Everybody who knows about this stuff may remember the debacle after Killzone 2 was shown off at Sonys E3 PS3 reveal press conference. With this hanging over the franchise’s head, it was with some trepidation that I started Killzone: Shadow Fall with the memories of the E3 2013 trailer still vivid in mind. The trailer Developed my Guerrilla Games and published by Sony Computer Entertainment, Killzone: Shadow Fall was to be the standout title to be released on the new PlayStation 4 hardware.
Set years after Helgan has been brought to its knees, they have now found a new home on Vekta. After the Great War between Vektans and Helgans came to an explosive end, destroying the Helgans home planet, the Vektans now share their world with the Helgans. They do this by literally dividing their world down the middle with a giant wall called, unimaginatively, The Wall. This is one of the many inconsistencies that make itself apparent whilst playing the game, the main question being, why would you grant entry to your world to the enemy, who you’ve been battling against over the past 3 games?
The story starts you out as Lucas Kellan, who, after being forced from his home along with his father Michael, is trying frantically to escape New Helgan before being captured. Fortunately the pair encounter Sinclair, a Shadow Marshall who has been sent to spy on the opposing forces, trying to stop a potential war between both races and he agrees to aid them in returning to Vektan territory. After Lucas sees his father killed by Helgan forces, he is brought up through the ranks and becomes a Shadow Marshall himself, now with Sinclair as his commanding officer. The story takes many twists and turns over the span of its 10-12 hour campaign, which is split into 10 chapters, seeing you fight for survival in both Vekta and New Helgan.
The visuals on show here are absolutely stunning, with wide open vistas for you to stare at in awe and amazement, certain areas slowing down its pace, long enough to let you take your time and bask in the visuals. The environments are cleverly contrasted, bright reflective and sunny cityscapes of Vekta, compared to that of the all too familiar browns and linear environments that previous entries in the Killzone series had to offer. This offset shows just how differently each race lives their lives, seeing the struggles that the Helgans go through with litter piling in the streets, security checkpoints and armed Helgans patrolling the streets, comparing that to the bright, neon utopia and it’s beautiful architecture. The sheer scale of these levels really does make the game stand out, but within these large environments, you feel somewhat constricted with just how small the areas that are available to you are. Some levels will give you a relatively big zone for you to approach a situation as you see fit, giving you more freedom than previous Killzone games. Trying to approach stealthily usually ends up in an enemy discovering you as you sneak up behind them, only to end up having to mow them down in a heated firefight.
To play the game itself is where Killzone Shadow Falls problems begin. Although it’s fun to shoot enemies, there are large chunks of the game where no shooting happens. Whereas there are serene and quiet moments within the game, allowing you to really take in the environments, some moments just feel jarring in comparison by including levels such as, bring this item to this place, now repeat 4 times over. The visual waypoint on screen does little to help when getting lost, which in Killzone Shadow Fall is easy to do. At one point during my play time, I was stuck on a section for 20 minutes trying to frantically find my way to the next section, having killed all of the enemies within’ the area I’d just cleared out. A similar waypoint marker, such as that out Dead Space wouldn’t have gone a miss, literally guiding you to your next objective. The guns feel big and powerful, with some pretty unique tools at your disposal. The main weapon, your LSR44 doubles as both a sub-machine gun and with the quick flick of a button, turns into a charged pulse rifle with a sniper scope on top. There are typical machine guns, rocket launchers, pistols and grenades also at your disposal, though the LSR44 can’t be unequipped which can make situations annoying when there are 2 better weapons you’d rather be carrying at the same time.
Another tool at your disposal is the OWL, an attack drone that has multiple uses throughout the game. These include taking down targeted enemies in the area, stunning enemies, activating a shield around Lucas and firing out a zip line on your command, making it easier to reach certain areas. This is all done cleverly with the flick of the touch panel on the front of the lovely new Dualshock 4 controller. Whichever direction you choose to swipe the touch panel will choose one of the four options, cleverly marked on screen. The OWL can sometimes come into good use, especially trying to find hidden collectables within the games large areas.
The collectables scattered around include, dossiers, newspapers, pages of comic books and audio logs. These can all be accessed in the menu, giving a little bit more depth into the world of Killzone. Audio logs are played through the controllers other new addition, the speaker. When an audio log is picked up it will automatically begin playing, sometimes giving more of an emotional impact to scenes around you. At one point, you find yourself amongst a large group of dead people. In amongst the bodies you can come across an audio log of one of these people, recording his last thoughts for anyone to listen to. Moving slowly around the small, contained area, listening to such turmoil and suffering was emotionally moving. This unfortunately was one of the only moments where the audio log stirred up any form of emotion, though the little that are in there do pack a punch.
After you’ve finished the campaign, you’ll be able to cut your teeth in the multiplayer mode. In multiplayer you can choose from three different classes from your standard, assault, scout and support classes, each boasting their own unlockable weapon mods and abilities. During matches you can choose two abilities that will aid you during your fights. These abilities are attached to a certain class, so for example an assault class can use a speed dash, increasing their speed for a certain period of time, to shields. These abilities all have upgrades, so you can level them up resulting in a longer duration in which you can use it, to the amount of cooldown between uses.
The game has a 12 v 12 Team Deathmatch, or the Warzones. Warzones are player customised games, allowing the host to dictate what presets are on their maps. If you wanted an all close combat arena and no health regeneration you can choose that. This makes playing some of the Warzone maps a lot more challenging compared to the standard modes on offer. As for challenges, each class has a set of challenges for you to try and achieve. These can be getting a certain amount of headshots with a particular weapon, or killing an enemy whilst being cloaked. These tie into the skills that are available, so completing challenges has its benefits, but also adds another layer to the multiplayer mode. Loadouts in the game can be customised, allowing you to create your perfect set of weapons and skills to take into each maps. There are currently ten maps to choose from, each with their own feel, giving a lot of variety to the matches.
Killzone Shadow Fall is a visually striking title, with some beautiful set pieces, it’s hard not to be impressed. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite hit its stride when it comes to the whole gameplay part. The game itself offers nothing new to the first person genre and the storyline is very by the numbers, although it does take some interesting plot twists throughout. Whilst the shooting is fun for what there is of it, there seems to be too many instances where the game is stretched out with these quieter, more monotonous moments just to artificially increase the length of the game. The multiplayer mode adds more to the game, with the large variety of maps and the challenges tied to each class, it encourages you to play about with each class as opposed to sticking with the same class all the time. The multiplayer is fun, but again adds nothing new to the genre. Killzone Shadow Fall is ultimately a decent game, strengthened only by the lack of strong PlayStation 4 launch titles.
MLG Rating: 6/10 Format: PlayStation 4 Release Date: 29/11/13
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Killzone Shadow Fall for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of a week on a PlayStation 4. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.