Killzone: Shadow Fall
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed)
Release Date: November 15, 2013
Install Size: 45 GB (PlayStation 4)
Price: $59.99 – Available Here
Sony has long been touting Killzone: Shadow Fall as their premiere first party first-person shooter for the PlayStation 4. As a launch title for the new console, Guerrilla Games has had their work cut out for them. With the recent release of Killzone: Mercenary for the Vita, there was proof that the series could thrive beyond its original trilogy. How does the first triple-A first-party title hold up? Does it herald a new generation or should it have been put down before reaching Vekta?
In the wake of a petrusite detonation that virtually rendered the planet of Helghan uninhabitable, the people of the ISA decided the best thing to do was to bring the remaining Helghast to Vekta, erect an enormous wall, and give them all of the land on the other side of the wall. As a result, this forced the current Vektan inhabitants to leave, many of whom were slaughtered before ever reaching the wall.
Players control Lucas Kellen. As a child, Lucas was one of those who had to leave his home. Before he and his father could escape, however, Helghast forces slaughtered his father. Just as they were descending on Lucas, a Vektan Shadow Marshal named Sinclair took out the attackers. Without a home or father, Lucas fell under the protection of Sinclair and began his own Shadow Marshal training. Now, it’s his job to run covert operations over the wall in an attempt to keep the Helghast threat abated, but something sinister is just over the rise and it will take everything Lucas has to fight it.
The Killzone franchise has been around since the late days of the PlayStation 2. That, coupled with the playstyle of the original trilogy, could lead people to believe that every game with the Killzone name is going to be tied to heavy, plodding movements and a “Red vs. Blue” mentality. While we’re still in a war of primary colors, fans may be surprised to hear that the feeling of underwater movement has been ditched in favor of a much more responsive experience with solid gunplay.
As a Shadow Marshal, your combat style feels notably different than that of the grunts you forced through the planet Helghan before. Kellen typically tries to avoid conflict head-on, opting instead of calculate the moves of his enemies and take them down from the shadows. To aid in this, he has access to a scanning ability that can send out a sweep, temporarily making enemies on your HUD much easier to see, especially when behind cover. There’s a small bit of risk/reward with the system, though, as the further sweep you send out, the higher chance you’ll overcharge yourself and alert enemies to your presence instead.
On top of the ability to scan for enemies, you’ll get access to the OWL. This combat drone can follow you into battle and aid you on your missions. The version of the OWL in Shadow Fall offers you a defensive shield, an attack mode, a stun blast (which is particularly effective with shielded enemies), and a rappelling rope to quickly descend from higher elevations. The OWL is also required to help hack computer terminals either for story progression or to turn off an alarm.
In terms of the campaign, Shadow Fall feels like it struggles to find its place. The game’s story is cohesive enough to get you to a conclusion, but it’s severely hampered by poorly written dialogue and some sour story beats. With perhaps one or two exceptions, you’ll never really feel engaged by any of the characters, and even our protagonist never really feels relatable.
The missions over the course of the campaign work hard to offer a fair bit of variety, so you aren’t left to merely run-and-gun through the entire 8+ hour affair. You’ll infiltrate enemy territory, zip around through space, work unarmed through back alleys, and more. They work hard to keep objectives shuffled, but a few levels themselves feel like they should’ve been left on the cutting room floor. Some missions feel like they lack a sense of direction, occasionally leaving you wandering from one place to the next with no real guidance. You can find yourself backtracking when it’s unnecessary. To top it off, the objective marker is solid red, making it easy to lose sight of, even when you’re making a conscious effort to follow it.
As a major component of any triple-A first-person shooter, there has to be a competitive multiplayer mode. To that effect, Killzone: Shadow Fall does not disappoint. The game boasts several playable classes, each with their own customizable loadouts. It also ties in a full progression system with each of these weapons and loadouts to keep you working toward the next weapon, scope, and so on. One of the strongest components of the multiplayer are in its “Warzones.” Each warzone can be set up and customized to give players a unique experience, offering a wide variety of shifting objectives in the middle of a match to keep things interesting. You’re free to design your own and release it to the masses. Overall, Shadow Fall offers a solid multiplayer package for fans who’ve picked up the game. Launching alongside multiplayer-focused titles with pedigree like Call of Duty:Ghosts and Battlefield 4, however, leaves the title feeling a bit lacking for longevity by comparison.
Killzone: Shadow Fall is a fantastic looking game. The character models carry the unique look of both ISA and Helghan sensibilities, with those glowing red eyes standing out as much as ever. Weapons and character models have a lot of fine detail that help immerse you. Helghan landscapes feel dark and ashen, which is less visually impressive, but the Vektan half of the world is gorgeous. Tall, white structures accented with a blue glow feature reflective glass and flowing lines that help lend a sense of futuristic utopian feel. Rays of light bathe you as you walk through tree cover. It can truly be an impressive, jaw-dropping visual experience.
Shadow Fall, unfortunately, has fairly forgettable sound design. The game is peppered with deep, ominous tunes that pick up with the action, but none of it is memorable, even at the key points in the story. The voice acting is also somewhat lacking. Much of that is thanks to poorly written dialogue that often feels out of place, but the delivery often comes across as weak or forced. The sound effects are well placed, however, with gunfire and explosions helping carry the weight of the arsenal you wield.
Overall, Killzone: Shadow Fall is a fair entry in the series that does a good job showing off what the PlayStation 4 is capable of. The game has great gunplay and a solid multiplayer component, though it would be hard pressed to stand against some of its online-focused competitors. It can look jaw-dropping at times, but the lackluster sound design, poorly written story and dialogue, and sometimes confusing mission design really hamper what could have been an incredible launch experience. If you’re a fan of the Killzone franchise, you’ll enjoy what you get, but newcomers may be more comfortable with other launch games in the genre.
Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.