Regardless of how bad the current home ownership crisis becomes, please don't buy property on Helghan. The homeworld of humanity's bitter and amber-eyed enemy is toxic, cramped and filled with brutal conflict.
Guerrilla Games brings a nimble artistry to proceedings but once again, it's in order to depict the most horrible place imaginable - a bit like asking Renoir to travel the country doing oil paintings of Little Chefs. Bilious yellow smoke, flickering ash, blood on the snow (it's possible I'm still discussing Little Chef at this point): Killzone 3 is the most beautiful ugly game I've ever played.
It's good, too. A chance to get stuck into the current multiplayer beta suggests a game that's sturdy and surprisingly moreish for an experience that takes place, pretty much exclusively, in a series of ruined industrial hell-holes.
Bugbears like controller lag have been significantly improved – squeeze a trigger and your gun almost always fires instantaneously. At the same time, borrowed elements like experience points have been refined.
Throw in bot support to learn the ropes and a control scheme which allows you to switch out some bizarre choices (Guerrilla prefers iron-sights on R3 for some reason, but you can quickly change it to the left trigger), and the game delivers pacy online bloodletting in one of the most weighty and atmospheric science fiction settings I've ever experienced.
There are three maps and three game types on offer for the beta. The latter are relatively straightforward. Guerrilla Warfare is team deathmatch, while Warzone randomises your side's mission every five minutes or so to give things a little dynamism. Operations essentially strings a handful of different objectives together into a mini-narrative that sees the Helghast attempting to fend off an ISA incursion.
In contrast, the maps are anything but straightforward. They're large, complex and filled with a potentially distracting level of detail. They take a while to get used to and after several hours with the game, I was still stumbling into new areas. But the complexity actually makes for some exciting battles.
Each of the three available arenas mix interior areas with open spaces, but so polluted and particle-filled is the air of Killzone that even outdoors ,with a massive skybox around you, the atmosphere retains a claustrophobic, close-up intensity. Plus, a pronounced tendency towards multi-level vertical design means you almost always have to keep your eyes moving for threats.
Frozen Dam is probably the easiest map to get your head around: a sprawl of factory interiors clustered across an arcing quarter-circle of concrete, visibility is reduced whenever you're outside because of the thrashing curtains of swirling snow. It's a great place for Warzone as there are a surprising number of different ways to get from point A to point B, and its various objective hotspots are easy to reach and hard to defend.
Next up is Corinth Highway, a huge ruined area where the sky is thick with yellow gunk. Shattered sections of tarmac and concrete make an excellent stomping ground for the gorilla-like bipedal mechs.
Finally, Turbine Concourse SE-6 is both the most gimmicky of the arenas and the slowest burner. A gutted and partially dismantled factory, by the looks of it, the sickly green lighting is caused by a central chunk of malfunctioning machinery that goes off every few minutes taking your radar with it. (More importantly, it makes a fabulously cool noise at the same time, which I assume Guerrilla can only have captured by recording two Boeing 747s having sexual intercourse.)
It's filled with secrets, from twitching robot arms that whir away in the background drawing your attention (often fatally), to a series of puddle-filled trenches, which bring a fitting touch of World War I to Killzone's grimy conflict.
Turbine's just great for popping enemies in the face as they tool around a corner with no radar, and it's the only map that currently supports jetpacks. Under Guerrilla's careful handling these are so short on juice they only give you a quick boost into the air, and they're so quick to recharge you can bound across the landscape like a deadly metallic frog. One more of my lifetime ambitions to cross off the list, then. Like Gatsby, my count of enchanted objects has been diminished by one.
The game types ensure you'll get the most out of the maps. Guerrilla Warfare is a pleasantly straightforward take on standard deathmatches while Warzone, which has been imported from Killzone 2, is already my favourite this time around.
The regular rotation of objectives makes for exciting battles – one minute you're all huddled together protecting an ally who's been singled out for assassination, the next you're rushing across the map to capture distant points. With its fairly regular flow of experience points, it's ideal for unlocks grinding.
Operations is an interesting middle-ground, providing a briefer, more controlled experience as you switch through a range of objectives based around either attacking or defending. It will be fascinating to see how Guerrilla builds upon it with the final game.
On top of all this is a muddle of classes and rewards. The classes are fairly standard, offering you variations on medics, engineers, snipers, and such like, with the Infiltrator being the most immediately enjoyable in my book. With a lovely scoped-shotgun as standard and a skill that allows you to disguise yourself as a rival team member right out of the box, it's built for deadly mischief.
Other classes' skills are equally entertaining, however, including standards like healing, turret-building and invisibility. The long game involves earning unlock points as you level up. There's a decent range of perks to bring online and level and some nice extra weapons, including a machine pistol that has a truly terrific bite to it and a shotgun pistol that's absolutely as brilliant as it sounds.
With clan support and those nasty melee finishers that have been all over YouTube in their throat-cutting and eye-gouging glory, Killzone 3's multiplayer is in thoroughly good shape. When it comes to grimy visuals and brutal metallic audio, Guerrilla can't be beaten: with decent maps, swift-moving game types and improved weapon handling, the studio's latest game is going to be a lot of fun.