Three maps are supplied with the beta, with the twisting, maze-like corridors of Frozen Dam looking like the most popular of the bunch - it's also the only map playable on the new Guerrilla Warfare (read: Team Deathmatch) mode. There's also the swirling mess of urban destruction (with pilotable mechs) that is Corinth Highway, and futuristic scrapyard Turbine Concourse, which can be played in Killzone's still unique Warzone mode, juggling various gametypes (Team Deathmatch, Search and Destroy etc) on the fly.
Each map is chuffing massive. It's easy to get lost in the intricacies, which means there's a fairly steep learning curve to begin with and the game makes little effort to funnel players in and around the action. There's a certain virtue with that mentality (it feels charmingly old-school) but it does require you to spend a fair amount of time getting to grips with the levels, though that's to be expected of any multiplayer game.
The visuals are gorgeous. Everything looks suitably grim, but nothing looks as washed-out as in Killzone 2; you'll find each map to be seeping with colour, alongside impressive particles and effects. Guerrilla also seem to be following the current trend - see Bad Company 2 or Medal of Honor - of making their environments busy and hostile, ensuring that you're sometimes contending with bloody snow while trying to root out the enemy team.
Part of the fun, of course, is spotting bugs - 'Alpha Code' is emblazoned across the screen at all time, which should give you an indication of the game's status. A few things I've noticed: the framerate seems to take a chug whenever a group of mechs start exploding everything in your vicinity, and there's a particularly troublesome staircase in the Dam that I seem to get caught on every time I try and tackle it.
More important is the way the game juggles its spawn points. The game often tries to walk a tightrope between giving you a few seconds of relief and birthing you straight into the action. But it's not always perfect - I often find myself catapulted into immediate death, especially on Guerrilla Warfare, which is always frustrating. I like to think it helps that every one of my (many, many) deaths is helping Guerrilla perfect the system for the finished game, though. I'm kind of like a hero, when you stop and think about it.
There's also a bit of a noticeable delay between rounds. Post-match screens kick off with sixty seconds of map voting (which is about forty seconds too long) before a loading screen, and then there's another twenty-odd second countdown before you're allowed to get stuck in. All this seems a bit too long, to be honest. Still, it's easily fixed.
While it's important for all of those negatives get addressed in time for release, it's particularly easy to cut Guerrilla considerable slack when the actual rhythms and tics of Killzone 3's action are already this good. There's a noticeable pleasure from stalking around the game's battered corridors and collapsed spaces, and even the feedback from each kill is more satisfying than Killzone has ever been in the past. Bung in mechs and jetpacks and, well, colour me excited. I've never been one for Killzone's multiplayer, but it looks like the third time might just be the charm.
Killzone 3 will be available on 25 February 2011 for PlayStation 3.