Clichéd it might be, but the space- fascist styling which defines both the character and aesthetics of Killzone’s Helghast antagonists couldn’t be more appropriate. For Killzone 3, even more than its predecessors, is a game that blitzes the player’s senses, bombarding them with such an overload of visual and aural stimuli that, at times, it’s a struggle to keep up. When you’re hunkered down behind cover, with a five-storey-tall mech raining mortar fire on your position and an exoskeleton-wearing ally stomping nearby, your biggest struggle isn’t staying alive, it’s keeping your sights centred long enough to fire back.
For the most part it works, the clatter of machine-guns and the roar of explosions providing a more than effective audio accompaniment to Killzone 3’s backdrop of near-constant devastation. War might be hell, but most developers treat it like a rollercoaster ride, with twists, turns, and rising, ratcheting moments of tension before sudden drops. Guerrilla, with isolated exceptions, keeps things constantly pitched somewhere between incessant and relentless, forcefully carving for itself an atmospheric space which might be at times fatiguing, but is undeniably distinct from that of its competition.
You move a little faster this time, and while this has diminished some sense of your character’s weight, Killzone’s weaponry has lost none of its sheer, all-out force. A force more than complemented by environments which, while not fully destructible, have been filled with more than enough bits and pieces which crumple or shatter after a modest application of bullets. Not least of these are the Helghast themselves, whose AI, while not tangibly improved, is no less aggressive this time around. Formidable, yet never unfair, their ability to suppress, flank and outmanoeuvre you shines on higher difficulties.
So far, so Killzone 2. Indeed, the game’s first few levels take place in the immediate aftermath of its predecessor’s conclusion, and suffer from many of the same limitations. For all the punchy intensity of its combat, and the cleverness of its combatants, Guerrilla rarely allows you to truly put that AI to the test: you engage the Helghast on the game’s terms, not your own, funnelled along defined routes and making use of cover points thoughtfully and conveniently provided. Vehicle and turret sections might change the pace – but only by making the game even more of a shooting gallery. And then, a few levels in, Guerrilla begins to experiment.