Features & News

Beta Impressions: Killzone 3 Multiplayer (Open Beta)

February 10, 2011, Author: James Sheppard

Killzone 2 is one of the jewels in the crown of the many quality exclusives that the Playstation 3 has in its library, and therefore it’s no wonder that anticipation for Killzone 3 is at fever-pitch for Sony fans. Killzone 2 created an admirable balance of both a brilliant single player campaign, and a solid online multiplayer mode. That’s not to say it was perfect however; some of its design decisions were an acquired taste, such as very heavily weighted, almost ‘laggy’ aiming mechanics, and the need to put in a lot of hours to unlock more classes.

The Killzone 3 Closed Beta was released a while ago, but I had given up on my Playstation Plus subscription by then and so couldn’t get my hands on this exclusive trial. Much closer to the game’s final release however, Guerilla Games have outed the Open Multiplayer Beta, and so everyone is finally able to sink their teeth into a sample of one of the biggest Sony releases of the year.

I was little more than a casual enthusiast of Killzone 2, but I have to say that with the deluge of changes that Guerilla Games has instated with its successor, that may all have to change. I apologise to anyone who may think this is superficial and dull, but one of the biggest improvements that I’m going to rave about is in the game’s controls. Killzone 2 used to feel like you were in a battlefield, underwater… in a lake of treacle. The result was having to wrestle with your Dualshock 3, in the vain attempts to make your groggy player shoot where you actually wanted them to.

Kill of Duty: Modern Warzone?

This element still exists to an extent, but is nonetheless majorly improved. It’s still not quite as fluid and conducive to twitch-aiming as Call of Duty, or heaven forbid, Unreal Tournament, but on the whole, controlling your character is now a silky-smooth joy compared to its predecessor. Believe it or not though, it gets better, thanks to a new addition: Playstation Move. I will go out on a limb here and assert that Killzone 3 is the best usage of the device that I have seen so far.

Its Move support has been touted for a while of course, but until I tested the game I was expecting little more than a fun gimmick, that would be enjoyable to use in single-player, but quickly chucked aside for the old-school controller as soon as any competitive multiplayer gaming came into play. Boy, was I wrong.

Swiftly lining up targets in your sights with the Move controller is a wonderful experience, and after a very brief learning curve I soon found that with my trusty novelty glowing dildo by my side, I was mowing down fiends with ease. To be honest, I’ve never loved first person shooters on gamepads, particularly not the Dualshock, and as a result I found that switching back to the normal controller actually worsened my performance. I did not see that coming.

There are some drawbacks unfortunately. When you are aiming straight ahead and are not at risk of flanking, the Move slaughters traditional controllers. Quickly turning round however is not quite so doable, leaving you vulnerable to neck-snaps from behind. There are thankfully not too many daft gestures put in place; the first is a quick twist of the controller to reload, which is very intuitive and is never triggered by accident. Conversely, there is currently no other way to melee other than moving the controller forward in a punching motion, which feels badass but is abysmal in practice, completely messing up your aiming and making a second hook, should you miss the first, nigh-on impossible.

Enough of that; how is the game to actually play? Bags of fun, in fact. Three modes are available: Guerilla Warfare, a standard team-deathmatch; Warzone, a rapidly-changing gametype of various objectives; and Operations, an Enemy Territory style attack and defend. These all take place on the beta’s sole map, Frozen Dam. This isn’t the strongest map I’ve seen in a first person shooter, containing some confusing corridors and fairly bland layout overall. The gameplay that takes place throughout this arena outshines this, however.

Hey, mind giving me a lift to Tescos?

Warzone is a brilliant gametype for keeping you on your toes with its modes that change on the fly; one minute you’ll be assassinating a VIP on the enemy team, and the next you’ll be sprinting round the map capturing points. Nevertheless, it was Operations that really put a smile on my face, with a logical sequence of objectives to break through enemy defences, complete with cut-scenes involving the actual players of the game! This is one of the first times I’ve actually felt multiplayer to be a cinematic experience outside of co-op campaigns, although time will tell if these get old eventually.

There’s not a huge range of weaponry available in the Killzone 3 open beta, but the ones on offer are all solid enough, with the exception of some balancing issues. LMGs are arguably overpowered death machines, allowing you to just hold down the trigger for ages and effortlessly mow down anyone unlucky enough to be standing in your way, whereas SMGs are comparatively like BB guns, in my experience at least.

The skills and gadgets on offer are the most interesting additions to liven up the gameplay, ranging from the Engineer’s deployable turrets, to the Tactician’s highly useful radar scan ability, to the Marksman’s cloak. These are all upgradeable as you obtain unlock points from online play, and become essential tools for your arsenal. The Infiltrators can disguise as an opponent ala the Spy of Team Fortress 2, which by level 3 allows you to wander around indefinitely disguised, even to turrets and sentry drones, able to melee attack without breaking your cover. It remains to be seen whether this sometimes rage-inducing advantage will be as effective in the final release or not. Rather generously, a Botzone mode lets you practice offline with all abilities unlocked, so you can try them all right from the outset.

Should have worn my thermals

The beta isn’t 100% perfect, hence the title ‘beta’. That said, Guerilla Games are really going to have to get their arse in gear to get much changed between now and release. The network is very fickle, either letting you join a game but not recording your stats, or simply not letting you connect at all. Hopefully the servers will be sorted soon, as they will have a lot more players to accommodate. I get bored enough waiting a full minute in-between each Call of Duty game, but inexplicably waiting times for Killzone 3 are a minute and a half or so, and there’s little you can do to amuse yourself in that time. There’s a lot I could be doing with my life in those 90 seconds, like writing a Haiku or saving the world. If you leave it sat there and wander off however, it’s inevitable you’ll only miss the start of the game and annoy your team.

What irritates me the most by far about the Killzone 3 beta though is the dreadful dying screams from your opponents; it’s like you’re back on the N64 again with the melodramatic nonsense they spout as they fall to the ground. I can only guess that they were nearing the end of development and ran out of funding for the voice actors, and just all collaborated together amongst themselves, probably while drunk at the office party. As you can see, many of my issues with the game are only minor quibbles in fairness.

On the whole, the Open Multiplayer Beta of Killzone 3 has seriously left me impressed. I can’t wait to get cracking with the full roster of maps and start working through the ranks again. The gameplay is a blast; solidly designed and rich with action and variety. Playstation Move’s integration has also made this something pretty special, when it could have potentially been such a half-arsed, tacked-on feature. Roll on March 25th then, and I’ll see you in the ‘zone.