When I think about first-person shooters I always overlook Killzone. I like it more than other franchises like F.E.A.R., Resistance, and SOCOM, and I have played every installment, but for whatever reason it has never left much of an impression. In fact, the lasting memory I have of the franchise is that the bad guys are not too subtly portrayed as Nazis... in space.
Killzone 3 is the best entry so far, but it does little to alter that perception of the franchise. Relegating a blockbuster game to second class citizen status might seem odd to some of you - especially concerned PlayStation 3 owners who are no doubt already crafting their angry response e-mails - but the fact is that Killzone isn't as good as the current frontrunners, and adds little to the genre in which it competes.
I don't expect every game to innovate - only a handful do, and the rest work almost exclusively with proven ideas - and I don't think there's anything wrong with being derivative, as long as there's a tangible level of quality and polish, which Killzone certainly has. But the thing that bothers me about Killzone, and it's an issue that's exemplified by this third installment, is that it all feels just a little too rote and formulaic.
Guerrilla Games seem to be working from a checklist of popular genre conventions, so Killzone 3 occasionally feels like a greatest hits compilation of FPS "moments": there's the ubiquitous stealth level; a sequence where you take control of a giant mecha-robot; loud levels that take place on a massive battlefield and see you running from objective to objective in a mad scramble; an appropriately thrilling stand-off against a towering boss; and, in a sad indictment of the current state of the genre, an ending that drops you off a cliff without providing any real sense of closure.
At its best, Killzone 3 is thrilling, thanks in no small part to the meaty impact of each and every bullet. The jet-pack level also stands out as one of the better levels in recent memory, and I really appreciated the fleeting glimpses at the power structure of the Helghan high command. Again, the portrayal literally screams "These guys are just like the Nazis!" but watching the fascist leaders bicker was by far more interesting than anything that occurred between the game's actual heroes.
Unfortunately, the game peaks infrequently, and the vast majority of your experience is marked by frustrating, repetitive battles that are reminiscent of the worst levels Call of Duty has to offer - dying endlessly until you figure out the "right" way to tackle the enemies or force your way to a checkpoint - or middle-of-the-road skirmishes that don't stand out from anything you've done in a dozen other games you've played before.
And then there's the ending, which might be one of the worst I've seen in a long time. It does nothing with the weighty implications of the game's final Event, which definitely deserves a capital E. But despite witnessing, and helping to cause, this horrific outcome, the main characters just shrug their shoulders, the screen fades to black, and a credits sequence begins to roll; my befuddlement was momentarily counteracted when the "real" closing cinematic started, but it turned out to be a recycling of the proverbial "hand emerging from the grave" sucker-punch.
I know the majority of this review has been critical of Killzone 3, but as strange as this might sound, I never found myself hating the experience. It is just underwhelming, principally because it doesn't ever rise above the level of a good popcorn movie. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, of course, but there's really nothing memorable about it either.
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