer intensity of action on the screen. Like the previous titles in the series, Guerilla has definitely pushed the PS3's hardware to its limits. Killzone 3's backstory is fairly interesting in the way that it unfolds from different perspectives, allowing you to see the war from both sides of the battle. These cinematic sequences do an excellent job in helping to immerse the player into the action. Killzone 3 is definitely one of the best looking titles on the PS3 in standard HD mode, but the title also supports 3D televisions and functions. Unfortunately, we weren't able to test this mode ourselves, but the game definitely looks great in 2D.

It would be easy to dismiss Killzone 3 as just another FPS title, but the game delivers an exciting and impressive experience that makes it worthwhile. Its epic scale and intense battles make it a viscerally exciting title that brings players right in the middle of an incredible battle between two races. The backstory is somewhat interesting and it helps to keep players motivated. The game's mechanics and controls are superb using the standard controller, and some of the battles can be quite intense. It's single player campaign, while a little bit linear definitely offers a surprisingly interesting experience with its standard missions combining with vehicular sequences to offer plenty of variety. Killzone 3 borrows elements from other FPS titles, through its cover system and regenerative health, along with its extended cut-scenes which give it cinematic flair. The solid gameplay is definitely exciting with an engaging single-player campaign complimented by a robust online mode that brings many modes along with character enhancements. While it may not revolutionize the FPS genre, Killzone 3 is a highly-polished, engaging shooter that offers a solid gameplay experience that most gamers won't want to miss.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B

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