Killzone 2 came from nowhere, she looked incredible and non- PS3 owners were jealous as sick pups. Two years later, it’s back, more complex and interesting than before. Visually, Killzone 3 is absolutely breathtaking - genre-leading, in places. At its finest, it tops anything seen in Reach.
Debris, dust, dew, sand, rain, snow; something is always drifting and brushing over the lens of your screen - bolstered by a fresh array and variety of environments which ensure Killzone 3 maintains its impact on the eyes. The familiar grey of rubble-ridden urban scenes are still there, but Guerilla's obviously made a real effort to open Helghan up and show you the real wonder of one of the harshest planets in the universe.
Guerilla's made it clear that one of its biggest ambitions this time was to amp up the narrative of the Killzone series, recognising that story was a weak area in KZ3's predecessor.
The game begins with a flash-forward. A mass of Helghast troops are depicted mourning their now deceased leader Scolar Visari - whom Rico foolhardily shot dead at the end of KZ2. Suffice to say, the Helghans are not happy. Rico's actions have propelled Visari to martyrdom - and, unsurprisingly, motivated a shedload of glow-eyed followers.
The chronology then snaps back to Sergeant Tomas Sevchenko ('Sev') immediately following the close of KZ2. He's understandably narked at Rico's itchy trigger finger, but doesn't allow this anger to get in the way of his (and your) sole objective: to escape away from the Helghast Army, who hugely outnumber your comparatively teeny ISA comrades.
It sets the tone for what you can largely expect from KZ3 - cut-scenes filled with dialogue-lite 'storytelling' on the ISA side (usually focused on big men shouting, troop carriers being shot out of the sky, comrades being massacred), followed by action gameplay sections where very little narrative progression actually takes place.
Killzone 3: Controls
The movement isn't quite so boggy this time, although there's still a recognisable weight to the game - which in part is down to the beefy nature of weapons like the mini-gun or the multiple rocket-launching WASP - Sevchenko demonstrates much more fluidity than we were expecting, whilst controller lag has been pretty much eliminated.
In one particularly fun touch-up, using the L2 button while sprinting will see you nimbly slide into cover or, if you're feeling particularly Chuck Norris, right past enemies. This often allows for stylish flanking, ending with an R3 melee attack - or just a cool way to kick the Helghast in the goolies.
There are some attempts to whip up the style of play with the usual vehicle levels including a weapon-heavy snow-mobile that lends itself to the game's co-op play. The front-of-the-box feature as far as automotive combat is concerned, however, is the jetpack.
EXOs let you go all Gundam on your foes as you stomp around in a big mech suit hurling rockets and blankets of bullets at what quickly become very puny Helghan soldiers. In a much more empowering way, these feel similar (although not quite as well executed) as getting your hands on a Metal Gear in that other PlayStation exclusive. By no means perfect - but a lot of fun.
Truth is, Killzone 3's campaign is undeniably smarter and cleverer than it was before - but that doesn't mean it's anywhere near smart or clever. Killzone fans of old will be thrilled, but those new to the franchise could be forgiven for labelling it a beautiful gun-fest in a rather generic spectacle.
Killzone 3: Multiplayer
Multiplayer is a very different kettle of fish, where the traditional has been polished within an inch of its life, and the innovative is unimposing and bright. Play Killzone 3 with mates, and you may well have the best shooter on PS3. An impressive co-op mode adds a new dimension to campaign levels, for example, and online multiplayer is more than extensive than ever before with three modes; Warzone, Guerilla Warfare and Operations.
The latter is the most unique feature in multiplayer. Think of it as mini-multiplayer campaigns. Players take up roles as the ISA and Helghast and each are given objectives with a few narrative trimmings. If the ISA gains control of a super-weapon, for example, the end cut-scene will be one of the Helghast being wiped out with the new acquisition. It's a neat touch that does separate it from what else is out there.
Killzone 3: Graphics
The games shining asset, and the feature that will keep people talking about it, however, is its graphical prowess - and in 3D, it's something approaching magic.
Guerilla's managed to create a 3D world with next to no flicker or blur anywhere on screen throughout. The sheer depth of the screen and the continued 3D fidelity of objects far off in the distance is the final spark that brings the world to life visually.
Equally impressive is the tracer fire as it whips towards you and those wisps of snow, dust and debris we mentioned earlier have an even bigger impact in 3D as they dance in and out of the foreground. If you've got the cash, Killzone 3 is probably the best-looking 3D game we've ever seen.
Killzone 3: Conclusion
At heart, KZ3 is still a ridiculously good looking thrill-fest that offers a multitude of wild set pieces - but one which ultimately challenges little more than your reaction speed and visual expectations. It’s charms will wear thin eventually. but we can at least almost guarantee that shooter fans won't regret spending a fair few evenings alone in Killzone 3’s company.