A middle finger to fans.

I’ve always enjoyed the Killzone series. The first game on the PlayStation 2 was a visceral, atmospheric, though flawed experience. Unfortunately, Killzone managed to obtain the unenviable title of being proclaimed as PlayStation’s Halo killer, a difficult task considering Halo had re-defined and set the new gold standard for the first-person-shooter genre. Naturally, Killzone was heavily scrutinised thanks to the media hype that it gathered upon arrival. Unfair comparisons were made between the two games; however, the consensus was that Killzone had strong foundations to build upon.

A couple of years later, Sony were readying the release of their new console, the PlayStation 3. Rightly regarded as Sony’s flagship shooter, a sequel for Killzone was announced, and the (now infamous) trailer of Killzone 2 was shown at the world’s biggest event for new games, E3. Many claimed the footage was predominately CGI (computer generated imagery), and that the PlayStation 3 could never deliver the visuals showcased in the trailer. Once again it seemed the proverbial hype train was leaving the station, with Killzone 2 its destination.

Killzone 2 achieved critical acclaim, learning and improving on its past mistakes. The visuals were beyond impressive. In my opinion, the graphics were close to the extremely ambitious E3 trailer; a great accomplishment in itself.  The gameplay was also immensely satisfying. Guns were weighty and heavy, actions were slow, and bullets riddled enemies with satisfying realism. Gritty, raw and brutal best describes the experience that Killzone 2 produced and I loved it. The campaign was challenging and the story was thoughtful even if the characters did excessively shout profanities at every possible opportunity. Even the online multiplayer, an area difficult to perfect, was intense and enjoyable. Obviously Killzone 2 was not without its setbacks, but overall, it was a great achievement. Inevitably, Killzone 3 was developed.

Even the Helghast get chilly.

Kill Joy

Killzone 2 managed to establish its own identity. It had managed to avoid comparisons with its old nemesis Halo by concentrating solely on refining the strengths of the original Killzone. Consequently, Killzone 2 provided an experience that no other shooter could offer. Needless to say, I was excitedly anticipating Killzone 3’s arrival. However, things had changed in the first person shooter market. Halo and Killzone weren’t the only behemoths in the market. There was a new fan favourite on the scene known as Call of Duty.

Unfortunately, Killzone 3 decided to abandon its winning formula. Instead of tweaking and building upon the success of Killzone 2, Guerrilla Games chose to listen to a minority who complained about the ‘weight’ of the aiming and decided to cater to the fan base of Call of Duty players. This was a huge mistake.

As expected, Killzone 3 is one of the best looking games available. However, the heavy, realistic and weighty feel to the weaponry was gone. Gun recoil was reduced and the speed of characters’ movement was increased.

The story was forcefully shoved in your face with endless cut scenes which did little to surpass the previous game’s first noble attempt.  Scripted set pieces were in their dozens and sections of ‘forced gameplay’ (the pathetic stealth section) were included. The twitchy, fast, weightless speed of aiming felt like it was implemented straight from Call of Duty. However, it felt like an unholy union of the previous ‘weighty’ style and the new fast, twitchy style, thus appealing to no-one.

“Don’t stand up! I’m firing here!”

Shooting Yourself In The Foot

People say that mimicry is the best form of flattery; in this case however, it was criminal. The desire to cater to an already well satisfied crowd (unlike Killzone, Call of Duty games are released annually) was simply unnecessary. Clearly, Guerrilla Games wanted to tap in to this lucrative market, but failed to recognise that it was already heavily saturated. Therefore, the need to provide a different experience was even more significant than ever before. Instead, Guerrilla Games decided to copy the feel of another game which in my opinion destroyed the core and the very essence of an established franchise. Killzone didn’t feel like Killzone. If fans of the franchise wanted to play Call of Duty they could, nobody asked to play Killzone 3: Call of Duty Edition. Without a doubt, what may have seemed like such an insignificant design decision completely changed the whole experience of the game.

At least I could console myself in the fact that Killzone 2 was a challenging game and completing it on the Elite difficulty setting was an enjoyable struggle. Surely Killzone 3 wouldn’t disappoint in that regard? Amazingly, it managed to do so. The stimulating difficultly that was once apparenthad vanished. Enemies went down easier than before, their blood curdling intensity diluted. The Elite difficulty level was a sham in comparison to Killzone 2.

I couldn’t believe it. One of my most anticipated games played nothing like its predecessors and was now mind numbingly easy as well. Surely the online mode would be the saviour? I was wrong again. The fleet-footed control system was more apparent than ever when playing online, and the once frantic but controlled environment of the multi-player was now a 100mph kill fest. Not ideal for a game which focussed so much on team-based objective gameplay in the past.