When I review many of today's first-person shooter franchises, it's tempting simply to refer readers to a review of a previous iteration of the series and say "ditto." Sort of an "If you've seen one, you've seen 'em all" kind of perspective. However, even if we here at Plugged In were to take that tack, we couldn't be so blithe about the Killzone titles. And that's because the folks at Sony and Guerrilla Games always have a knack for new levels of messy intensity when it comes to this series of warring shooters designed exclusively for the PlayStation 3 console.
Killzone 3 picks up where Killzone 2 left off, with gamers playing as Sgt. Tomas "Sev" Sevchenko. He's a bestubbled, hard-as-nails Interplanetary Strategic Alliance commando who's so tough he could probably chew his bullets and spit them at foes if his gun gave out. In the last installment, he and his heavily armed compatriots were dispatched to the planet Helghan to obliterate as many of that world's red-goggled Nazi-like legions as possible—and to kidnap its fiendishly evil leader, Emperor Visari. But a rambunctious, trigger-happy member of the squad complicated matters by killing him instead.
Which brings us back to the present. The mission? Simple: Get out alive. Sev's battered squad must make its way out of the hot zone in the hopes of some sort of rescue. After the assassination of its leader, the Helghan is mired in disarray … briefly. But the enemy adjusts quickly and lobs everything but the kitchen sink at the invaders. As the good guys try to claw their way to safety—and attempt a rescue of several who've been captured and are to be publicly executed—Helghan forces (called "Higs" during the game) swarm at them in ever greater numbers.
Cranking Up the Carnage
That may sound like a thin storyline for the third title of a popular fantasy shooter. And on paper it is. But the gamemakers aren't as concerned about the reasons for gamers going to war as they are about the adrenaline-pumping combat itself. And that's where they've turned up the heat.
Killzone 3 is arguably the most realistic sci-fi shooter available today. Seventy minutes of cutscenes (featuring voice work from well-known actors Ray Winstone, Malcolm McDowell and Brian Cox) offer brief breathers here and there, but the game's action is nevertheless constant, engrossing and visceral. Detailed graphics depict a war-battered world that feels strikingly authentic—from its crumbling walls and twisted rebar, to its clench-jawed fighters, to the blood-gurgling bodies of the fallen. The game's gruesome reality is augmented further by its gritty, soldier's-eye view, whether it's peeking around potentially deadly corners or the game's follow-as-I-run-and-duck-and-fire camera shake. Smooth game mechanics further reinforce the immersive sense of cinematic urgency.
So whether you're firing from the hip, chucking grenades into a crowd of Higs behind a concrete wall, or turning a helmeted head into so much splattered mush, these skirmishes carry a believable sense of impact and reality. You're not just punching buttons. You're in battle. And the weapons, which include large-caliber machine guns, miniguns, rocket launchers, sniper rifles and green orb plasma rifles, ensure all manner of blood-spattering kills and flesh-rending detonations.
For those craving even more disturbingly ghoulish realism, the game facilitates special add-on gameplay tech that's brand-new to the series. Player can perform their trigger-pulling duties with an actual trigger on the new wireless PlayStation Move controller—as is, or snapped into a plastic Sharp Shooter peripheral that looks just like a submachine gun. And for those with 3-D TVs, Killzone 3's grime- and blood-smeared imagery is optimized to take advantage of that technology too, amping up the (literally) in-your-face digital brutality and realism yet another notch.
More, More, MORE
As with its gun-blazing siblings, Killzone 3's visual intensity is matched by the constant rat-ta-tat-tat of foul language that its creators characterize as "authentic" battleground chatter. Four-, five-, six-, seven- and eight-letter vulgarities explode incessantly about the gamer's ears, adding even more chaos to an already grisly and nerve-racking fantasy world.
So no "dittos" with this title. Because let's face it, common sense says that if you're going to keep the audience coming back for more, you need to keep "improving" the experience. The more violence and bloodletting people are exposed to, the bigger the thrill needs to be the next time around.
In a way, it reminds me of the progression of violence in the Rambo movie franchise. Why else did the death tallies go from one kill in the first pic to 69 in the second and all the way up to 236 deaths by movie No. 4? The audience demanded more. That's the way media desensitization to violence works.
Which begs this obvious question that Killzone 3's creators aren't interested in grappling with: What gets left behind at each new mind- and soul-numbing threshold?