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First impressions: Killzone 3 Open Beta

Has the Call of Duty killer finally arrived?

It would be both lazy and a gross understatement to define “Killzone 3” as a highly anticipated sequel. In a multi-platform world where the almighty exclusive faces extinction, Guerilla‘s Killzone franchise has an overwhelming burden. This third installment is responsible for demonstrating the fidelity of Sony’s Move controller to its core audience, further pushing Sony’s aggressive 3D strategy, and of course being one more compelling reason to own a Playstation 3.

We won’t pass judgment just yet on the Move functionality or 3D presentation. However, if the recently released Multiplayer Open Beta is any indication, “Killzone 3” is poised to not only surpass “Killzone 2” in technical achievement and presentation, but also completely win over FPS fans under-whelmed by the responsive but considerably weighted control scheme of “Killzone 2.”

Killzone’s heavy feel isn’t unintentional, nor should it be interpreted as input lag. It’s one of the franchise’s signatures, meant to instill a sense of weight and realism. After all, waging war against the Helghast Empire isn’t supposed to be a cakewalk. Call of Duty veterans may cry foul, but Activision’s monster FPS has always felt too arcadey – and too buggy – for my taste. Still, for all of Guerilla’s stunning presentation and impeccable sound design, “Killzone 2” felt too weighted down when it counted. Turning felt laborious even with controller sensitivity cranked up.

Without question, Guerilla Games found its perfect groove with “Killzone 3.” Aiming and accelerating is snappier while movement still feels properly weighted. Reload animations – realistically lengthy as they are – remain a pleasure to observe. From our considerable time with the Beta’s Frozen Dam level, it’s undeniable that “Killzone 3” has experienced another surge forward in graphical fidelity, even though it has only been two years since the last installment.

Most impressive is the feedback system. Each squeeze of the trigger feels impactful on both ends of the barrel, and visual cues clearly and quickly alert you of kills and assists. Once again the sound design is flawless and the sense of immersion when rocking 5.1 surround is breathtaking.

The redesigned class system and the now-requisite level progression has also been tweaked to offer skill rewards and upgrades at just the right intervals, and ensures that both newbies and veterans will be salivating to start the next round.

One more vital component deserves mention: Although we had trouble connecting to matches (expected Beta behavior), once the mayhem started there wasn’t an ounce of lag present. This is a factor that distinguishes “Killzone 3” from its competition.

We’ll have a much more detailed look at multiplayer as well as the single player campaign when our review lands later this month. But if first impressions are everything, consider us duly impressed.

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