Monday, February 28, 2011

Killzone 3 impressions

My impressions on the single-player campaign.
First of all I have to emphasize one thing: This game is freakin' gorgeous!  It has retaken the crown of "best looking game this generation", which Killzone 2 lost to Uncharted 2.  The visuals are so impressive in fact, that they are distracting.  They were actually taking me out of the game to the point where instead of playing the game as I normally would, I was actually stopping to just look around, taking in the insane detail that could be found in the environments.  Sure I had squad mates screaming and dying around me, gunfire and explosions were everywhere, but I was standing still, staring in awe at the beautiful scenery.  One level in particular, a weird insect-like alien forest, is the most surreally beautiful thing I have seen in a videogame.  Several times while playing this game I actually made comments aloud to myself like, "No f'ing way", or, "Are you kidding me?", all in relation to me not believing what these programmers had managed to do.  One tip to players: look up often.  You can easily miss some pretty amazing vistas but just not looking up at the sky, or to see the top or roofs of structures.  So, look up folks!  Take in the sights.  Guerilla needs to license this game engine to other developers, because I want more PS3 games to look this good.  Seriously, Guerilla, once again I tip my hat to you.  You guys know how to squeeze every ounce of power from the PS3.
Visuals aside, the single-player game is enjoyable, but also flawed in execution.  Not sure if Guerilla felt they received too much criticism the last time about the story, but it looks like they really wanted to emphasize the story this time around and they decided to take a page out of the Metal Gear handbook and just toss in many, many cut scenes.  The game's flow is constantly being interrupted to show you a cut scene to the point where it becomes annoying.  Many times it was not needed, as what was occurring could have been relayed through in-game actions, or left out all together. 
Much like the Metal Gear games the cinematics themselves are done in-engine and look phenomenal from a technical standpoint.  But this is a game, I'd much rather be playing instead of watching whenever possible.  This one aspect is my biggest negative, since the game can get very intense at times and having it abruptly cut to a needless cut-scene is jarring and totally kills the flow of the game.
Another negative I found is that the game feels too scripted and linear.  Some of the battlefields are open enough to offer some good flanking options and to make the firefight feel a bit open, but there are many other sections that don't feel organic and feel like they were designed for very specific reasons.  One example which I felt was so obvious that it took me out of the moment was a stealth section in the previously mentioned alien forest level, in which you are supposed to be advancing quietly and moving between the shadows or hiding in the tall grass.  The scene tasks you with sneaking past many Helghast guards and it could be tense and nerve-raking, except your path is clearly and comically defined by one long strip of tall grass very conveniently leading the way.  It just seemed so obvious and out of place and kinda silly, that is killed the moment for me.
Controls have definitely been tightened and feel far more responsive than the last game.  As a result the weapons do lose some of the "heavy feel" they had in the previous title, but I'll take playability first.
Guerilla does try to mix up the gameplay as much as possible.  You have your standard levels, a stealth level, plenty of on-the-rail shooting segments, you pilot the mech from KZ2 again in one section, and you have the new jetpack (although if memory serves me correctly, only for one section).  All play styles are fun and exciting and keep things from getting stale.
One difference I noticed is that this time around you have many more ammo caches to restock on ammo.  In fact, I think there are too many of them.  They offer a limitless amount of re-supplying and they replenish ammo and grenades for all weapons.  Throw in the fact that you can now carry a third heavy weapon, and it actually takes away from the experience in my opinion.  In the last game since you only had one large weapon and your pistol, I was constantly having to scavenge weapons from fallen enemies.  In fact, I barely used the standard ISA Rifle in KZ2 since I would run out of ammo fairly early on and be forced to use Helghast weapons found in the battlefield.  It was annoying at first (I kinda liked the ISA Rifle), but overall it added to my enjoyment of the game since it made my situation feel more desperate (was kinda realistic too since you are fighting on the Helghan homeworld, there's not going to be ISA ammo just laying around).  It also almost forced me to try all the weapons since I couldn't stick with a favorite as ammo for it would eventually run out.  Maybe many people complained about that and Guerilla overcompensated in this area as well, like they did with the story, because it is impossible to run out of ammo and have to pick up a different weapon out of necessity.
I also have one final complaint about a new enemy type, those cool new Helghast soldiers seen in the trailers with a mounted blade on their arms.  They look bad-ass, are some sort of elite guards or something, yet all they do in the battlefield is run right at you.  No attempting to dodge attacks, no taking cover, no jumping around like you see in the cinematics, they just run right at you and let you unload an entire clip into them.  That's just stupid.  These guys could be a pretty cool enemy is they had half a brain.  Wasted opportunity.
All that being said, Killzone 3 was fun, if not particularly revolutionary.  I hope to dive a bit into the multiplayer and see how that goes.

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