The Killzone 3 open beta has been and gone and now I've got to wait a week for the full release. Oh well I've preordered the collectors edition so will be enjoying double XP and using all the weapons in the first 24 hours, which should get me back up to rank 14 (where I was in the beta) pretty quickly.
I thought it would be a good idea to put KZ2 back on and whizz through the storyline, since I neglected that for the multiplayer. Doing this has really illustrated to me how much work has gone into revamping the IP for the forthcoming 3rd release, I've now realised why I didn't play KZ2 for very long! This time I got half-way through the first mission before quitting out...
The single player in KZ2 was truly awful; there was obviously no proper testing as I found myself repeatedly "breaking" the flow of the game by doing things out of order. For example, 20 seconds after the intro cutscene ended I blew up the bridge by shooting the barrels with my M82 Assualt Rifle only to find the waypoint system then insisted I pick up the VC9 Rocket Launcher to do it, despite the target no longer being available. This then caused problems with the next beachhead as I jumped down a "point of no return" wall with the VC9 and my pistol only to find myself locked into a battle which required my M82. Restart from checkpoint? No, the checkpoint was after the wall... meaning I had to restart the game :(
The second thing which struck me was the lack of strafing. In other shooters my favourite CQC tactic is the "Wheel of Death", where you strafe diagonally one way and rotate your view in the opposite direction thus forming a wheel with your target at the centre, getting closer as you move around. However this doesn't work in KZ2, they seem to have prioritised the cardinal directions so it's almost impossible to strafe and diagonal strafing doesn't work at all. If fact unless you play FPS games like a learner driver (forward, stop, turn, stop, turn, stop, forward, stop, turn etc) you're left almost screaming by how clunky it is. This means that intuitive run-and-gun is impossible, meaning the only option is to use the cover system, which was the next thing which horrified me...
The cover system is a nifty idea for a FPS, especially one where player movement has been made deliberately slow and heavy (and "undeliberately" robotic). However this can only work if it has been implemented well, which it wasn't. In TPS like Uncharted and Gears of War the cover system allows the user to prepare their next move, shooting or moving, whilst taking a breather. However this isn't possible in KZ2, they give you a "glimpse over/around the cover" view where you can't be shot but then decided to cover the middle of this view with your upturned weapon. Therefore just to locate enemies you have to pop out of cover, meaning you get shot... if you stay in cover slightly longer you find all the enemies are gone and your AI comrades are half a map away!
Finally there's the control system. This is where a game can steal players away from the competition as providing an adequate amount of options means people don't have to completely relearn a new system. They tried to do this for KZ2 but forgot some crutial elements. There was no toggle settling for cover, meaning you had to hold L2 to stay safe but then switch to L1 to ADS (or "zoom" as they called it to make the concept easier for Halo players). So unless you were in cover very close to the enemy and could hip-fire you had to pop completely out and zoom in to get any accuracy. They also forgot to give enough adjustment for the stick sensitivity but used a really poor dampening system. This dampening was supposed to desensitise the stick initially to allow for fine aim adjustment but still enable quick turns, however I found it just meant your rotation was initially sluggish and then accelerated too fast so your sights flew past the target. Trying to adjust the stick sensitivity to compensate didn't work, one setting had you spinning like a top and the next one down felt like trying to swim through treacle. If you're going to introduce dampening then it eaither needs testing thoroughly or extra facility for players to adjust it themselves!
So I didn't "whizz" through the story mode as planned, I ended up quitting in disgust even earlier than the first time I tried. I was disappointed that I couldn't enjoy it and keep my "Killzone" head on whilst waiting for the 25th Febraury, but on the other hand I am so glad that both the KZ3 open beta and the recent single-player demo show how hard Guerilla have worked to overcome these issues.
So the final question is what do YOU think about KZ3? See you online next Friday? Don't worry, I won't kill you... much ;)