Killzone 3 Multiplayer Beta

Beta the devil you know.

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.

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