Saturday, June 4, 2011

Review // Killzone 3

It's hard to imagine a sequel to Killzone 2 being anything less than amazing. After all, that game was really fun and smartly designed, but had obvious room for improvement. So, in a way, it's actually kind of impressive just how much worse Killzone 3 turned out to be.

If It Ain't Broke, Break It

Killzone 3 starts hot, opening with a legitimately awesome sequence that sets the rest of the game up as a flashback, but it's a slow downward spiral from there. The game feels and controls great, so the on-foot action would've been really fun if it weren't plagued by frustrating level design that uses your AI partner's unreliable revive ability as a crutch to consistently throw too many enemies at you at once. Maybe if the cover system wasn't broken, leaving you exposed to enemy fire, that might not have been a problem.

It runs out of tricks quickly, relying far too heavily on mindless on-rails shooting segments to break up the pace that are never satisfying. What I really needed a break from though, was Rico, a character so "annoying" in the last game that the developers publicly acknowledged how much fans hated him. Rather than simply give Rico a smaller role, they preferred instead to chain you to him throughout the entire campaign so he can yell in your ear and bicker with other characters. By the time the story had caught up with the opening sequence and it played out in a totally different way than it had the first time, I almost didn't even care. I just wanted the game to be over already.

But what's truly disappointing is that, while the multiplayer here manages to retain many of the best aspects of Killzone 2's excellent online modes, it's also extremely unreliable. Nothing was more nerve-wracking, for instance, than the long, inanimate pre-game loading screens where it was unclear if the game was still loading or if it had completely frozen my console. As well, the lack of Killzone 2's useful filtering options made it difficult to find matches I actually wanted to join. It's a real shame that such a fun multiplayer game is riddled by problems that even the previous game didn't have.

12 Angry Men

I don't know how they did it, but somehow, Killzone 3's story is even dumber than the previous games', and it never comes across like it was rushed, either. On the contrary, it feels like it took a lot of people a very long time to write dialogue this bad. Here's a choice quote I wrote down from a late-game speech:

Sev: "If I'm goin' down, I'm goin' to make damn sure these bastards remember my fuckin' name!"
Rico: "And that is why you do not fuck with the ISA!"
ISA Soldier: "Fuck yeah!"
Narville: "Has a way with words, doesn't he?"

There's just not a single likable character to be found, with the ISA forces (once again) boiling down to idiotic, foul-mouthed jarheads who clash at every turn, and the Helghast boiling down to idiotic, foul-mouthed bureaucrats who clash at every turn. The only difference is that the Helghast characters had talented voice actors playing them, so at least their lines are convincingly delivered. The ISA, on the other hand, couldn't be more grating and unsympathetic if they tried.

The story plays out like a goofy, bad action movie, where characters yell at each other for no other reason than to force the illusion of actual tension and emotion. Sev and Rico are thrown into so many ridiculous near-death situations that they always escape from in the nick of time that there's never any real sense of danger. The whole miserable plot just generally ignores logic whenever possible (they never address how the ISA can survive for so long on the Helghast's "uninhabitable" planet, for example) until it reaches a bafflingly stupid conclusion and, mercifully, ends.

Considering how great Killzone 2 was, it's astounding to me how awful Killzone 3 is. It'll bore you, frustrate you, and offend you to the point where you'll only be left with one question: What happened?

Killzone 3 / $59.99 / PS3

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