By now, a lot of you have probably had a chance to download last week's Killzone 3 beta and play it extensively – although a lot more of you haven’t, seeing as the beta’s only been made available to a relative handful of PS3 owners. If you’re missing out, then you might not already know that the PS3-exclusive shooter’s multiplayer – at least as represented in the beta – is a big improvement over Killzone 2’s relatively more straightforward run-and-gun. There’s a lot more going on and a lot more opportunities for fun in the beta’s three available levels, but here’s what stood out to us the most after a few hours of play.
1. Classes are much more accessible
If you’ve played much of Killzone 2’s multiplayer, you already know that it kind of takes a while to really start being fun. Rather than just give you everything from the beginning, KZ2 makes players start out as a grunt with access to only basic firearms, and gradually level up to earn better guns and class specializations. It’s a good idea, but KZ2 made the process too slow, with new players forced to endure match after match of getting chewed apart by more experienced foes before they could so much as try out the Engineer class.
Killzone 3, by contrast, yanks out the bullshit and cuts straight to the fun. Right off the bat, players are able to pick from five different classes – Tactician, Infiltrator, Engineer, Field Medic and Marksman – each of which have special powers available from the start. New Infiltrators can briefly disguise themselves as enemy troops, for instance, while Medics can immediately heal downed teammates.
As you rank up, you’ll earn “Unlock points,” which can be applied toward general perks (like armor or extra-ammo) as well as toward new, class-specific weapons and abilities. Engineers can unlock the ability to deploy turrets, for example, while Tacticians can reveal enemy positions to their teammates or call in flying drones to help out. While it still demands a hefty time investment in order to unlock everything, the rewards come fast and steady, giving new players something tangible to work toward while at the same time placating them with low-hanging fruit and making KZ3 a hell of a lot more enjoyable right off the bat.
Jetpacks were one of the big draws when Sony showed off Killzone 3 for the first time earlier this year, so including them in multiplayer – and, more importantly, in the beta for players to try out – is a smart move. Restricted to one level, Turbine Concourse SE-6, the jetpacks are complicated flying rigs that take a couple of seconds to put on and come equipped with an onboard machinegun. (They also stand to become KZ3’s equivalent of the Battlefield series’ planes, as only a handful are available at a time.)
While coasting around in midair kind of makes you a sitting duck, it also opens up areas that would be completely off-limits otherwise. Engineers can set up turrets on high perches, and everyone else can simply cover ground more quickly and get the drop on their opponents. It’s also a lot of fun to bust out a jetpack; they don’t let you fly, exactly, but their simple boost-and-float mechanic is easy to control, even if it frequently gets broken up by gunfire.
3. More game modes
Multiplayer in Killzone 2 was limited to one mode – Warzone – that cycled through multiple objectives and game types while keeping players bound to the same map. It was an interesting approach, but being stuck on the same map for too long could get boring, especially if you hadn’t unlocked any class badges yet.
Warzone’s still in Killzone 3, although it feels a lot more brisk now that there’s so much more for new players to do. It’s also accompanied by two other modes, Guerrilla Warfare – a simple, team-based deathmatch – and Operations, which puts a team of ISA soldiers (the good guys, more or less) on the offensive against a defending team made up of Nazi-like Helghast. Operations is a bit like Warzone, in that you’ll face a series of different objectives, but they’re tied together by a loose narrative, punctuated with simple cutscenes starring your characters as they press through obstacles or fall back in a panic.
One of the highlights of Killzone 2 came late in the game, when you got a chance to pilot a towering walking tank through hordes of comparatively puny Helghast infantry and tank divisions. The beta’s Corinth Highway level brings these to bear on multiplayer, offering up a chance to strut around in near-invulnerable power armor and squash your tiny enemies.
Above: Yeah, it’s kind of awesome
5. The close-quarters kills are brutal
Above: That's a facemask. With thumbs going through the lenses
While Killzone 2 contented itself with simple rifle-butting and knife-slashing, Killzone 3 ups the ante with far more gruesome, in-your-face melee kills. Sure, you could simply knock out or kill an enemy by swinging your heavy gun into his face, but why stop there when you can slit his throat, gouge his eyeballs with your thumbs, snap his neck or knife him in the eye?
It looks nasty, but killing at close range in KZ3 is alarmingly satisfying, mainly because it’s kind of difficult to get that close to an enemy without getting shot to pieces. (The game’s also considerate enough not to make it so personal when it happens to you; instead, you’ll see your own death in third person.) It’s even better if you do it as an Infiltrator, which – in a nod to Team Fortress 2’s Spy class – lets you disguise yourself as an enemy and get close enough for a vicious hands-on kill.
You’ll get perforated with lead if there’s even one other enemy nearby, of course, but it’s totally worth it. Just like the beta itself, if you’re lucky enough to be able to download it. As for everyone else – hey, maybe the beta will open up to a wider audience soon. If not, you can look forward to KZ3 hitting in late February.
Nov 2, 2010