That's not to say that Guerrilla hasn't made any effort. Throughout the course of the six-hour campaign the game sifts through a wide spread of varied set-pieces, plonking you down in the cockpits of several vehicles and heavy weapons turrets. There's a stealth level, a couple of sniper-y bits, and a scrap with a stupendously enormous robot thing. Most of these sequences are handled competently - I'll discuss a couple of exceptions in a moment - but they all reek of over-familiarity; there's absolutely nothing here that you haven't seen or done before. There's an almost clinical feel to the progression, as if someone sat down and drew up a cold-blooded checklist of all the stuff that should go into an archetypal FPS.
That might not sound too bad, and to an extent it's not; there's nothing wrong with giving people what they want or expect, after all. What is problematic, however, is how joyless these interludes frequently seem. Despite the constant kabooms - or perhaps because of them, and their numbing omnipresence - Killzone 3's carnage rarely seems that exciting. Guerrilla's portrayal of intergalactic conflict is consistently gorgeous in chaotic violence, but the whole experience lacks weight or substance. It certainly doesn't help that the game seems so determined to chaperone you through its linear theatres of war. In several of the vehicle sequences, for example, it feels as if the player's only contribution is to tug on their trigger time and time again, spurting off explosive salvos that have automatically locked onto some anonymous target. When you're on foot, bottomless ammo crates are to be found every few minutes, with the result that you rarely even look at your the counter on your HUD. Heavy weapons like miniguns and plasma-spewing Arc Cannons can be refilled time and again, allowing you to spray an area with ordinance until all hostile life has been extinguished. There's nothing stopping you from being more precise with your slaughter, but nor is there any immediate incentive to play this way.
All too often the game insists on spelling everything out for you. The aforementioned stealth mission takes place in a dense jungle - a very linear, but mouth-wateringly gorgeous one - and here the main conceit is that you must use your silenced pistol to shoot at spiked plants; the volatile flora then explode and take out the Helghast guards in the vicinity. In simple terms, it's Explosive Barrels: Alan Titchmarsh Edition, but it's still a relatively neat idea - or it would be, if you didn't have a helpful NPC by your side, stating the bleeding obvious. "Look what they're walking past!" he cries, excitedly, as you draw a bead on the fourth or fifth convenient cactus in as many minutes.
You'd think that the Helghast troops would be smart enough to avoid the Spiney Bang-Bang Fruit, or whatever they're called, given that this is their home planet; then again, they're a pretty dense bunch if their combat tactics are anything to go by. At one point I watched as five troopers took turns to run across an open battlefield to take cover behind a piece of rubble, one that neatly faced my sniping point. One at a time they toddled out and paused in front of a pile of their dead friends, allowing me to take yet another careful headshot. Such moments of pure stupidity are uncommon, but it's not unusual to see Helghast blindly walking into a stream of minigun fire, either.
I've been quite harsh here, but I have to admit that the juggernaut impact of the game's graphics do go surprisingly far in making amends for its other shortcomings. The lack of originality wears you down, but equally it's never long before some form of epic occurrence shakes you out of your apathy. In its best moments, when one of the better set-pieces is married to an eye-catching graphical effect, the campaign shows hints of what might have been. It's hard not to have a good time when you're taking part in a low-gravity gunfight, with grenades lazily sailing through the air, or when you're hopping about a beautiful frozen landscape in a stolen jetpack (Why oh why is there only one jetpack level? It's clearly the most enjoyable of all the vehicles!) At times like these, you genuinely feel like you're playing through a blockbuster action film, albeit one with a particularly shallow plot.
With hindsight, I suspect that this is a big part of the overall problem. The honest truth is that an FPS can get away with being a bit derivative, as long as it has a bit of charm to go with it (charm being yet another way to surpass the competition). Unfortunately, Killzone 3's good guys collectively form a gaping charisma void. Sev is a blank slate who looks almost exactly like Nathan Drake (a comparison that clearly does him no favours); Captain Narville, his immediate superior, is an idiot; while the token pretty girl is so thinly-drawn that if she turned sideways she'd probably vanish. The worst offender of all, however, is Sev's best chum Rico Velasquez - a loathsome creation who spends the entire game shouting, grunting, and refusing to do what anyone tells him. He's actually so dislikeable that you'll be annoyed whenever he turns up to save the day, which he does at every opportunity. The git.