Jaw-dropping. That is the best way to describe my exact sentiments when first looking around the environment in Killzone: Shadow Fall, which is without a doubt, the most visually impressive console game (no PC talk for this review) I likely have ever played. It is quite hard to just explain in words, as it needs to be experienced in person to see the great lengths Guerrilla Games went to in order to a craft a game that truly looks ‘next-generation’.
Killzone: Shadow Fall certainly gives the Playstation 4 a much-needed exclusive title that will draw gamers toward Sony’s newest console. After the slight disappointment that was Killzone 3, I managed to keep my hopes in check when first powering on Killzone: Shadow Fall. Killzone 3 was nowhere near a massive failure, but it paled in comparison to the well-received Killzone 2.
From the on-set, Killzone: Shadow Fall will immediately draw you in to a beautifully-detailed world that constantly finds itself stuck in endless turmoil. Taking place 30 years after the rather lackluster ending to Killzone 3, the Helghast are now forced to co-exist with the Vektans on Vekta, which ends up becoming a recipe for disaster, as a new conflict is stirred up, forcing the Vektans to defend their home planet from their Helghan co-inhabitants.
Killzone: Shadow Fall places players in the boots of Logan Kellan, a Shadow Marshall, now tasked with the responsibility of defending his homeland, but players will experience some twists and turns toward the end of the game that all finalizes with a satisfying ending sequence that wraps up a decent 8-hour campaign. The story for Shadow Fall does manage to get a bit murky during certain parts, as I often had to stop and ask myself what exactly was happening. Killzone: Shadow Fall’s story is a large improvement over Killzone 3, but still had me trying to completely grasp the entirety of the situation my character found himself in.
Throughout the campaign, players will certainly feel more freedom than ever before in the Killzone series. Not quite as open as other FPS-titles on the market, Shadow Fall does feels a bit more expansive than previous installments. It’s no Far Cry 3, but there are more options available to the player regarding how they want to get things done. Each chapter contains a variety of objectives that can be completed, but you are now able to use various routes to reach your objectives, not following a linear-set path to accomplish your goals.
This open-endedness is evident near the beginning of the game, yet slowly fades away in later chapters, as you are left shuffling through gigantic Helghan bases, one hallway or platform after the next. The latter few missions in the game do lack that same feeling of non-linearity as earlier chapters in Shadow Fall. This causes a large majority of the campaign to drag on a bit with some remarkable looking, but uninspiring locations to visit in later chapters. Fighting Helghan inside of a dark, dimly-lit storage facility does not match shootouts inside a building planted right in the middle of a brightly-lit and colorful city. Even with some of the game’s level design flaws in parts of the later chapters, Killzone: Shadow Fall still provides one of the best single-player campaigns from any FPS-title currently available.
Fans of the more recent Killzone titles will notice some significant changes to the gameplay, which have in turn, made Killzone: Shadow Fall a much faster and fluid game. The first thing that stands out is how much faster your character moves. The old weighted-down feeling that previous games featured is gone for the most part. No longer do you feel bogged down and cumbersome making it much easier to maneuver through the environments.
One of the latest additions is a handy robot that assists you on all of your missions. OWL, a flying robotic device that can do-it-all, provides a sense of backup throughout the game’s campaign. Order it to attack enemies, hack control panels, stun shielded Helghast, and even heal you when downed. It is a neat device that acts as a security blanket of sorts, able to help when you find yourself in dire trouble. Your companion OWL also makes neat use of the DualShock 4’s touch pad found in the middle of the controller. By swiping the touch pad in a specific direction, players can designate a command for OWL to execute. Swipe right and OWL acts as a zip-line able to transport players across various areas of the map. Swipe up and OWL becomes a dangerous weapon, firing its mini-guns on nearby enemies.
ECHO is also a new tool found in Shadow Fall. It is a radar device able to pick-up nearby enemy signatures and items scattered throughout the levels. The problem is ECHO’s limited range making it almost a necessity to be directly on-top of your enemy to actually pick up their heat signature. If you also use it longer than the allotted 3 seconds they give, it transmits a loud noise through the air, which alerts enemies to your presence. I felt it ended up becoming a near-useless tool in the long-run. On most occasions, I just sent out OWL to draw enemy fire making it easier for me to spot enemies, both near-and-far.
Besides the control of OWL, the DualShock 4 controller is used quite extensively in Killzone: Shadow Fall. The light near the back of the controller acts as a health indicator constantly adjusting itself detailing what kind of shape you are in. If lit up green, everything is running smoothly. If it is lit up dark yellow or red, you better find a doctor soon. When players also come across many of the audio logs found throughout the game’s environments, the audio from that log will play out of the controller’s built-in speaker, allowing any noise from game itself to remain unaffected. Guerrilla Games did a magnificent job of implementing some of the DualShock 4’s features into Shadow Fall and hopefully more developers follow suit.
After completing Killzone: Shadow Fall’s impressive single-player campaign, it is time to take the action online with Shadow Fall’s well-constructed and insanely fun multiplayer. Players can play any one of the many game modes (team deathmatch, free-for-all, capture the point, etc.) individually or in the always popular form of Warzone, which combines all of the many game modes into one with rotating objectives every few minutes. Most players will find themselves playing Warzone, not just because everyone else is, but because it is the most enjoyable way of playing Killzone online with others. With objectives constantly shifting, it provides a nice change of pace and gives gamers a unique multiplayer experience. There is also Custom Warzones, which gives players the option to create their very own games with rules and weapon arrangements tailored to their liking.
The aspect that most impressed me about the online component was how well it ran. It still includes the outstanding visuals from the single-player campaign, but the frame-rate was so much smoother online, giving players a perfect mesh of graphical detail and constant frame-rate that most games cannot manage to perfectly harmonize together for online play.
There are 10 maps to choose from, each featuring a nice change of scenery for online play. More maps are expected in the near future, and are likely to be free of charge, according to Guerrilla Games. Players also have plenty of loadout options to choose from allowing for plenty of customization.
Killzone: Shadow Fall is a solid launch title that the Playstation 4 needs to compete with its competition this holiday season. The single-player campaign is decent, providing a good 8-hours of action, albeit, with a few quirks and problems here and there. The multiplayer, on the other hand, has the ability to likely keep players occupied for a long-time to come with its deep and robust gameplay. Shadow Fall packs more than just visuals. From top-to-bottom, Killzone: Shadow Fall is one of the more complete launch titles for the Playstation 4 and paints a pretty picture of what is possible with the PS4 going forward.