Killzone Shadow Fall - Review
Killzone Shadow Fall continues the long-standing feud between Vekta and Helghan, but that conflict has transformed into a cold war after the events of Killzone 3. Vekta is now a world divided as the Helghast and Vektans attempt to co-exist. In Shadow Fall’s campaign you’ll gain a number of new abilities to combat the Helghast, but still encounter some old frustrations along the way. It’s a visually appealing experience that looks before it leaps into the next-generation of gaming. Overcoming the challenges of single player can be rewarding, and the multiplayer returns to the Warzone the franchise was built on. I just wish the developers would learn from the mistakes of their peers. Pending that, maybe one day Killzone could become a true leader of its genre.
Being a launch title, a lot of work has been put into building a visually impressive world. Vekta shines the most of all the locations across the story. Your brief time on Helghan has its moments, but nothing beats the lush and hyper futuristic hometown of the protagonist. The wall dividing the Helghast and Vektans is menacing, marking the outlying DMZ and the derelict slums of New Helghan. For all the environmental success, the characters themselves are merely passable. While the Helghast and their intimidating red-eyed armor has never looked better, the Vektans and other characters' poor facial animations leave a lot to be desired. On top of that, the lip-synching at times doesn't line up, which doesn’t help an already mediocre story of revenge.
You assume the role of Shadow Marshal Lucas Kellan, who’s personal tragedy has molded him in to an unquestioning soldier of Vekta. It isn’t until he encounters a half-breed Helghast soldier named Echo that he starts to question his leadership. There will be terrorist attacks, betrayals, and genocide driving the point home; but the greatest threat of all are the frustrations that plague the core single player experience.
Like any installment in the Killzone franchise, you will fight and kill a lot of Helghast. Shadow Fall is no different, though it does present new twists on series staples.... some better than others. There are a few puzzle/platforming bits that felt forced, not adding much to the overall experience. The QTEs are laughably bad. They lack impact and don’t really pull you into the scene, making the whole interaction feel unnecessary. Objective mapping and respawn placement also creates many moments of frustration. The objective icon is very easily lost in the expansive environments, making it hard to get your bearings at times. And the checkpointing system will more often than not drop you right in the middle of a skirmish, an issue that was thought to have been resolved in the previous generation. It doesn't ruin the experience entirely, but considering other shooters have overcome these issues in the past, these missteps are tough to overlook.
Another backwards design choice is that your primary weapon is the same throughout the majority of the campaign. The rail-based LSR44 is both an assault rifle and sniper rifle, whose sniper mechanic requires a short charge, but the damage it inflicts has a much larger radius than your typical bullet. It will also tear apart enemy shields, which becomes important later in the campaign. Still it’s kind of a bummer you cannot ditch the LSR44 when there are two other guns you want. It's a first for the franchise to my knowledge and one that I could have personally done without. There is still plenty of praise to be given in the single player campaign though, as it adds a variety of fun mechanics that improve on this distinctive FPS.
The addition of a companion drone called the OWL is the best part about the campaign. OWL provides Kellan a number of offensive and defensive capabilities, mapped to the touch pad on the new Dualshock 4. The most straightforward ability will have OWL attack a target of your choosing. Another launches a zip-line from it and can be used almost anywhere. A third ability drops a temporary shield between you and enemies, while the final has multiple applications. It can hack alarms, interact with objectives, and even be used as an EMP. OWL will even revive you should you have an Adrenaline pack handy. These Adrenaline packs are first-aid kits Kellan can also activate should his regenerating health need a boost and it adds a slow-mo mechanic while aiming down a sight. There are numerous throughout each level, but you can only hold two, so make sure you use them! It's another tactic that’s fun, but not nearly as effective as your ability to understand the battlefield that lies ahead of you.
That’s where the "Ping" mechanic comes into play, allowing Kellan to see within a radius dictated by how long you hold the button. Doing so will reveal enemy locations, objectives, and gear; giving you a chance to use those OWL abilities strategically. Get greedy though and pinging will alert any Helghast to the area of your location, removing any time to strategize and eliminating stealth opportunities. Stealth combat is present, allowing you the silent advantage on a single or multiple enemies. Sadly, it isn’t often rewarding enough and on many occasions will leave you in a terrible position. Using the OWL and ping mechanic create for a much more favorable outcome when executing a battle strategy. That is what really sets Killzone Shadow Fall apart from past titles. If you’re not using OWL, Ping, and Adrenaline regularly during single player, you’re doing it wrong.
The multiplayer on the other hand sticks to its roots.
The protracted multiplayer mode Killzone fans are familiar with makes its return as Classic Warzone. Unlike traditional multiplayer, this focuses on longer, multi-objective-based combat. It's a fun-filled romp! There are ten maps offering a variety of missions, classes, weapons, and abilities. Guerrilla has built other more parameter-based modes like Elite Warzone or Team Tactical Combat, but what’s great is there is an entire system in place for developing your own Warzones and sharing them with the Killzone community. With it, you can develop any type of Warzone you can imagine and maybe even have it rise to the top of the Warzone homepage. Progression has nothing to do with levels or experience, but instead tracks over 1500 challenges that encourages different ways of playing. Completing objectives will unlock dozens of new attachments for weapons or abilities for use in these Warzones. Your career is tracked across three classes: Scout, Assault, and Support. There is even a BotZone for you to test out new Warzones or builds for your classes before you take them into competitive multiplayer. A solid experience to keep the Killzone community happy for many years to come.
Also, the Remote Play feature promised in all first-party Sony titles works surprisingly well, though the latency in multiplayer was a bit sketchy at times.
Killzone Shadow Fall is an extensive FPS for the PlayStation 4. With OWL, Pin, and Adreneline, the single player offers a much welcomed unique approach to the traditional model of the shooter genre. Unfortunately, it has its fair share of blunders along the way, arriving on a next-generation platform with last-gen baggage in tow. Still, the multiplayer is a lot of fun and offers up some good variety. With it scheduled to offer more downloadable maps for free, an online co-op mode, and two unrevealed multiplayer expansions, the community is expected to get the support it needs to succeed.
If you can get over some rather frustrating design decisions, there’s a lot to like about Killzone Shadow Fall, especially the later half of the campaign. It is a solid game that comes up a little short on greatness.
|ScrewAttack's News Director Sean Hinz worked in logistics for over four years before decided it was time to switch industries. After a couple years spent getting an MBA and freelancing, he finally found a home at ScrewAttack.com. As far as games go, Sean likes to play anything he can get his hands on, but especially enjoys third-person action RPGs. Is that really a genre?|