Review

Killzone: Shadow Fall

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Of all the Guerrilla Games titles I’ve played, I consider Killzone 3 to house the best, most well-paced singleplayer campaign, while the multiplayer additions and features of Killzone 2 continued to be the most focussed and fresh when they were introduced in that game.

Killzone: Shadow Fall, however, fills its role as an impressive showcase for the PlayStation 4 very nicely but can it compete for my fond memories of previous Killzone games?

What You Need to Know

Killzone: Shadow Fall continues the series’ focus as a first-person shooter and takes place decades after the events of Killzone 3, where the planet of Helghan was invaded and destroyed leaving it people homeless. Their mortal enemies (and the planet’s invaders), the Vektans, decide to designate half of the planet of Vekta to house the displaced Helghan, which means forced removals and continued resentment between the two civilizations.

Shadow Fall’s protagonist, Lucas Kellen, a Vektan and victim of the removals, joins the Vektan Security Agency (VSA) and after an attack on the organisation’s headquarters by Helghast soldiers it’s up to you to infiltrate the enemy’s side of the planet to take them down once and for all, but as you might expect, Kellen soon learns that there are two sides to the story and the Helghan aren’t solely to blame for pulling the two sides towards an all-out war.

The narrative will take you from the planet’s surface fighting against the Helghast in the sterling and pristine Vekta City as well as in the depressingly desolate slums of the Helghan portion of the planet over ‘The Wall,’ with jaunts on a space station in zero-gravity, stealth missions in the bowels of Helghan, and then a trip to the devastated and abandoned Helghan planet, now even more unstable and deadly than before with crumbling cities and seemingly bottomless fissures cracking the world’s surface without warning.

As a demonstration of next-gen graphical might, Killzone: Shadow Fall doesn’t disappoint and every environment is lavished with staggering detail and fidelity, with set-piece moments and roller-coaster-like events showcasing what’s possible on the PlayStation 4.

Shadow Fall also includes a feature-rich multiplayer component with the series’ innovative Warzone mode (comprising individual modes like team deathmatch, capture and hold and more) which has now been expanded to include user created modes, with the option to play as one of three customisable classes.



What’s New?

While additions like the ability to silently knife an enemy and then immediately perform another takedown in quick succession are neat, it’s the use of the OWL attack drone that goes the furthest in mixing up the standard Killzone formula.

The OWL is an invisible drone that follows you around ready to help in a fight at a moment’s notice with one of four commands: Attack, Zipline, Shield and Stun. After setting the drone’s mode by swiping the PS4 controller’s touchpad left, right, up or down, you can call on the OWL to rain bullets down on targets, set up a temporary shield, zap targets to stun them or shoot out a zipline from your location to a platform or ledge below you. If you go down in combat and the drone isn’t busy (and you have a health pack available), the OWL will even revive you.

You can also use the OWL to perform a quick scan of the area to highlight enemies on the screen to provide a bit of a tactical edge and let you plan out your attack on groups of soldiers. Using a health pack, on the other hand, puts you into a slow motion state to help you pick off enemies at your leisure for a few seconds – a very handy advantage when health is low and odds are stacked against you.

In multiplayer, Shadow Fall allows players to create their own modes, or Warzones, simply by toggling various options like available maps, and which classes, abilities and weapons are allowed in the rotation. Shadow Fall’s multiplayer also unlocks all classes and weapons from the start, leaving you to level up your favourite equipment and unlock attachments and improvements as you play.

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What’s the Same?

If you’ve ever played a Killzone game, or you’ve heard Killzone fans talk about them, you’ll know about the series’ hefty movement and deliberate combat, and Killzone: Shadow Fall is no different.

Walking and running feels heavy and it always looks like a real effort for your in-game persona to rattle off rounds from chunky rifles and massive machine guns. Grenade throws, too, are energy consuming actions as your view sways this way and that with animation taking priority over immediately responsive feedback.

Cover-based shooting is also still part of the Killzone gameplay formula, although I didn’t use it very much and was content to duck below waist-high projections and broken walls as pure cover rather than perches to shoot from.

The series’ distinctive and stark art direction also returns in Shadow Fall and once you get out of Vekta City and start seeing the familiar orange glow of the Helghast masks, it’s unmistakably a Killzone game.

You’ll Enjoy Killzone: Shadow Fall If You Liked…

- The story, setting and gameplay of the Killzone series

- The feeling of tactical combat in the Crysis series

- The set-pieces and historically inspired story of Resistance



What I Liked

- 5.) I really enjoyed the chance to approach most missions from different directions, and combined with the ability to scan for enemies, allowed for strategy during certain sections of the campaign.

- 4.) Shadow Fall’s save points are generally well spaced out meaning I didn’t have to replay vast sections of the game if I was cut down.

- 3.) Although I hope to see improvements in the future, the visuals on offer in Shadow Fall – particularly when things were blowing up or if a vista was in sight – were impressive.

- 2.) The multiplayer component of Shadow Fall is solid overall, running at a smooth framerate (especially compared to Killzone 3) while the ability to create custom modes and a focus on character customisation is smart.

- 1.) The inclusion of the OWL drone adds a lot of depth to the gameplay in the campaign, and though it wasn’t always useful all cases I enjoyed thinking about my approach to a combat situation using this tool at my disposal.

Favourite Moment

A lot of the set-piece moments in Shadow Fall are memorable, like crash landing on Helghan while racing through dilapidated buildings in an obliterated city, or seeing an entire ISA fleet wiped from existence in the blink of an eye, but escaping a space station on a collision course with the sun meant being able to shoot out window blinds to let the sun’s rays melt enemies in their path, which felt like fun unscripted moments.

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What I Didn’t Like

- 5.) Shadow Fall suffers from a lot of rough edges, not least of which are peculiar cuts in sound effects and sounds not playing, leading to certain sequences (that otherwise should be important moments, like scripted melee scuffles and impactful parts of the story) falling flat.

- 4.) The overall mission structure has a very regressive quality about it, making it feel as though I was simply going back and forth between areas while taking part in unremarkable protection missions with wave-based challenges to get through.

- 3.) While dealing with serious subject matter, Shadow Fall’s story is delivered nonsensically, and the dialogue exchanges between characters is mostly composed of emotionally-charged non-sequiturs.

- 2.) The enemy and friendly AI is generally poor, content to run in place against walls and ignore my presence in equal measure.

- 1.) After fighting through what is a fairly epic adventure, I still can’t get over how poorly implemented and limp the near-final sequence and final mission of Shadow Fall are, leaving me with a deflated impression of the game overall.

Least Favourite Moment

The final mission of Shadow Fall’s campaign is certainly poor, but a certain boss fight against one of the main antagonists (who uses drones and self-detonating electronic spiders to attack) stands out as the most frustrating, unnecessary moment in the game, made worse by his cheesy verbal jabs.


Killzone Shadow Fall – Launch Trailer


What’s Extra?

Shadow Fall’s campaign has a fair amount of collectibles to discover off the beaten path, including a full comic series that you can read cover to cover, while improving your character and creating custom game types in multiplayer (which currently enjoys an active community) should keep fervent fans busy for months to come.

The Bottom Line

As a game to accompany the launch of a new console, Killzone: Shadow Fall is successful at showcasing the PlayStation 4′s capabilities but doesn’t match up to the quality of Killzone 3′s campaign, and only marginally improves on the formula of the series’ previous multiplayer offerings.


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