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E3 2010: Killzone 3 Hands On

Developer: Guerilla Games | Publisher: SCEA
Players: 1 to 2 Player Game | Genre: First Person Shooter

Release Date: 02/22/11

There is a physical reaction any good first person shooter should elicit in the player. At first, the eyes widen and the jaw begins to slowly sag. Then a sharp exhale, accompanied by a hearty laugh filled with the same joy as Santa Clause’s infamous chuckle. All because the player is looking at the screen thinking: “I just did that!” This reaction could be called the ultimate high in male power-fantasy, but I actually saw it coming from a young woman playing Killzone 3 on the E3 show floor.

It happened when she picked up a new weapon called the WASP, a minigun which shoots rockets. It is a weapons designer’s expression of the word overkill. Not impressed yet? When zoomed in, the WASP fires its payload into the air all at once, then straight back down just like Javelin rocket.

“That thing is awesome,” I said to her.

“Oh yeah...” she replied.

The WASP is introduced at the very end of the Killzone 3 demo, and although I might have given away the finale, don’t call it a spoiler. What leads up to this new toy is even better.

Killzone 3 brings us back to the planet Helghan, just after our hero Sev dethroned the empire’s dictator, Visari. His death has created a power vacuum, causing factions within the Helghast Empire to start fighting each other. Sev and his fellow soldiers are stuck in the middle of this civil war, with no reinforcements in sight.

The E3 demo opens with Sev manning the turret of an Intruder drop ship, flying over an unfamiliar arctic landscape during an assault on what appear to be Helghast oil rigs. The level itself is a refreshing change from the gray urban environments of the second game, which have been swapped out here for white vistas of icy rock and stormy waters. Guerrilla is promising more varied environments for Killzone 3, and the demo is a good example of this initiative.

After giving the oil rigs a battering with a heavy turret, Sev’s drop ship is struck with a lethal hit, crashing down onto the glacier below. Both he and his comrade Rico escape the wreckage to continue the fight on the ground, using the standard ISA weapon: the M82 Assault Rifle. Upon engaging in some gunplay, the aiming controls appeared to feel a bit more responsive than the last game, which was criticised for having a sluggish targeting system.

The Helghast soldiers haven’t suffered a drop in moral from their recent defeat, and are still very aggressive and intelligent. The AI sticks to cover like glue, and value their life as much as they desire your death. If you do happen to take a few too many rounds, it’s now possible for a friendly AI squad mate to revive you, but don’t expect this safety net to catch Sev at every stumble.

It’s also possible to get into more physical altercations with the Helghast. Sneaking up on one of the soldiers will allow players to initiate a brutal melee kill, resulting in a knife being thrust into glowing eye goggle. Although this ocular incision was the only melee move available in the demo, Sony reps say more will be in the final build.

Eventually a new type of adversary thrusts into the picture - - Helghast soldiers equipped with jetpacks. These enemies are just as dangerous dead as they are alive. When killed, their flying apparatus launches them into the air, then swiftly back down, potentially right on top of Sev’s head.

Of course it’s possible to level the playing field by hopping into a jet pack, creating some enjoyable changes in gameplay. Players can boost themselves up into the sky, and briefly maintain their imitation of Icarus for a few moments by holding down on the thrusters. Jetting forward is also possible, and necessary, for the platforming responsibilities this slick toy comes with.

Although sprinting and melee attacks are no longer available, the jet pack makes manoeuvring around enemies as easy as skipping over puddles. It’s then just a matter of landing, and firing the onboard machine gun right into their backs. Don’t assume you’ll be the only ace in the sky though, because challenging jetpack dogfights will ensue.

It was at this point that I finally acquired the WASP rocket launcher, which after all I had done, was still an ego-boosting experience. The heavy weapon easily dispatched groups of enemies and Helghast vehicles as my squad advanced up a hill.

Killzone 3 is set to release next February, but the demo could ship tomorrow. The amazing visuals, which some called a lie upon seeing in Killzone 2, are back and only enhanced further by the colors of a more varied environment.

The game was also available to play in 3D. Naturally there were the standard “popping out” effects constantly romanticized in commercials, where viewers look like they’re having some sort of mystical experience with a technological god. Besides the blood splattered on your face or bullets whizzing at your head, there was a more practical result from the 3D.

Aiming down the iron sights of any gun gave a real perception of depth, as if one was really looking into the world. It made aiming feel genuinely different from the 2D version, and may have the potential to influence gameplay, unlike the clichéd 3D occurrence of objects hurling themselves off the screen.

Anyone who wants to say gamers have no interest in the technology should have seen the two-hour line to wear a pair of fancy glasses. Folks manning the booth said the amount of people wanting to play in 3D severely dwarfed those just looking to experience the standard version.

So far Killzone 3 appears to be what we would expect of any sequel. It offers new weapons, some tweaks to existing gameplay, but the core experience is largely the same. If the full game incorporates just as many new additions as the demo did, then the campaign of Killzone 3 should be a refreshing experience when it launches next February.

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By Mark Melnychuk - 07/21/10
ESRB Details: - Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language - This is a first-person shooter in which players assume the role of interplanetary soldiers who must salvage mankind's future. Players use electricity guns, pistols, machine guns, flamethrowers, and plasma grenades to destroy robot drones and enemy soldiers. Frenetic battles are highlighted by realistic gunfire and screams of pain; enemies emit large splashes of blood when shot. The game also depicts intense close-up attacks against enemies: snapping necks, slicing throats, stabbing or gouging eyes. Some weapons (e.g., boltgun and sniper rifle) can decapitate enemy soldiers with headshots, and one blood-splattered environment depicts severed human limbs. Language such as 'f*ck' and 'sh*t' can be heard in the dialogue.
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Screenshots for E3 2010: Killzone 3 Hands On

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