Developer: Guerrilla Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: November 15th, 2013
Available on: Playstation 4
With the launch of the new consoles there’s an expectation of big budget AAA games to carry the consoles through the initial launch so they can get their footing. For the Playstation 4 that game is Killzone: Shadow Fall. As always for the series, Killzone provides some of the most impressive graphics available on the console. What’s really going to matter is how the rest of the game holds up.
Shadow Fall takes place 50 years after Killzone 3. With Helghan becoming unlivable due to the war the Helghast population is forced into space. Forming an uneasy alliance with their enemies, the Helghast are allowed to settle in half of the planet of Vekta, erecting a huge wall between the two civilizations and starting a very uneasy truce. You play as Lucuas Kellan, a member of a group called the Shadow Marshals, who act like assassins for the Vektans. Much of the game is him being assigned to kill Helghasts and retrieve important Vektans from the other side of the wall. The game slowly begins to tie the events together, but sadly the story doesn’t get very interesting. I’ve rather enjoyed the Killzone universe so I do appreciate getting to see more of it, but it takes too long for the plot to really get going and once it does it doesn’t really go anywhere. There are themes of racism and social class here, but neither are expanded upon besides a brief glimpse at them and going “Yeah so that’s racism” before moving on. People here for the plot are probably going to find themselves disappointed.
Luckily the game play is here to take over. The first level of Killzone: Shadow Fall is brilliant. It’s an open area with multiple objectives that you can complete in any order you want, using either run-and-gun methods or by sneaking around. There’s points to use your zip line creatively, hidden passages to explore, an optional structure to find collectables in. It’s a real shame then that this design doesn’t carry over for most the other missions. There’s one level that takes place in a slum that’s sort of similar to this, but for the most part the level design begins to turn to smaller levels that lead you by the nose from one fire fight to the next. There’s nothing wrong with either design, but it’s really disappointing to see the game turn to the latter after doing the former so well. New to the series is a little robot companion called the OWL. With a swipe of the touch pad you can set the OWL into one of four modes. I found the stun mode to be the most useful, sending out the OWL and delivering an EMP blast to stun enemies and destroy shields. On the other hand, the zip line ability is almost completely situational and pretty much useless for the majority of the game. If you get killed in combat the OWL also has the ability to administer adrenaline to you to bring you back to life. If you have spare adrenaline you can also use it to allow you to slow down time while aiming down the sights, and bring you back to full health. You also have an ability called the Tactical Echo. The way it works is that you can send out an echo to see enemies through walls to better plan assaults or for sneaking around. The catch is that if you leave the echo on for too long, enemies will hear it and be alerted to your location.
The longer it goes on though, the worse the single player campaign gets. There are space segments in the game, but they pretty much consists of you floating around and sometimes hitting buttons to advance. There are “puzzles” that require you to put power cells into generators, but almost every time you need to do this the power cell is barely a foot away. These segments both feel more like busy work to pad out the game’s length. Even worse is when the game starts making it’s objectives unclear and stops laying out markers. One part of the game serves as a tutorial to teach you how to call out shots for your sniper partner. They ask you to “shoot a vent” but fail to tell you where this vent is. After five minutes of searching I just ended up mashing the left bumper and looking about wildly before, by chance, I manage to find the vent all tucked away in a corner. Another part had me open an air lock and asked me to “approach the air lock” but failed to tell me I also needed to grab the very hard to see rope that is attached to the side of it, causing me to run circles around the air lock and wondering why nothing was happening until I grabbed the rope by accident. Eventually this just begins to get in the way of having fun shooting Helghast and the game suffers because of it. It’s a good thing that Killzone: Shadow Fall’s multiplayer is top of it’s class.
Shadow Fall is smart with how it does multiplayer. The main game mode here is called Warzone, which rolls up four different game modes into five rounds. One minute you’ll be playing a team deathmatch, and the next you’ll be playing capture the flag. It’s smart, and requires you to pay attention to the constantly changing objectives so you can score and win. The game still has the classic game modes and you can play them all separately. The most important game mode is not any of the defaults, but the player made ones. Killzone’s multiplayer features a pretty in depth match customization tools, letting you mess around with the settings as much as you want. The most popular game modes of the week are featured as official game modes. One of these game modes had one team with just pistols, knives, and cloaking devices and pit them against another team with chainguns, heavy armor, and deployable shields. The less well equipped team had to successfully climb, duck, and sneak their way around the environment to ambush the better equipped team. Another mode was a team deathmatch variant where everyone had very low health, ammo, and no support abilities. It’s a lot of fun seeing the creative game modes and I can’t wait to see what else shows up.
Killzone is also a little different in a few other ways when it comes to online. There’s no XP progression or unlockable guns that other shooters have made popular, instead you start off with all guns available. The game does feature challenges and every time you complete one, no matter how difficult it is, you go up a rank. Completing a set of challenges can unlock some attachments for your guns or upgrade your support abilities but even new players can compete with high ranked players just fine. The game has three classes and the weapons and abilities available to each class varies. The best teams will utilize a mix of all three classes, but there is room for multiple of the same since a single person from each class can’t use all the abilities their class has to offer. The game also lets you play with bots, in case you need to even up the teams or just want to explore and figure out the maps. It’s not a huge addition, but it’s nice to see.
It’s really worth noting the game’s graphics. Killzone: Shadow Fall is lovely. You can see the amount of effort that went into the game. If you really want a showcase for your next generation console then Killzone: Shadow Fall is worth picking up for that.
Killzone: Shadow Fall is a great game if you’re looking for a multiplayer shooter on the Ps4. While the single player mode starts strong, it eventually falters and stops being much fun. The multiplayer continues it’s trend of being worth the price of admission though thanks to the customizable game modes and changing objectives. My only hope is that the next entry includes a better single player component.