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Killzone has easily been one of Sony’s more interesting exclusives. Not necessarily because the games of the franchise but more of its legacy. Initially advertised as the “Halo Killer” Killzone has struggled to remain a float among Sony’s other fantastic exclusives. With that said, most of the games have remained in good quality and that remains true within Shadow Fall… for the most part. With a solid campaign and fun multiplayer, Killzone: Shadow Fall is a worthy launch title for the PS4.
The game picks up years after Killzone 3 left off, many Helgasts have left their home and taken residents upon the very planet their enemy lives on, Vetka. Peace straddles a very fine line and the only thing barely holding it together is a massive wall dividing the planet between both races. Throughout the game, Shadow Fall does a pretty good job of capturing that feeling of having the enemy at your doorstep, the threat always around the corner. Since this isn’t all out war, the operations you will take part in during Shadow Fall are much smaller in scope and more secretive. You play as Lucas Kellen, a Shadow Marshall performing secret ops against the Helgasts to prevent or prepare an all out war. From here, the story follows a pretty predictable thread but with the good voice acting and decent writing, it keeps you interested. Shadow Fall seems to go for a more personal story than the greater conflict, focusing on the connections around Lucas like his commanding officer and Echo, a half breed Helgan. For the most part I think it works even though you can see most of the stuff coming, it is just enough to keep you interested in the story as well as bring you into the truly cool set up of the world around you.
Naturally, Killzone plays like it always has. The game has a bit of weight tied to the shooting, although it is substantially less than any previous iteration within the series. Most weapons have a good kick and sound to them and the cover system is passable to make shooting space Nazis a good time. By far the biggest changes to this sequel lie within the OWL drone and the environments himself. OWL is a small drone that tags along with you throughout most of the campaign except for a few circumstances. It has the ability to help you in a jam whether it be attacking an enemy to get agro, setting up an energy shield or stunning units for a quick melee kill. Skills are easily picked with the DualShock 4’s touch pad and it can make combat a blast to participate in. Setting up an attack or flanking maneuver with the OWL has a really satisfying feel to it. Along with this, the levels of Killzone themselves have changed dramatically. Most areas within the game are a wide open space, letting you tackle many objectives in a different way. Whether that be sneaking around taking enemies out silently or using your OWL to zip line in guns blazing, the choice is yours. However this can sometime cause an issue, it is easy to get lost within the world and while it’s pretty easy to get back on track it can definitely get annoying if you are trying to pursue something with haste. On top of this, the world sometimes is a bit empty in a few spots throughout the game. While it does make story sense that there aren’t massive battles going on, there are a few areas where you could probably count the total number of enemies in an area with one hand.
To be fair, some of these missions are really interesting and fun to explore and look at. One mission has you investigate an abandoned ship that almost gives off a survival horror vibe and it really changed up the pacing for the better. Others have you on the other side of the wall, with the Helgans and seeing how they live in poverty despair. This is usually extremely well done and effective at making you feel something for the enemy that you are supposed to hate (even though Killzone tends to make you dislike the Vetkans a lot more from previous entries). The campaign runs around eight hours or so and most of it is a good time. A few areas however can be absolutely infuriating and since I played on hard this only amplified that. 85% of the check pointing is fine, the other 15% sets you up in a bad situation that you need to battle out of over and over again. By far the worst offender happens near the end of the game where you must tackle four separate objectives and if you fail on any one of these you have to start over from the very beginning again.
The other part of Killzone: Shadow Fall is obviously the multiplayer which is quite enjoyable. First off, it runs at a beautiful 60 frames a second which really makes you feel in control of the match. Killzone has notoriously had bad framerate within their online and that is all but gone in Shadow Fall. Technically the only mode in the game is Warzone, a game mode that kind of mashes a bunch of other game modes into one match. Each one goes for a specific period and then switches once a team has beaten that particular objective. Now the thing about this is that players can actually create their own warzone situations and therefore making different types of game modes. Want a 24 player defend the bomb game mode with low health and low ammo? Go for it. Want to make a deathmatch where everyone is nearly invincible and has only a pistol? Have at it. The tools provided make this a very quick and simple process and the developers have mentioned that they will be skimming the community for interesting modes and placing them on the front page. It’s a cool idea and for the most part it’s a fun multiplayer romp.
However, I wouldn’t say this is Killzone’s best multiplayer yet. While there is a lot of customization you can do with Warzone, some of the objective based modes (kind of like Rush in Battlefield) were really cool and I kind of miss it here. They also took out quite a few of the abilities and all of the vehicles from the previous game. Without those, the game seems to lean more on the Call of Duty multiplayer style then a happy medium between that and something like Battlefield.
The presentation of Killzone Shadow Fall feels like a next gen game. The graphics and environments are absolutely stunning and the attention to detail is all over the place. Dirty footprints are left on rocks and floors from where you just walked; the OWL’s light dynamically flows through the dark hallways of an abandoned ship. It is just a damn fine looking game, one worthy of showing off to your friends. Sound design is pretty well done too. Some guns share a similar sound but your trusty morphing SMG has some of the coolest sound design in the series. Charging up a shot nearly mutes all sound except the deep bass of the music playing, once released the music ramps back up and you can hear bullets flying again. It’s a super cool effect that actually made me use the charge ability more than I anticipated.
Overall, Killzone: Shadow Fall is a good game with some issues that are to be expected of a launch title. The multiplayer is fun but not the peak of the series but does interesting things like the vast array of customization one can get involved in. The campaign feels a little too familiar and while there are some new and ambitious things it tries to do, it’s not always successful. The story is enough to keep you going but with such a cool and interesting fiction you can only hope next time around the developers knock it out of the park.