Killzone has been a franchise thats had its ups and downs. While not every title in the series has been an outstanding critical success it’s at least fair to say that over the years improvements have been made. The latest outing in the franchise may not be the best sci-fi first person shooter to ever hit consoles but it’s a strong step in the right direction. Guerrilla Games has brought the PS4 a great looking introduction into next-gen shooters and if this is what we get to look forward to over the next few years as gamers I say bring it on.
In the latest of the series you’re thrown into the marching boots of Shadow Marshal Lucas Kellan and a vicious cold war between the Vektans and the Helghast. The Helghast home planet has been reduced to space rubble (see Killzone 3) and they’re now alien refugees living in squalor outside ‘The Wall’ separating them from stunningly beautiful Vekta City. Lucas, orphaned at a young age due to the conflict, is the Vektan’s great white hope. While all the tiles are in place for a great mosaic of a story the campaign unfortunately ends up falling flat due to poor scripting, at times horrible acting and a lack of emotional punch. Guerilla Games should be commended though for its advancement of the Vektan/Helghast relationship as a whole throughout the series and in Shadow Fall specifically. Sure you’re fighting for the righteous Vektan government but on more than once occasion you’re put face to face with the idea that maybe the Helghast aren’t the bad guys. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Who knows? It puts a very real spin on the game that mirrors some current events we’re seeing on our news networks on a daily basis.
As per the standard in this type of game you have an arsenal at your fingertips of various assault rifles, sniper rifles, shotguns and more of varying design. I’d like to say that they all have unique properties or feel different from one another but more than anything a lot of the weapons feel like the same thing with a different skin on them. Aiding you in your assault however is the OWL, a drone device that accompanies you in most of your missions. The OWL can attack, provide shield coverage, stun enemies, hack terminals as well as set up zip lines and proves to be vital to Lucas’ success. More often than not you’ll keep the OWL set to attack (much like Star Trek officers always had their phasers set to stun) but invaluable aid in the form of a shield for example is as easy as a swipe on the new Dualshock 4 touch pad. As a whole if the player can master all the elements of using the OWL it is as much fun to use as it is helpful. If anything the player will have no choice but to master it as despite being a little far and in between at times when the crap hits the proverbial fan the combat is intense and heavy. Sure there are some moments of less than brilliant AI (one instance I encountered had a Helghast staring me down right between the eyes with nary a reaction on his part) but as a whole I found it well balanced, responsive and appropriately challenging based on the difficulty settings.
While you do have the occasional level that is fairly linear in nature, narrow hallways in a derelict space ship for example, a good number of the levels are vast, expansive open world sandboxes that are absolutely bursting at the seams with detail. This is where you’re going to see your hard earned gaming dollars go to work. Hands down the graphical showcase of the PS4’s launch lineup, Shadow Fall is gorgeous and never more so than when you’re staring down places like the Vekta City vista. At times the massive nature of these maps can cause the player to get a bit confused mind you with multiple objectives pulling you all over the place and no real indication of what you should focus on first. Paying attention to directives was a must I found because if I missed something I often felt lost at what I was supposed to be working on. Of course getting lost isn’t an entirely wasted experience as the numerous collectibles make aimless wandering a rewarding experience. Of particular enjoyment are the audiologs that play right out of the speaker on the Dualshock 4 controller as they give some cool insight to the regular citizens on Vekta and their take on the conflict.
As mentioned previously in regards to the gorgeous level design you’ll notice that the most ‘next gen’ thing about Shadow Fall is clearly the graphics. You’ve never seen detail like this on a console I can promise you that. Early in I was so enamored by the ‘ooooh shiny’ factor of it all that I’d find myself randomly staring at things taking in the texturing on a concrete landing pad or the weave of the fabric on a soldier’s uniform. Guerilla amps up the ‘pretty factor’ to 11 and it shows. Surprisingly I found that some of the cut scenes looked a bit blocky, facial animation in particular, when compared to everything else. Admittedly I’m being a bit harsh because even that blockiness would be considered top notch for the past gen of consoles. It’s just that when you see the quality that Killzone throws at you in every other facet it just sort of stands out.
Progressing through the campaign you’re treated to an epic score that does an amazing job of pulling you into the action. A good amount of my personal gaming is done with headphones on these days which affords me the ability to hear every little pin drop and with this title it was really appreciated. Do yourself a favour and pay particular attention to the music because I honestly feel it’s worth listening to. On the other end of the scale though is the often cheesy and poorly acted dialogue. Despite attempts to draw the player in with tense moments Killzone often fails due to unconvincing character portrayals. It isn’t all bad mind you but in today’s landscape of triple-A titles the expected quality level is set to a fairly high bar.
Jumping into the multiplayer you’ll find all the old standbys such as ‘Capture the Flag’ or ‘Team Deathmatch’ in place but the real action lies in Warzone. Unfortunately I didn’t get as much time in with the multiplayer as I would have liked due to time constraints but hands down this is where I’ll be spending most of my time in the future. Warzone randomly rotates the game through different objective based goals so it keeps everything fresh. Great map design (10 in all) helps keep things moving too. Considering there are over 1500 challenges to reach as well it’s safe to assume that you’ll get approximately $55 out of your $60 price tag in the multiplayer arena!
As a whole you can’t go wrong by including Killzone: Shadow Fall as part of your next gen PS4 package. It might be lacking in true next generation gameplay mechanics but it really shines when it comes to the new generation of graphics. Sony and Guerilla Games will surely continue to develop the franchise and I can honestly say without hesitation that the path they’re on is the right one. Bottom line though is that this is the game you want to put on to show your friends exactly why you chose to purchase your PlayStation 4 console.