Killzone: Shadow Fall review


Developer/Publisher: Guerrilla Games/Sony Computer Entertainment
Genre: First-Person-Shooter (Current Sci-Fi)
Available on: PlayStation 4 only
Mode(s): Single-player campaign, multiplayer
Release date:
(NA) November 15th, 2013
(EU) November 29th, 2013
(JP) February 22nd, 2014

What I’ve Played:
Campaign to completion (Hard)
Hours of Multiplayer

Behold, Killzone: Shadow Fall, a game among Sony’s vanguard for its PlayStation 4 launch line-up, as well as one of their exclusives. As an exclusive launch title for Sony’s shiny new console, it carries with it a lot of hype and expectations for the “Next Gen.” The first Killzone was infamously dubbed as a ‘Halo Killer’ on the PS2 when, in actuality, it was never trying to be one. While Halo had super soldiers, alien weaponry, and a colorful world, Killzone was more grounded in realism with armies of soldiers, current-sci-fi guns, and gritty war-torn battlefields. It aimed to deliver a World War 2 setting of the near future and, in doing so, they produced the Helghast with their iconic black gas masks and glowing red eyes. They are reminiscent of the Third Reich and are essentially Neo-Nazis.

Has this new Killzone been able to deliver on the “Next Gen” experience many are waiting for, or is it familiar territory hidden behind the shiny new coating?

Story:

NOTE: The setting for Killzone: Shadow Fall takes place AFTER the events of the original trilogy and Shadow Fall’s story references some major events from it. To fully appreciate and understand the story of the Killzone: Shadow Fall, I HIGHLY recommend playing through the original trilogy. However, it is not required and one can still find enjoyment in Shadow Fall’s campaign without any previous knowledge.

Gone are the large-frontline wars of the previous Killzone titles. The war raging between the Vektan ISA and Helghast came to an end in the original Killzone trilogy, and Shadow Fall presents the aftermath of it. The Helghast have evacuated their home planet and are now residing alongside the Vektans’ home planet of Vekta. The two races are divided only by a large wall separating their two main cities. Although the war is deemed over, tensions remain at a constant high between the two factions. While in the original trilogy you were primarily playing as soldiers on the battlefield, in Shadow Fall you play as a Shadow Marshal, the Secret Agents of the Killzone universe (ala Mission Impossible/007 James Bond). Given tasks by the head of the VSA (CIA), you are to engage in secret operations against the Helghast without leaving  a trace or escalating a full-scale war.

 Campaign Gameplay:

The first true gameplay area of the campaign presents a feeling of openness in handling your mission. You are thrown into an area at a starting point, given your objective and toys, and left with the decision on how to complete it in whatever way you wish and use your toys in whatever way you deem necessary(similar to Crysis). Do you choose to go in guns-blazing and be a one-man army, or do you stick to the shadows and take out the enemies one-by-one stealthily? The map acts as giant playground where you can traverse along the mountain side, into buildings, or through a forest. You are always armed with a gun that acts as a submachine gun and a sniper and an automated drone known as an OWL. The OWL has four primary functions that serve different purposes. You can set it to shoot at any surrounding or oncoming enemies, shock them, deploy as a shield for you that will block any incoming fire whilst allowing you to shoot through it, or a zip-line that allows you to traverse down elevated gaps. It can also revive should you fall in battle and you have an Adrenaline pack to spare.

Along with the OWL, you are also able to use ‘Adrenaline’ which slows down movement and time when you take AIM, allowing you to shoot the enemy with ease. You have limited number of uses based on the amount of Adrenaline Packs you have, but I found myself saving the packs for any future revives I may need. The other skill is a Tactical ECHO, which serves as your personal-sight-radar. You activate it by holding down the Right D-Pad button and in doing so, you will see a wave pulse emit from you. Anything within the radius becomes clear to you, highlighting allies and enemies through walls, as well as bringing up notable places of interests, such as health packs and weapon stashes. The number of uses for the ECHO is infinite, but if you hold down the button for too long, it will make a loud sound alerting any nearby enemies of your location and force the ECHO into a ‘recharge’ state. After a while, it becomes available again for use.

Other sections of the campaign include standard corridor shootout moments, but some of Shadow Fall’s best moments are moments where you are not shooting at all. You may be in stealth, running, escaping, traversing in zero-gravity, or free-falling. The campaign takes you to a variety of places, from High-Tech cities to dark slums, and rich forests to the dead of space. You are bound to have at least a few awe-inspiring moments from the campaign.

Multiplayer Gameplay:

In multiplayer, you have the option of playing with up to 24 people and choosing from three classes: Assault, Support, or Scout. Each class comes with their own set of weapons to choose from, as a well as a single Primary Ability and a selection of Secondary Abilities that define their playstyle. Assaults can deploy shields to protect teammates from enemy fire, Support can revive fallen teammates and set up turrets, and Scouts can provide radar HUD support and go predator with a cloak & dagger. Through consistent use of the abilities, you can improve them(mainly allowing for longer use or shortening cooldown).

Game modes total in 8, including the standard Team Deathmatch, Search & Destroy, and Capture & Hold (Domination from CoD). Warzone combines multiple modes into one play session and switch off as each mode is completed. Furthermore you can create your own game room with your own custom rules. Don’t want snipers in your game? Turn them off. Don’t want grenades blowing in your face? Ban them. Want a shotgun only match with no abilities? Have at it. You can tune the custom game settings to your liking by picking what maps, game modes, weapons you want, as well as adjust the health and spawn time if you wish to.

There is no experience bar to level up and unlock stuff. The entirety of Killzone’s multiplayer arsenal is available for use from the get-go. There are the standard assault rifles and shotguns, and also a mini-gun and a burst-fire EMP launcher, which is effective at destroying any technological threats (Turrets, Drones, Shields, etc.) There is stuff to unlock in the multiplayer, and it is unlocked through completing challenges. Your numbered ‘Rank’ is based off the amount of overall challenges you have completed, and to unlock attachments you must complete certain challenges.

With the advent of the PS4 requiring PlayStation+ to play online, some may not be able to hop online right away, and some may choose not to at all, which is a shame because the multiplayer is great. However, the Killzone series have been known to include bots in their game in a generation where many experiences were being limited to online-access only. As with previous Killzones, you can get the online multiplayer experience offline against bots, and they are fun way to learn the maps and grow accustom to the weapons.

Killzone Fans Should Take Note:

Shadow Fall has become more ADS-centric with its gameplay. While ‘hip-firing’ was a viable and sometimes preferred method of shooting in Killzone 2 and 3, there is now a noticeable amount of bullet spread when shooting from the ‘hip’. This is the one notable disappoint Killzone: Shadow Fall has brought to me. In a generation of gaming where most competitive shooters have become ADS-centric, Killzone was always a beautiful breath of fresh air, both graphically and gameplay wise, because of its allowance in the use of effective hip-firing. I always preferred to see my gun firing rather then see it through a scope, lens, or iron-sight (Personal opinion of course). Similar to the first Killzone, there is still no secondary fire.

Presentation:

There is no denying that Killzone Shadow Fall is a great looking game. Its glorious graphics breathe life into a believable future where high-tech skyscrapers soar high and flying cruisers float in the distance. The game is capable of running smoothly at 60 fps, and when you combine that with amazing graphics on a console, it is a wonderful feeling to have. The character models are incredibly detailed as well and pull off a realistic feeling to them. The voice actors do a decent job of making their characters believable. Additionally, audio logs found throughout the campaign will play through your controller’s speakers (gave me quite a jump when I first picked one up).

The sound of Killzone is something noteworthy. While in a room with 24-players, the sound of a battlefield will overtake you with the constant firing of bullets, explosions, and callouts. The greatest thing to come from the sound department is the *beep* you hear when you score a kill in Multiplayer. It is another great feeling to have when you score a multi-kill or consecutive kills and hear the beeps repeatedly.

In the music department, I can’t say that I found any of it memorable. There is a moment where you are passively flying through the city and the view, along with the music that plays, give you a sense of amazement.

Final Thoughts:

Killzone: Shadow Fall, in all of its graphical glory is a great game to add to anyone’s PS4 collection, if not a start to their collection. Graphically, it looks to be among one of the best, if not the best, among the PS4 lineup. It is a great first-party shooter for the Next-Gen era, much like its predecessors and their respective console generations. If ‘Next-Gen’ means beautiful graphics, smooth framerate, and seamless connectivity to others online at the same time, then Killzone: Shadow Fall is a great starting point to kick-off ‘Next-Gen.’ My only personal disappointment is the gameplay decision to change the effectiveness of Hip-Firing from previous Killzones. But I’m hoping (like really-really hoping) they can patch-in the change.

Overall score:

8/10

Could be a 8.5 or 9/10 for Killzone fans if they changed the Hip-Firing (like I seriously loved that hip-firing). Guerilla Games has a tendency to introduce new mechanics, but also change or remove old ones, with each Killzone. It can be fun and refreshing, but also sad and disappointing at the same time. Much like taking 2 steps forward and 1 or 2 steps back.

Things to note about author/genre/series

  • I enjoy other shooters (TPS & FPS) such as Call of Duty, Battlefield, Star Wars:Battlefront , Mass Effect, Borderlands, the list can go on…
  • Killzone, along with Star Wars: Battlefront 2, were the most played PS2 shooters I played, both by myself and with friends.
  • Killzone is my favorite FPS series
  • Killzone is my favorite Sony-Exclusive series
  • The FPS I’m always hyped for
    • My hype level for Killzone 2 was off-the-walls
      • Replayed the short single-player demo they released countless times before playing the retail’s campaign many more times
    • Invested in the SharpShooter attachment for use with PlayStation MOVE for Killzone 3

DLC:

A Season-Pass is available to buy at the price of $20. Notable things it will bring for future content is a 4-Player team-based co-op mode, and multiplayer expansions. I’ve always hoped for a survival/horde co-op mode from Killzone, and this seems to be the answer to that hope. Regarding its multiplayer expansions, if previous expansions Guerrilla Games have done are anything to go by, we can possibly expect new maps, remastered fan-favorite maps, and new weapons.

Trophies (For those who enjoy the hunt):

You have your standard trophies, such as those for completing a stage, finishing the campaign, and finishing the campaign on hard. There are also single-player challenges such as finishing a section stealthily, getting six headshots while in Adrenaline Mode in the span of 1 Adrenaline Pack, and shooting a collective 5 soldiers while zip-lining. There are online-multiplayer trophies that require completing a certain number of challenges, unlocking all attachments, and maximizing the levels of all your abilities. You can achieve Shadow Fall’s online trophies through time and persistence.

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