Competition is an inherent part of life. By fair means or foul, brute strength or subtle cunning, each and every one of us must struggle to survive. In the long term, this means finding a way to succeed where others fail; by being smarter, tougher or simply "better" (for want of a less subjective term) than our rivals. And while it's not always necessary to be directly aggressive to your fellow competitors, it's invariably a good move to have some quality or characteristic that your peers do not.
First-person shooters are equally exposed to this perpetual arms race. As popular as the genre may be, an FPS title needs to differentiate itself, to stand out from the pack with some kind of unique offering. For the Killzone series, it's graphical prowess that's held up as the series' trump card, and there's no question that this third game achieves great things in this regard. The only problem is, that's just about the only area in which it excels.
To get the hyperbole out of the way nice and early, I'll say it right now: Killzone 3 is almost certainly the best-looking video game you've ever seen. It's not necessarily so in an artistic sense - its visual style is rather generic, like so many other aspects of the overall design - but in terms of technical accomplishment, it's the very definition of spectacular. Barely a moment passes without something exploding, and when the fireworks arrive they do so with the full complement of pyrotechnical trimmings. Vehicles shatter into perfectly irregular shrapnel; angry sparks and embers are swept away on a bitter wind; dense smoke blooms across ruined urban battlefields. Round about the turn of the century there was a brief trend for TV adverts promoting games - FPS titles, usually - via impossibly slick CGI sequences. The young and the gullible would gawk at such displays, overlooking the treacherous "footage is not representative of gameplay" disclaimer at the foot of the screen. Now, as you play Killzone 3, you'll realise just how far the industry has come. Not only have we reached the standards of those perfidious ad-dreams - we've stormed past them, and by some distance.
If all you want from a triple-A title is the opportunity to blow stuff up in painstaking detail, Killzone 3 is the game for you. Guerrilla Games has given the handling a slight tweak since its last effort, ensuring that leading man Sev no longer feels quite so tank-like in his movements, and while the default control setup is still a bit unwieldy (you have to click in R3 to aim down your sights), the alternate option provides a more sensible layout.
If you've been hankering to test out PlayStation Move on something meatier than the average mini-game collection, you'll also find full support here. You may find that your movements lack grace for the first 10 minutes or so, but it certainly gets better with practice. There's a clear advantage to being able to move and aim in independent directions, and on the whole playing this way feels vaguely reminiscent of using a mouse and keyboard - clearly a good sign. There's still a bit of needless motion interaction - thrusting the controller for melee attacks, for example - but on the whole, I was surprised by how effective this setup can be. Perhaps motion controllers do have a hardcore future, after all.
However you choose to play, the core FPS gameplay is handled well, with a decent arsenal of satisfying weapons and a credible sense of connection when you're filling the yellow-eyed Helghast with space-lead, or whatever it is they make bullets out of in the far-flung future. Melee kills have also been beefed up, to the extent that you'll now find yourself slitting your enemies' throats or jamming your thumbs into their eye sockets, rather than simply bonking them in the face with the butt of your assault rifle. Even here Guerrilla has managed to pack in an extra technical flourish, dynamically using the surrounding scenery when appropriate - which is to say you'll sometimes dash someone's brains out on a nearby wall, rather than getting eye-juice on your thumbs for the umpteenth time. It's all very gritty in a gratuitous way, but unfortunately this is as close Killzone 3 gets to offering up any new ideas.