- Format: PS4
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Developer: Guerrilla Games
- Players: 1 (offline), 2-24 (online)
- Site: http://shadowfall.killzone.com/
Killzone is a series that was lauded as a Halo killer when it debuted on the PlayStation 2. The series has never quite managed to live up to those lofty claims. Now two console generations on, the franchise arrives to showcase the next-gen power of the PlayStation 4. But can the series finally live up to those early Halo killer boasts?
Shadow Fall’s campaign takes place decades after the events of Killzone 3, and sees the Vektans and Helghast living side by side in an uneasy peace on the Vektan home world. They are separated by a huge wall, which shadows certain real world political situations. Indeed the narrative brings political and social issues that we have experienced throughout our own history. The hero of the tale is Lucas Kellan, who has to deal with a Helghast terrorist group called The Black Hand, and their leader Tyran. Tyran is a decent enough villain, although he is perhaps used too sparingly, much like Vaas in Far Cry 3.
The first few levels feature quite open areas to explore, and objectives to complete. The graphics are very pretty, with some quite stunning scenery to take in and share on social networks thanks to the PS4’s new Share button. The first few levels are pretty generic, with players shuffling from area to area, clearing out your red eyed nemeses and fulfilling tasks. However the game really shifts up a gear a few levels in, and introduces different gameplay elements and set pieces, which are perhaps the series’ finest moments. Whether you are skydiving after a crashing ship through a crumbling city that reminded us of a scene in Inception, or floating in zero gravity outside a space station (which is reminiscent of Dead Space), the extra grunt that the PS4 gives developers offers you a glimpse of what the next gen is capable of, and is a noticeable jump from the previous console generation.
While some of these set pieces are inspired, there are a few archaic gameplay remnants that do spoil some of the more exhilirating sections. Having to run around avoiding huge mechanical enemies while trying to deactivate two power points and disabling enemy alarms to stop waves of enemies are two such sections. Also while the environments are stunning to behold, with some beautiful lighting and particle effects, and even JJ Abrams-inspired lens flare, the character faces are still quite emotionless; and the animation when they talk is still fairly robotic. The gunplay is suitably weighted like previous entries in the series, although sadly there is no way to buy different guns to customise your load out like in Killzone Mercenary, which is disappointing. However the new OWL drone that you get to deploy is a fantastic addition, which lets you send in your own personal flying robot to take out enemies, while you relax behind cover. You can also use it to deploy a zipline to zip quickly across a ravine, stun enemies with an electric blast, or deploy a shield to protect you from a particularly nasty wave of enemies. To choose each of these powers is simply a matter of swiping in different directions on the DualShock 4’s touch pad, which works extremely well, especially when you’re really up against it. The OWL can also revive you if you have an adrenaline pack in your inventory, which is crucial as things heat up later on in the game.
The Shadow Fall campaign has an engaging story with some fantastic set pieces that really show off the power of Sony’s next gen console. There are some disappointing missions that feel like the designers decided they needed to pad things out, but the high points are still really impressive. Obviously the campaign is just one part of the package, and Shadow Fall contains a substantial multiplayer that builds on the previous games’ solid multiplayer modes.
The multiplayer has several options including Classic Warzone, which rotates between regular online favourites like capture the flag, team deathmatch and search and destroy within one match. There is also Custom Warzones, which lets players create their own online mode to share with others. Some of the levels that we played featured stealth, while others had limited weapons and no radar, and one only allowed you to take a knife into battle. New players are catered for with New Recruits, which allows new players to find their feet against players with similar weapon loadouts and skills, and also Offline Botzone, which allows you to hone your skills against bots before you enter the online arena for real. The levels themselves are repurposed from the single player campaign and are well designed and as graphically impressive as you’d expect, although don’t expect Battlefield levels of destruction. There are three main classes: Scout, Assault and Support. Scout is the stealthy option with cloaking abilities and sniper rifles. Assault has automatic rifles, nano shields and drones, while the Support class is equipped with heavy weapons, gun turrets and air support. There are loads of unlockable perks and abilities and new weapons and attachments to boost your arsenal. However the game doesn’t rely on you earning XP to unlock them, and instead encourages players to complete special challenges to unlock weapons and mods. Multiplayer is great fun in Shadow Fall, with the customisation options offering a great many gameplay possibilities.
Killzone: Shadow Fall is a cracking launch game that deserves to be picked up with your new console. The single player campaign is solid with stunning set pieces, although it is let down by some drab filler missions, while the multiplayer is a lot of fun with lots of customisation. Shadow Fall shows what the next gen is capable of, but unfortunately some last gen artefacts prevent the game from being a classic.