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Killzone 3 may be gaining rave reviews, even our own Kyle MacGregor has expressed his admiration for the game, but I’m unconvinced. While the multiplayer is definitely a step up from Killzone 2, the single player campaign left me less than impressed.

In fact, I believe that the single player campaign in Killzone 3 is three steps backwards for the entire series.

Be warned: I tried to keep spoilers to a minimum, but this is best read after beating Killzone 3′s single player campaign.

I just finished reading the Killzone timeline at the Killzone Wiki. There’s tons of stuff that I didn’t know—either it was all mentioned in the original Killzone or in expanded universe type materials. After reading the timeline, I’m even more convinced that Guerrilla really dropped the ball when it came to storytelling in Killzone 3.

Killzone 3 removes any moral and tonal ambiguity that the second game cultivated and instead replaces it with a 70′s buddy-cop movie mentality coated in a glistening gung-ho attitude and jingoism.

While the Killzone series isn’t known for subtlety, I hold that it is a little more sophisticated than it at first appears. The Helghast’s tri-color scheme evoke images of Nazi Germany, and it’s easy to say that they’re just “space Nazis.” But after reading some of the series’ lore, it’s clear that the Helghast are hard people, created by living in a harsh environment under oppressive economic circumstances.

To be honest, I never played the original Killzone or the PSP exclusive Killzone: Liberation. I started with 2009’s Killzone 2. Based on what Killzone 2 told me, I knew that the Helghast invaded the lush planet Vekta, but were beaten back by the ISA forces in the original game.

From that standpoint (and ignoring most of the story materials not presented in-game), it’s easy to sympathize with the ISA. The red-eyed, gas mask wearing, brutal Helghast invaded Vekta. The ISA is fighting a defensive war to protect their homes. As the player, you help the ISA destroy the invading Helghast force. You fight them off. That could have been the end of it!

The Helghast were the clear aggressors, and you were defending your home. From a logistical standpoint it would have cost the Helghast immensely to create a space-worthy invasion fleet. It’s not the same as building some tanks and rolling them across a border. Destroying their invasion fleet could have been the end of it—you cost the Helghast an incredible amount of blood and treasure (to borrow a phrase)—accords could have been reached. Etc. etc.

Instead, the ISA launches a punitive strike against Helghan. Now you’re the invaders. This “taking the war to them” mentality really opens up a whole host of opportunities for advanced storytelling. Is invading as retaliation right?

Killzone 2 opens with a positive, gung-ho attitude that’s reminiscent of the whole “the war will be over by Christmas” mentality we’ve seen at points in our history. The game’s tone shift as the fighting drags on. Killzone 2 becomes more about the gritty realities of war, and even the game’s control scheme and mechanics reflect that with their weighty, heavy, and methodical feel.

Killzone 2’s ending, while abrupt, sets up what could have been an amazing sequel. Visari who is a “bad guy” but also the same man who spurred the Helghan economy (and apparently held more fringe elements of the society in check if you are to believe his dying words) has just been murdered. His death shows that even the loftiest principles don’t last long in a warzone.

The ending cinematic lets the player experience the full weight of what just happened during the course of the game. You’re an invader trapped on a hostile planet—surrounded. The once shining uniforms and principles are ground into the radioactive mud that used to be the Helghast capital city.

Killzone 3 could have explored all those themes—moral ambiguity—who really is right in this campaign? Are the Helghast just victims of extreme circumstances? Instead Killzone 3 throws all that away.

Tension between Rico and Sev over Rico murdering Visari and disobeying direct orders? That’s gone. It gets brought up once in the very beginning. Then the game gives us Captain Narville—a man concerned with the lives and safety of his troops. As the ISA evacuation plans go to hell, he grows more and more defensive in his strategies—survival is the goal. These are not unreasonable expectations.

But the game presents Narville as a coward when there was little indication of that in the previous game. Sev and Rico (Rico freaking Velasquez) become the voices of reason? What? Every time Narville has a rational plan, Rico mouths off about how it’s wrong—the whole taking the fight to the enemy shtick. Then Rico and Sev go off and do something crazy, and by sheer luck (during cut scenes) and player skill (during gameplay sections) they succeed. The game’s narrative proves Rico and Sev right because the whole buddy cop/Starsky and Hutch antics make for a more entertaining but decidedly less morally ambiguous game.

Promotional materials promised us that Killzone 3 would feature the Helghast caught in a civil war as two factions vie for Visari’s vacant throne. All we get is Admiral Orlock and Chairman Jorhan Stahl yelling at each other (expertly voiced) in cut scenes. During the game the player shoots any Helghast they come across. There’s no distinction between Orlock’s military soldiers of Stahl’s private troops. They all have glowing red eyes and gas masks; kill them all the game says.

Think of the narrative potential Killzone 3 had! What if Guerrilla had really run with the civil war angle instead of leaving it as an afterthought at the very end of the game? There could be rival Helghast factions that could have amounted to some stellar 3-way set piece battles. What if Rico, Sev, and the remaining ISA troops had to choose to ally with either Orlock or Stahl—the enemy of my enemy thing would have been fascinating. Even allying with lower ranking Helghast who were sick of Orlock and Stahl’s antics would have been preferable to what Guerrilla gave us.

Visari was evil, but he never ventured into the realm of caricature. Stahl with his shock of white hair looks like the stereotypical mad scientist. It wasn’t a shock to find out that Stahl has plans to use a secret fleet armed with irradiated petrusite (read: fictional glow-y green stuff) weapons to bombard Earth.

The lines are clearly drawn in Killzone 3. Stop the space Nazis from launching a planet-wide genocide on Earth. And what a great job you do! Let’s just say that the ending of Killzone 3 is full of wasted potential. After Sev’s pathetic last line the game just ends. “You gotta be kidding me!” I shouted at my TV when the credits began to roll. We’re dealing with things like planetary genocide and Guerilla chooses to end with a flat one-liner? Deplorable.

For all its graphical accomplishments and other improvements, Killzone 3 is ultimately a disappointment in storytelling and tone. A story full of potential turns into one of generic space marines fighting evil space Nazis. Yay! Everybody wins! Except people who want a little more depth to go with all the space Nazi shooting.

  1. I’ve only played through up to the part where you’re looking for the transmitter in the crashed ship, but at GDC PlayStation was showing a video about how they did the motion capture for this game, with Malcolm McDowell with little silver beads all over his face, and I thought to myself, “Why bother?”

    Killzone 2 had virtually no story, and if I’d been given the choice I would have shot Rico myself, he’s such an unsympathetic character.

    I don’t play Killzone for the plot. I play it to shoot things. Story is optional IMHO.

    • FINALLY, someone else voices my sentiments on Rico! Without wishing to spoil by all rights he should be tried for war crimes as of the end of KZ2. It’s like Cole from Gears with all likability extracted.

    • I really agree that they could have done much better with what they had, but the fact that the story wasn’t spectacular didn’t really impede my enjoyment of the game. I finished the Killzone 2 campaign merely so I could cross the game off my backlog list, whereas I was actually interested in seeing what happened at the end of Killzone 3. Squandered? Mabye. Improvement? For sure.

  2. avatar Daniel

    oopps….

    Isn’t that the point of Rico though? You need to fight alongside some assholes in any army and I’m sure his isn’t an unrealistic character. Not many people who are that meatheaded are very likeable but what do you want?

    In Killzone 1 (PS2), Rico was an even bigger prick and has gradually mellowed out and actually becomes a decent human character in KZ3 – shown especially when he wants to go back and save Jammer’s crew. Then of course, he gets left for dead by Narville but ends up coming back in the end with his new team. What’s not to like?

    The man’s a God.

    As for the storyline, (unlike Nazi Germany) I think we have always been given the opportunity to like the Helghast, because they are themselves on a revenge mission against the planet they left years ago. The intro video to KZ1 is quite sympathetic and uplifting for the Helghast, so siding with the ISA was never always an easy thing to stomach in this series from the off, particularly as the ISA stuff is just built on plastic patriotic bullshit but you don’t really know the ins and outs of it.

    Good article, I agree they could have made more of the divide within the Helghast forces. That would have been very interesting! I did like the whole retreat vs. stay and stop Earth being destroyed though… and Rico not knowing the white flag had been raised.

    And at the end of the day, killing Visari was not a major thing because I doubt anything would have changed within the Helghan response whether he was alive or dead. It seemed their contingency plan was well in place already.

    And you can’t tell me you didn’t wanna shoot him yourself at the end of KZ2…

    • Which him? I wanted to shoot Rico. Visari? Not so much. I wanted to hear him give more bombastic speeches.

    • avatar Joesco

      @SteveDutchyI got ps3 and i have played GOW2 beuasce i did have a 360 once but traded it in for PS3, Both games are awesome but i like gow better? just beuasce the gore and just the stuff you can do like cut them in half with the chainsaw Was this answer helpful?

  3. avatar BLACKBOIJONES

    Let me get this straight,COD,BULLETSTORM..E.T. C Which all had crap stories gets a free pass but when its a ps3 exclusive its a different story….I call BS..He can go to hell and suck Hitlers dick in hell :|

  4. avatar Mark

    The ending was utterly ridiculous, and rico is the WORST character ever conceived. How many times does he have to disobey orders before taking a bullet to the face?

  5. avatar Ferahtsu

    Now that’s an impressive critique on a game. You sir, clearly have extensive experience with video games.

    • avatar Rosario

      @MichaelXboxEvolved hey what game mode if you play and win will have this cutscene with your chaetcerr like doing something like one would watch the door the other could like sabatoge something and others? shoot like cutscenes in single player but instead are in multyplayer Was this answer helpful?

  6. avatar Flappy

    Ah, this article is perfect. I love Killzone overall, but good god, this game was a stinker. The potential was HUGE for an immersive story telling experience as you say.

    What I wanted more than anything was you actually playing as, or even defecting to the Helghast as you realise the ISA are the true villians. Themes of propaganda etc etc.

  7. avatar Wally-G

    The game was overly ridiculous from the story to selling out for the sake of COD and changing everything to the point where the game wasn’t killzone anymore. I reluctantly give you my thanks, only because you’re well written article brought an even worse taste to my mouth when I think of Killzone 3.

  8. avatar Axe99

    Good article – I totally agree that given the rather good backstory that GG has put together for KZ3, the direction they took the story in KZ3 seemed like a huge wasted opportunity. I still enjoyed it, but it could have been so much more. I fear that given that the game itself is being stood up to compete a bit more with the CoD/BC2 audience, that it’s probably sensible they didn’t try and put something together that was more morally ambiguous (as that crowd would likely have struggled with it), but it would have been far better in my view to try and set themselves up as a mature gamer’s shooter.

  9. avatar tehwonderful1

    Nobody plays Killzone for the story

  10. avatar Altair

    I really missed Visari’s speeches and I’m right with you on your complaints. The gameplay was fun but the story itself feel flat on it’s face after the first hour or so.

  11. avatar Cuzzzo

    Tis article is crap the story was a little shaky but everyone here saying that the isa are the bad guys are wrong because the helgast have been the bad guys for years if u read the story behind kz. And rico is a good character because he knows what will happen if the isa surrenderd they would all be killed anyway and there is no way they could have all survived long by just defending themselevs

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  20. avatar Robbie

    This is why I’m really apprehensive about Killzone: Shadow Fall. Guerrilla needs to hire better writers!

  21. avatar Robbie

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