Sony’s flagship franchise is marking a return by aiming to be the best online team-shooter on console. Oh, and it looks pretty special too!
Killzone 2 looked amazing. But its gameplay was a mixed bag of the great and the good, feeling like Call of Duty in space without the slick smoke and mirrors and pacing that enabled Activision’s shooter to funnel you down corridors and into duck shoots with few complaints from the crowds. When it came to multiplayer, Killzone 2 offered a solid experience but lacked the instant thrills and clarity of Call of Duty. It’s good, then, that with the advent of Killzone 3 Sony is able to put to bed many of the franchise’s woes and push on to carve out it’s own niche in an overcrowded market where if you’re not COD you’re nobody. Killzone 3 is the most beautiful FPS on console, that’s a given. So now we can focus on what really counts: the gameplay.
Getting hands-on with the Killzone 3 multiplayer offers a glimpse into what we can expect from the series in the New Year. Environments now appear more varied, as does the game’s colour palette. The recent online Beta offered access to three maps all based on environments from the single-player campaign; an icy, snow-driven dam complex, a green neon-soaked power station and a war-ravaged ruined city that features the dirty brown colouring familiar to Killzone 2 fans. Each map has been tailored to the three game modes on offer – Warzone, Guerrilla Warfare and Operations. The Frozen Dam being the largest of the three, Corinth Highway the smallest and sexily named Turbine Concourse SE-6 is geared around using the new jetpack ability.
An understanding of the Class system helps to get more from Killzone 3’s online modes. They’re divided into standard types: Engineer, Marksman, Tactician, Infiltrator and Medic. Uniquely though, within these Classes are Abilities that can, along with a Classes weapons, be upgraded through new unlockables. The Tactician, for example, can create spawn points and then the Engineer can craft turrets to protect these respawn areas. The most contentious – and popular – Class from playing the multiplayer so far is the Infiltrator. This Class offers the ability to disguise yourself as an enemy – so to rivals you’ll appear as a teammate in both costume and green ‘friendly’ name tag – and work your way in close to do damage with a shotgun. If you’re more inclined you can dispatch enemies using one of many gruesome stealth kills, including slitting throats and pushing your thumbs into an enemy’s eye sockets. By nature the Infiltrator Class will cause mic rage, as there’s nothing worse than being killed by a buddy.
Team play was really central to our time with the game and points to a deeper co-op approach than most other multiplayer titles offer. In this light, the second mode played, called Operations, is a successful spin on co-op gaming. Here you’ll need to work in units to complete assigned objectives. What’s unique is this online mode has all the cinematic presentation of the single-player campaign. Arriving in a cut-scene with you and your buddies packed on to a dropship, you’re then treated to incidental cinematics featuring your character model when an objective is completed – with only the best performing players represented in the cut-scenes, offering a further incentive to up your game.
When it works, Operations is one of the most successful co-op experiences played to date, in any FPS. Powered by the same visual trickery and pacing that makes the single-player campaign tick you can’t help but get sucked into the brotherhood of the events ahead of you. Unlike other similar co-op modes, in Operations you really feel like you’re playing through a mission event that means something; and putting aside all modesty, who doesn’t want to be the star of their own videogame?
The final online mode we played marks the return of the flagpole event from Killzone 2; namely Warzone. As before this is a rolling roster of objectives, game styles and goals that come into play randomly and across a number of maps. This is the marathon of FPS game modes, mixing Seek & Destroy, Skirmish, Assassination and other objectives at will; one moment you’re hunting out a sole enemy target, the next you’re backtracking to your camp to fend off an enemy assault. All the time teamwork is the watchword and the central pillar by which every game objective stands or falls.
The bonus of Warzone is it offers access to the jetpack – a new ‘Special Ability’ in Killzone 3. You can take two Abilities into the game with you, which are dependent on your Class. So, for example, the Engineer can repair damaged turrets and lock down doors. In many ways the jetpack feels at odds with the rest of the multiplayer set-up, in that it encourages solo exploits. No sooner have you put it on then you’ve boosted off and left your team to fend for themselves against the odds. It can be used to access higher areas of the map to lay down cover fire, but by and large you’ll be too engrossed in your own flights of fancy.
Minor niggles aside – and if you count looking too spectacular a problem – Killzone 3 is definitely an improvement over the last game. Visually more varied, quicker and more accessible, and routed in team play over and above run and gun duck shoots, there’s a real sense of progression about the franchise. Now, can Guerrilla guarantee a single-player campaign that’s more than five hours long? Let’s hope so.
Steve O’Brien – PlayGamer Magazine
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