This past Monday, 10,000 lucky PlayStation Plus members (5,000 from North America and 5,000 from the UK) got their hands on the Killzone 3 multiplayer beta. For many players, Killzone 2’s multiplayer was an engaging experience that ultimately fell short of being great. Having taken many notes taken from the previous game, was Guerrilla Games able to improve the multiplayer experience for Killzone 3 without creating new problems for themselves? Read on to find out.

When hopping into the beta, players are greeted with the option of partaking in three different multiplayer modes: Guerilla Warfare, Warzone, and Operations. Guerilla Warfare is a standard Team Deathmatch mode with two opposing teams trying to hit a set kill count before the other team. Players rack up points along the way for individual kills, headshots, etc. Warzone is an ever changing experience that can have players doing everything from partaking in standard deathmatchs to a capture-and-hold style of gameplay. Complete the objective, win a point, and then move on to the next mode — all within the same game. Finally, Operations, the most cinematic of the modes, involves an advancing team attempting to breach the base of a defending team. The only drawback to this unique mode are the non-skippable cutscenes that introduce the mission. Each of these modes comes with their own singular map, but after 20+ playthroughs they get old.

Visually, even without the added bonus of 3D, the game looks great. Killzone, ever since that much talked about “is it pre-rendered or is it in-game” E3 trailer, has always been the PlayStation’s workhorse. As graphics go, this game (even in alpha code) is stunning to look at. There are a few areas that need a bit more fine tuning, especially the snow and dust effects, as those elements become a bit distracting, but overall, the beta is looking slick. There is no arguing that this is one of the best looking games on any console.

Killzone 3 Beta Impressions - Corinth Highway

Significant improvements have been made to the gameplay in order to take away many of Killzone 2’s frustrating elements. One of the biggest complaints I had when playing the second game was the controller lag. Unresponsive controls became the bane of my existence and ultimately forced me to give up a multiplayer game I was having a ton of fun with otherwise. Thankfully, controls in Killzone 3 are much smoother and are extremely responsive. However, those improvements do come at a price.

In the beta there are a handful of weapons that are unlockable based on the five careers (Medic, Technician, Infiltrator, Marksman, and Engineer), some of them smaller machine guns and others more powerful shotguns. The expectation here is that whichever weapon is selected, each will handle a little differently. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Recoil in the beta is almost completely absent. Aim at an enemy and don’t worry about compensating for anything else. Here and there the game does take into account physics and whatnot, but for the most part long shots are a breeze. On top of that, the game plays almost as if the player is floating on a cloud, with movement feeling weightless and hard to manage at times. These elements have certainly been changed from the previous game, but instead of moving in the right direction, the developers simply moved into a new, equally flawed direction.

Killzone 3 Demo Impressions - Marksman Class

As mentioned earlier, the various careers in the game are making a return, to many gamers’ chagrin. Killzone’s multiplayer has always been about rewarding those who dedicate the most time. Leveling up various careers gives players huge advantages that include flying, enemy-killing bots and the ability to disguise themselves as a member of the other team. At a certain point, most players will have unlocked the top tier abilities and the playing field will even out, but early on gamers will struggle if they get placed in a room with higher ranks. It might cause frustration for some, but these abilities are what make Killzone‘s multiplayer stand out from the rest.

At the end of the day, Killzone 3, if the beta is any indication, is going to be exactly what fans of the second game expected. It improves upon many of the problems from the first game and adds polish to the features that gamers enjoyed. As betas go, it isn’t without its issues (hit detection, clipping, and game freezes), but the expectation is that, since the beta is actually alpha code, these technical snafus have already been worked out.

Multiplayer might not be for everybody, as it does not create an even playing field for newcomers and veterans. After a certain point, the game takes on a new strategic element when deploying careers. Graphics in the game are stunning, to say the least, and will have many mesmerized by the visual experience alone.

Is Killzone 3 going to be the multiplayer game that dominates the market? Probably not, but the game has never been about that. The game is more about creating a new type of experience that many will enjoy, but that has the potential of alienating others. It has worked in the past, and does work for me now. I can’t wait for the full game.

Anybody get their hands on a beta code for Killzone 3 and want to comment on their experience? How does it compare to the multiplayer in the second game? What do you hope gets improved/changed before retail release?

Killzone 3 hits store shelves February 22, 2011, for the PlayStation 3.

SCROLL FOR NEXT ARTICLE