Gray.

That word alone perfectly describes my experience with Killzone 3. Not just the color itself, though the war-torn environments are a symphony of gunmetal (I imagine it's probably some great technical achievement to have that much ashen colorlessness on the screen at one time without actually being black and white). No, KZ3 bears all the connotations that come with that unimpressive tonal range. Gloomy. Neutral. Bland. Boring. Dull. Leaden. Flat. And on and on and on.

By Stu Horvath

GAMEPLAY
Don't misunderstand: Killzone 3 is a fine game. It is apparent within the first few minutes of combat that it is technically superior to its predecessor. The controls feel pinpoint-accurate and highly responsive (though I never seemed to run quite as fast as I would have liked), the enemy AI is competent if not entirely clever, and the visuals are sumptuous if monochromatic.

The pace of the game is much improved as well. Firefights flow naturally from choke point to choke point. A variety of set pieces, like the much-advertised jump pack sequence, breaks up the run-and-gun action. There is even a certain attractive plausibility to the ruined environments; the guys at Guerilla Games have perfected the look of the bombed-out building. The additions of the arctic and jungle environments (though the latter somehow manages to still be predominantly gray) are a welcome change of pace from the ruined building standard. 

It's just a shame that with all the technical proficiency on display, they couldn't find room under the hood to put in a soul.

PLOT
To call the characters of KZ3 "characters" at all is a terribl misuse of the word. They are so nebulously defined they may as well be cardboard cutouts with loose descriptions scrawled across them. In crayon. You play through the game as Vaguely Ukrainian Lunkhead; along with his good buddy, Vaguely Latino Lunkhead, you have to survive behind enemy lines on a hostile planet until you are rescued. Along the way, our heroes meet all sorts of people, like Abrasive Midwestern Officer, Ambitious Bald Admiral, and Malcolm McDowell. In addition to that, there is also a nuclear explosion and ongoing confusion over whether the evil Helghast are impersonating Nazis or Stalinist Soviets. Cleary, storytelling is not the primary concern in a Killzone game. 

BELLS AND WHISTLES
KZ3 has the usual suite of class-based competitive multiplayer modes. It also boasts a local split-screen co-op campaign (yay!), but strangely offers no online support (boo!). There is also 3D support, which at press demos was impressive...until the headaches set in. Unfortunately, there are a few points in the game where 3D effects would be prominent enough to wow you. For example, the HUD that appears when wearing a Helghast rebreather mask is ripe for 3D, but in 2D it appears muddy and distracting.

The game also supports the Move, alone or with the new machinegun-like Sharpshooter peripheral case. Again, at press demos, these additions performed admirably in 30-minute bursts, but playing at home, I didn't miss them at all.

THE BOTTOM LINE
When the last grenade is thrown and the war is over (until Killzone 4, presumably), Killzone 3 leaves a feeling of emptiness. My heart didn't race. My jaw never dropped. Not once did I think, "Wow, I cannot believe that just happened." It is a hollow thing, pretty after a fashion but lacking purpose. Like so many Hollywood blockbusters, Killzone 3 pours on the special effects because, in the end, it doesn't have anything to say.

 

This game was reviewed on the Playstation 3.