Without a doubt, Nintendo not only won this generation’s console war, but they defined what it meant to be ‘next-gen.’ Intuitive, point-and-click controls married droves of non-gamers to a catalog of non-intimidating, user-friendly titles. This accessibility and catering to a broader audience, however, also created a dearth of thoughtful, well-developed games for longtime enthusiasts to enjoy with the new control scheme. Aside from a few notable departures, mostly indistinguishable collections of mini-games became the Wii’s standard.
Capable of the same gesture controls, Sony’s PlayStation Move is meant to capitalize on Nintendo’s success while not forgetting the core group of gamers. This support couldn’t be more evident than with Guerrilla Games’ Killzone 3. As a franchise known and marketed almost exclusively on its technical prowess, it’s no surprise the Move’s integration in this third iteration works like more than just an afterthought. In fact, although it’s possible to run through it with an analog controller, Killzone 3 should be the reason you buy into the Move.
In a way, the game’s Move functionality overshadows the rest of Guerrilla’s work. As far as first-person shooters go, Killzone 3 is a fairly standard action-driven experience. Corridors funnel you ever forward along your objectives as you make your way across the Helghan landscape, once again as Sergeant Thomas “Sev” Sevchenko. Picking up where the previous game leaves off, Killzone 3 is again a campaign of overcoming the odds as the ISA invasion force scrambles to retreat from a powerful Helghast army. Sometimes as one man, sometimes as part of a small squad, and sometimes in a vehicle, your goal is to escape Helghan and warn Earth of a counter-invasion while you rack up the body count with big weapons and visceral melee attacks. Of course there is a twist, a diabolical scheme not to be mentioned or spoiled—though, it’s neither groundbreaking nor enthralling.
From a storytelling perspective, Killzone 3 is hampered by an exasperated pace. The push to get you from one setpiece to another is frantic, with cutscenes that only serve to setup the next playable section. Power struggles on both sides of the battlefield create a chance for thematic exploration with dedicated exposition; instead, we’re given shouting matches. Moreover, continuity is forgotten when the game comes full circle from the in medias res introductory tutorial.
Luckily, Malcolm McDowell creates a villain you love to hate in Stahl, while Andrew Bowen injects Sev with just enough personality to make him engaging. An accompanying orchestral score sounds epic and appropriate, but it’s just not instituted effectively. Most of the soundtrack is detached from the on-screen action and serves to portray more general moods than enliven the scenes.
The thing is, once you sync the Move to your PS3, most of these outlaying criticisms excise their way out of the picture. Clearly Guerrilla are masters of the technical. The player may get a sense of weight in some minimally latent controls from analog input, but this same heft is present even once you use the Move’s light bulb to aim the cursor around with precise accuracy. Under these controls, guided one-off excursions with handheld mini-guns or powerful anti-vehicle rockets turn from aggravating moments to exciting tests of skill. With the Move in hand, gripes of too-accurate enemies give way from your own pinpoint sniping abilities.
Once you’re able to easily clear out opposition, you can gawk at the impressive artistry instituted throughout the game. The entire Helghan world is alive with background activity like a giant MAWLR laying waste to urban sprawls, or huge industrial platforms amongst floating iceberg drifts. The onslaught of eye candy can be distracting at first, but with everything from animations to assets captured and created in textured detail, the world looks almost infinitely realized. Not to mention, the span of environments varies enough to not let you become complacent in your surroundings.
Essentially, the single-player portion of Killzone 3 is familiar terrain for first-person enthusiasts: a jetpack with integrated weaponry sequence moves into a straight-up corridor shooter event, then a cutscene later it’s on to a stealth mission (with a Dusty-like companion seemingly lifted from Danger Close’s Medal of Honor). It all plays well with only a chance instance of lock-up or unsynched audio, it’s just incredibly more novel and interesting while played with Move controls, even if you can’t customize its layout to get past the Bop-it gestures for reload and melee attack actions.
This precision and one-to-one parody of movement gleefully extends into the multiplayer elements as well. While a cooperative option limits itself to split-screen, local play and follows the game’s story, online competitions showcases how the Move isn’t simply a single-player gimmick.
Warzone makes a return with its round-robin queue of games to play, hosting large maps with 24 players split between Helghast and ISA factions. Objectives rotate between capture-the-flag, territory, assassination and team deathmatch variants, but this time character classes and on-field pickups create more strategic and balanced matches. Between jetpacks, Exo mechs, mortar strikes and spawn points to capture, Warzone games open up the field of play in multiple appreciable directions.
Adding to Warzone, are two new 16-player modes: Guerrilla Warfare and Operations. Neither break any unearthed ground for the genre, however, since the former plays as a re-titled team deathmatch and the latter a composed objectives mode with cutscenes; but they both allow players to get to the type of action they want more easily.
No matter the game, the re-worked character customization is a welcomed streamlining. Using an experience system, each level you gain earns you points to specialize one of 5 classes. Unlock points are used to better primary and secondary abilities, while also getting you access to bigger and better weaponry. As for the classes themselves, there doesn’t seem to be a dominant one. A disguised Infiltrator can be picked out by a Tactician’s Recon ability by a target covering your HUD; and an Engineer’s turret can become embattled with a Tactician’s drone. Even the Medic is a fighter with silenced weapons and healing auras.
Guerrilla’s online component might be limited when compared to Call of Duty or Halo‘s community features, but it’s nevertheless accomplished with its lag-free Move integration that’s more successful than MAG‘s. Your arm may become fatigued, but your movements wont go unregistered.
No matter how you play through Killzone 3, it boils down to a typical first-person shooter experience. Interspersed on-rails moments break up the tedium usually associated with battling back waves of assaulting enemies, and standard multiplayer options are tested waters that have at least been instituted well. However, should you warm up to and adopt the Move to play through Sev’s retreat from Helghan, you’ll discover not only a much more ingeniously constructed adventure, but learn how motion controls aren’t only suited for the mini-game crowd—when done correctly, they can actually enrich even the most hardcore of games.