Every since the original game on PlayStation 2, I’ve been a fan of Killzone and the aesthetic of the universe that Guerrilla Games has created. Killzone 2 acted as a great showcase for the PlayStation 3 while including new cover-based shooting mechanics and diving deeper into the history of the harsh, excellently realised Killzone world, and even though Killzone 3 took a step or two backwards as far as multiplayer is concerned it was a first-person shooter set apart by pitch-perfect pacing and jaw-dropping set-piece moments.
The next game in the series, Killzone: Shadow Fall, was officially announced earlier this year with the reveal of the PlayStation 4 and continued to drop jaws thanks to the game’s truly next-gen visuals and promises of a game that aimed to further explore the history of the Helghast and Vektan factions in a new setting: The world of Vekta.
El33tonline recently went hands-on with Killzone: Shadow Fall at E3 2013 and discovered a very different focus from the team at Guerrilla Games while tooling around with new gadgets in a refreshingly varied environment.
Killzone: Shadow Fall – E3 Trailer
Previous Killzone adventures have been entrenched in gloomy industrial wastelands and devastated, wartorn cities where the sight of rust, rubble and collapsed buildings was the order of the day. In the E3 demo I played of Shadow Fall, these visions have been banished and replaced with a deep green forest, soft light filtering through trees from a morning sun, bright lights and vibrant colours. Other Killzone games have been set in ‘natural’ environments before, but never quite so lush with life.
Guided by Guerrilla Games’ art director, Misja Baas, I was told that this section is only the second mission of Killzone: Shadow Fall, and represents one of the single largest areas of the game. As I explored, this is easy to believe and it may just be the largest open area I’ve ever seen in a Killzone experience complete with sprawling vistas, a gigantic gorge separating two landmasses (with a sparkling waterfall and river down the centre), trees as far as the eye can see, and a few military installations dotted about the place.
There wasn’t a lot of time for sight-seeing as there was already a long line behind me waiting to play, so Baas quickly got me to grips with the control system and new abilities. For one, you can zipline from your location to just about any area or surface that you can see. As long as it’s below you and within a certain range, you’ll be able to attach your line and slide to your destination. If you aim just right, Baas told me, you can literally get the drop on unaware enemies by falling on top of them and slicing their throat. With a quick right swipe on the PlayStation 4 controller’s touchpad, I selected the zipline and depressed a trigger to execute the manoeuvre.
Unfortunately, I failed my attempt to swiftly take down the Helghast watchman, but I was able to gun him down with an incredibly detailed machine gun, which doubles as an extremely powerful sniper rifle at the touch of the d-pad allowing you to charge up your shot by holding the right shoulder button and releasing to fire off a round, with a cool visible arc showing you where your shot will end up.
As one of the largest levels in the game, Baas let me know that there are three main objectives to complete, with a fourth and final mission at the end. These three objectives (namely retrieving lost intel, rescuing a group of friendly soldiers and destroying anti-air guns while disabling a comms tower) can be completed in any order and there may even be benefits to tackling them in a certain sequence, but the last part of the mission (extracting the soldiers) will be the last thing you’ll need to do to finish up this part of the game (which Baas said could easily take around forty minutes to complete).
After dropping my first soldier in Killzone: Shadow Fall, Baas casually let me know that I had alerted other soldiers in the area, who promptly rappelled down to the ground from a dropship and quickly surrounding me. The AI in Shadow Fall seemed particularly fierce, shouting out my location to allies, rushing to cover, flushing me out with grenades and peppering me with volleys of fire. Luckily the cover system is back again in Killzone, but there is a very valuable gadget that I could call upon, too: The OWL.
The OWL is a floating, roving drone that not only helped me zipline down into the action earlier by providing my first connecting point from which to hang, but can also be summoned to lay down rounds of fire on enemies when you’re in trouble while additionally providing an impenetrable shield through which you yourself can shoot – very handy when you find yourself without a shred of cover to stand behind.
Enemies can also trigger an alarm if they see you skulking about the world, but your OWL can hack into the alarm to disable it before or after you’ve been spotted. The OWL is also useful when scouting out areas in front of you, providing intel on dangers up ahead and will charge (well, fly really fast) at enemies and temporarily disorient them with a shock attack. You can discover the locations of enemies around you on your own by pinging out with a scanner, which reveals soldiers behind walls and obstacles in your immediate surroundings with a recognisable red glow. If you charge your scanner for too long, however, you’ll alert your enemies to your presence, so you’ll need to use this particular gadget very wisely.
To keep yourself on track, there’s the option to click in the PS4 controller’s touchpad to bring up an objective marker to move towards, and keeping in mind the zipline ability you can make quick work of the distance by gliding your way closer to completing another part of your mission. It’s key to remain aware of threats, however, because you can quickly find yourself surrounded. A hastily thrown grenade can help get you out of a tight spot, but using Shadow Fall’s Bullet Time mode while aiming down the sight of your gun helps dramatically when trying to efficiently pick off targets, either nearby or from afar.
Getting up close and personal for a brutal melee kill is just as satisfying as previous Killzone titles, but sometimes this tactic can backfire resulting in a high intensity close quarters gunfight and drastically reduced health. The press of a d-pad button helps regain some strength, and will put you into ‘Adrenaline’ mode while aiming to pull off that Bullet Time ability. Other abilities, like calling in the drone and zipline, are readied with a swipe of the touchpad, but other than the objective finder I didn’t play with any other uses of the technology.
From what I played through of Killzone: Shadow Fall at E3 2013, Misja Baas and his art team at Guerrilla Games have so far down a terrific job of envisioning an all-new, bright and vibrant world for Killzone fans to play through, and with the introduction of the OWL drone and extra abilities like scanning for enemies and the zipline, we’ll have more gadgets and skills (and therefore combat abilities) to play with than ever before.
While it would be easy to dismiss Killzone: Shadow Fall as a simple demonstration of the power of the PlayStation 4, what I’ve seen has cemented the game as an incredibly strong entry to the console’s launch line-up and much more than a graphical showcase, with smart new tools available to players to make it much more than a straightforward run-and-gun first-person shooter, too. It’ll be exciting to once again hurtle into the historied universe of Killzone later this year.
Killzone: Shadow Fall – E3 Art Direction Walkthrough
Follow El33tonline’s extensive previous and continued coverage of E3 2013 with all of the most important and exciting news, announcements, screenshots, trailers and additional details.