With Guerilla Game’s flagship FPS franchise seeing its third major release (excluding Killzone: Liberation) next month, now seems like a better time than ever to consider what to expect from Killzone 3. It’s also a perfect time to make outrageous comparisons to previous games that have influenced and revolutionized the genre and to consider if the release of Killzone 3 can live up to their legacy.
So how is Killzone 3 going to improve on its predecessor? The story is set to carry on with the adventures of Sev, just after where KZ2 left off. The design team have stated that they want to create a more light-hearted script and feel for the story to counter criticisms levelled at KZ2 for being too brooding, boring and for generally taking itself too seriously. They’ve also hired separate script writers and more Hollywood names to try and make the story better than ever before. The campaign is also set to include more harsh and extreme environments like the forests and Arctic levels seen in the original Killzone, as opposed to the cityscapes of Killzone 2. The story will also see Sev and co. venturing through Helghan territory, which will show players more of the culture and human aspects of the Helghast. The story will be better scripted, better acted and unveil more of the lore of the world of Killzone than ever before.
In terms of multiplayer we can expect to see a similar level of progression from the franchise. The inclusion of jet-packs (gee I wonder where they got that idea from) and mechs as seen in the KZ3 multiplayer beta are set to help diversify the combat and online shenanigans in general, even if the idea of vehicular warfare isn’t exactly exclusive to the Killzone franchise. A new objective game mode has also been added to the mix that sees you completing a variety of objectives in succession to seize control of a Helghast base, (Invasion anyone?) though the inability to swap sides at the end of each round could limit the potential enjoyment of this game mode. The previously frustrating ribbons system used in KZ2 to unlock new gadgets and class perks has also been replaced with skill points that you earn at each level. This should, hopefully, help add a simpler and more addictive edge to the multiplayer unlocks system. We’ve also seen the new WASP rocket launcher in action which, whilst not a game defining new addition, looks cool enough to warrant a mention. Guerilla Games have also gone to town on the melee attacks in KZ3, creating what they call a “brutal melee” attack mechanic that will allow you to chain melee attacks together.
Aside from the usual upgrades and gameplay tweaks that will be present in KZ3, there are several other additions that may well alter the gaming experience entirely. The entire game has been built from the ground up to run in stereoscopic 3D, provided you have a compatible TV set. Alpha versions of the 3D effect seem a bit on the sketchy side with reports of visual glitches, screen tearing and a general feeling of disorientation being common. That said, if Guerilla manage to get it right, the 3D effects of KZ3 could be absolutely mind blowing. Even if the 3D doesn’t turn out as planned KZ3 is supposedly going to use close to 100% of the PS3’s power, meaning that the visuals in general should be pretty damn impressive.
On top of native 3D support, the entirety of KZ3 can also be controlled with Sony’s new Move motion controllers. Move compatibility has been patched into older shooter games such as MAG with mixed results, but if the controls are well implemented it could be a really fun way to play KZ3. Regardless of how well the controls work on the Move, I doubt it will entirely usurp the traditional controller paradigm.
Having laid down the improvements we know to be made to the Killzone formula for the third instalment, it’s about time we started considering how it will stack up to other legendary titles and franchises in the FPS genre. As the title of this article suggest, the main point of comparison will be between KZ3 and Half life 2. It initially seems like a strange comparison piece considering Half life’s obvious story focus versus Killzone’s general focus on… well nothing. (and yes, just for the record, I’m not the biggest fan of the Killzone series.) What the games do have in common is the attempt to refine an existing formula, as opposed to attempting to innovate and reinvent the genre in its entirety.
Half life 2 took some major steps forward in terms of showcasing the new source engine, and the physics engine and graphics were vastly improved as a result. Yet in spite of these changes the story and narrative that the game is so often praised for were merely extensions of the foundations laid out by the original Half life. Likewise Killzone 3 will hopefully be able to take the fantastic engine and multiplayer goings on of KZ2 and refine them to a similar level of excellence. Fingers crossed the 3D effects in KZ3 will also boost the game’s visuals in a similar way that the new version of the source engine did for Half life 2.
Having said this though, it is unlikely that Killzone 3 will be able to compare to the critical and commercial success of Half life 2. For a start Half life 2 was, in conjunction with the early days of the steam service, able to catapult Valve’s digital distribution service to the point where it now has a monopoly over that particular aspect of the industry. Without such a service to promote, it seems unlikely that KZ3 will alter the face of the games industry to the same extent as the second outing of Gordon Freeman. There is also the problem of the hype train that always seems to run alongside the release of every Killzone title. The problem is that, especially within critical circles, the Killzone series seldom lives up to the hype placed upon it. With fairly average reviews for the Killzone series dogging its legacy, it is hard to claim that the third instalment will be able to topple the unanimous critical praise that has cemented Half life 2 in its place as one of the greatest FPS games of all time.
But to end the article on an entirely down note would rob Killzone 3 of the anticipation that it deserves. It is certainly not going to topple Half life 2 from its well earned throne, so the comparative aspect of this preview cannot end well for Guerilla Game’s labour of love. In terms of a general preview of the new features of Killzone 3 this article ought to end on a more positive note. After all, KZ3 looks to include some cool new features and a better rounded story and campaign direction than previous games in the series. If KZ3 is able to perfect the formula of its predecessor and smooth out the proverbial edges, there is no reason why it wont be one of the best shooters of 2011.