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Killzone 3

We avoid snow blindness to take on the Helghast in 3D

Sony has gone 3D crazy. The first FPS title to get the 3D treatment is Guerilla Games' fast-moving Killzone 3. We caught up with Sony recently to see how the Dutch developer has done at fleshing out the Helghast.

Killzone 3 moves out of the grey urban battlefields that have come to be synonymous with the Killzone series to a whole new range of harsh environments giving the game a much fresher look and feel than Killzone 2. Now, the battle rages over blizzard-ridden ice caps and sweltering jungles. The levels we got to have a bash at were the new Arctic levels.

The battle begins with us atop a gunship armed with an extremely hefty minigun swooping in to have a look at some oil-rigs that the Helghast have set up shop in. This is a rail-shooter sequence that seems to pop up in every other action game these days but Guerilla have done their very best to make the sequence as interesting as possible.

The attack begins as we get a chance to strafe the deck of the first rig clearing it of the scrambling Helghan troopers below before one whips out a rocket launcher and starts taking pot shots at the gunship. We duck below the level of the main deck to avoid the rocket fire and are confronted by more Helghans firing from the lower gangways. There is also a set of three pipes which form the weak point of the rig. We swing the minigun into action again making short work of the troopers and then the pipes. As the last one fractures under a hail of bullets the rig explodes and begins to crumple satisfyingly into the icy ocean below.

We swing over a wall of ice to find two more rigs crawling with Helghans. Again we make a strafing pass at the top decks before dipping below to swing around the lower gangways clearing them of troopers. After the next rig falls another rocket launcher appears and we have to dodge the deadly missiles to take a shot at the next rig's weak points.

With the successful destruction of the third rig the action switches to a cut-scene that sees us round another cliff of ice to find a cargo ship trapped in the ice surrounded by a few nissen huts that seems to serve as a base for the Helghast. We don't get very long to admire the scenery as a Helghan trooper quickly dispatches the gunship with another rocket launcher.

The gunship crashes to the ground and we are thrown from the top of it. Finally we're in the meat of the action now. We get to our feet and grab a minigun which has also fallen from our smouldering ride. A short run down an icy slope towards the nissen huts and the Helghast come swarming out of the woodwork. We keep the minigun running hot as it makes short work of the enemies coming at us through the huts and we arrive at the cargo ship itself.

Soon all we can hear is the familiar and saddening whirr of the minigun motor as it runs out of ammunition - so we ditch it in favour of an SMG dropped by a dead Helghan and after tossing a grenade into the open window of the boat we run inside. The SMG still has some decent stopping power and again we make short work of all the Helghans jumping out at us from behind the bulkheads as we head up to the bridge.

From the bridge we can see that the only way through is to drop down into the ship's fairly empty cargo deck - putting us in what is almost certainly a trap. We drop in and sure enough, Helghans appear on the deck above and drop in as well, trying to make this into a turkey shoot. Some quick footwork, accurate shooting and a well-place grenade or two ensure that we escape the ambush and we move on towards the bow of the ship and out to safety.

As we move forward a Helghast drop-ship appears and we get our first glimpse of the new jetpack troopers. Three descend on the cargo ship and again we're fighting for our lives trapped in the bottom of the cargo deck. We've become quite proficient with the SMG and before long the last jetpack trooper has disappeared in a fireball and we're left safe to climb up the wall at the bow of the ship onto the deck to signal our pick-up.

This marked the end of the demo levels but it was enough to give us a good sense of what Killzone 3 is about. The action was as fast as it has ever been and whilst the cover mechanic instituted in Killzone 2 remains there was never any real need to use it. Killzone 3 is still very much a run-and-gun affair.

The one thing that was a bit of a disappointment are the 3D graphics. 3D in Gran Turismo 5, for instance, is very pronounced and adds to the realism of the game experience. The effect that Guerilla has gone for is a much more subtle affair and for the most part it was very difficult to see a marked difference from playing Killzone 3 in 2D. There were snowflakes in your face and some of the effects that see waves crashing up against the sides of the rigs during the gunship segment were impressive but the main bulk of the graphics still felt a bit flat.

The good news is that this was an early build of the game and Guerilla still have plenty of time to polish and tweak Killzone 3's 3D support before the game launches in February. The rest of the title is pretty impressive and the new environments really bring the series back to life. The glowing orange eyes of the Helghast set against the pure white of the Arctic is a great look, and for the masses without a 3D TV Killzone 3 will prove to be something rather impressive.

Killzone 3 is set to launch for PS3 on February the 22nd in North America, with the European release hopefully following on the 25th.

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