Killzone 3: I don’t like to Move it, Move it

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Pictured above is the exact wrong way to play Killzone 3. Not because you’ll look silly. Not because it’s got a fairly steep learning curve. Not because it’s $40. But because of Killzone 3.

After the jump, Sony (et al.) solves problems no one is having

Move is Sony’s answer to the Wii. In order to trick those of us who play shooters into using the Move, Sony is selling a $40 Sharpshooter. It’s a big plastic vaguely sci-fi gun in non-threatening gray with a ridiculous Rudolph nose on the barrel once you insert the controllers from your $100 Move. And it’s the absolute wrong way to play Killzone 3.

Never mind that you look silly. You’re over that by now, right? I mean, you have played Guitar Hero at least once in your life, haven’t you? Fake plastic stuff is here to stay and even though we know we look silly, we’ve learned to embrace how cool we feel. So that’s not really an issue with the Sharpshooter. In the privacy of my own home, behind locked doors with the shades drawn, it’s kind of awesome to pull back the collapsible stock and nestle the Sharpshooter in the crook of my shoulder while making Killzone 3’s throaty gunplay happen on screen. I can reach up with my index finger and tap the button where, I dunno, maybe a safety goes to switch weapons. I can do a bad-ass pump-action with the front grip to reload. I can hold the lever down under the trigger to crouch in cover. I can even look down the barrel as if I was aiming, which isn’t the least bit necessary given the reticle displayed onscreen.

But the learning curve to get here — to the “feeling cool” part of using the Sharpshooter at the far side of several hours of spazzing out — is a real bear. There’s a lot of fussing and fighting to figure out the settings that work best for you. You can set the bounding box that determines when your view shifts as you move the reticule towards the edge of the screen. There are separate settings for reticule sensitivity and turning speed. You can change whether crouching and cover are toggled. It’s a mostly friendly spread of ways to use the Sharpshooter, but it relies on you to tune it. And if you’re acquainted with shooters, you’re going to have to adjust the muscles you use to play them. That’s no mean feat. Just watch anyone playing DDR for the first time.

Of course, if you’ve got a PS3 and a Move — both prerequisites for the Sharpshooter — then another $40 can’t be an issue, right? I mean, seriously, you dropped $60 on your copy of Killzone 3, didn’t you? And you’re probably the kind of guy who lets Activision and Microsoft charge you $15 for a pack of three maps for Call of Duty or Halo. You’re obviously so made of money that you don’t mind peeling a few sawbucks off the wad in your pocket next time you’re at Gamestop to buy a custom faceplate for your Xbox 360.

So, yeah, you look silly, it’s tough to learn, and it’s at least another $40. But those aren’t the real problems with the Sharpshooter. The real problem is that it’s solving a problem that many of us don’t have. Namely, using the gamepad to play a shooter. Goldeneye and then Halo solved that problem nearly ten years ago. Shooters are played with the fingertips, whether it’s scooting a mouse around that space under my palm or thumbing a pair of analog sticks. Both are efficient, practical, and established. I don’t move my arm or even my wrist to aim. And that’s what the Sharpshooter asks me to do when I’m using it to play Killzone 3, a hardcore shooter built to reward efficient, practical, and established modes of control.

The gameplay in Killzone 3 involves a lot of moving around and whipping your head from side to side to check what’s going on around you. Or “situational awareness”, in the parlance of tactics beyond simple running and gunning. If you’re using your arms to swing the reticule around wildly to check your 3, your 9, and your 6, you’re expending a lot of energy. In a multiplayer match, it’s far too much effort to keep up with what’s going on. And I already get a little muscle fatigue playing shooters online just from being tense. It’s a slightly physical experience. Having to hold up my arms, positioned to aim a gun even when I’m just hanging fire somewhere, is a real hassle. In the single player game, which is pretty much laid out like a corridor shooter with most everything happening in front of you, I guess it works okay. But that raises the question “Why would you play the single player game of Killzone 3?”

Now you might notice that I have a pair of plastic pistols for my Wiimotes and that I wouldn’t dream of playing House of the Dead: Overkill without them. Good point. But that’s the difference between a goofy lightgun game and an actual shooter like Killzone 3. I wouldn’t dream of playing House of the Dead: Overkill without those little plastic guns, any more than I’d dream of playing Killzone 3 with the Sharpshooter.

For the kinds of people who buy a Kinect, the Sharpshooter might be a gimmick they can show their friends, sort of like a Wii game with HD graphics or an accessory for the Kinect. For them, all this motion control stuff is interchangeable. They’ve been sold a bill of goods about the tyranny of pressing buttons or the liberating freedom of fatiguing your whole arm to work your videogame. That’s too bad. Because it’s a sign that console developers are selling people solutions to problems that simply don’t exist. Until we get a new kind of game — Dance Central, for instance — the gamepad is just fine by me.

Up next: time to diversify
Click here for the previous Killzone 3 game diary.