Killzone Shadow Fall Review
Killzone Shadow Fall is Sony’s first major first party title for their newest console, the Playstation 4. This shooter franchise has a history of being used as a technical showcase for the company’s latest hardware, so it comes as no surprise that a new entry arrived at launch.
And that’s really the first thing most observers would notice about Shadow Fall; It’s breathtakingly gorgeous. Everything from the character models, to the weaponry, to every little detail in every environments, looks extraordinary. I never even took notice of any screen-tearing nor any other cases of visual glitching in my experience with the game. As of now, it remains probably the single best looking next-gen game on the market.
It isn’t just the visuals that impress either. The game’s sound effects are exceptional and live up to the expectations set by previous entries in the series. They do an excellent job of creating the feeling that you are actually in a warzone. Even the voice-acting is surprisingly strong for a shooter. But that’s also where the presentation starts to stumble. Some of the characters are brilliantly voiced with great dialogue while others are almost laughably bad.
Speaking of presentation, the game’s menus are also fairly cluttered and kind of hard to navigate. Thankfully, they aren’t much a chore beyond the second or third time you’ve gone through them. It’s also pretty easy to forgive a slightly awkward main menu when it boots up within a matter of seconds of starting the application. Seriously, as soon as you go to start the game up, there’s a VERY brief load screen and boom; you’re at the main menu ready to play. I hope we can expect more of this for the rest of the generation!
Long story short: Despite a few minor shortcomings, Killzone: Shadow Fall absolutely lives up to it’s expectation to be the PS4’s marquee technical showpiece at launch.
Fans and skeptics will also be happy to know that Shadow Fall isn’t all about it’s looks. There is some serious substance behind all the glitz and glamour.
The developers at Guerrilla Games have managed to strike an excellent balance between Killzone 2’s heavy/weighty controls and the slightly quicker, twitchier controls common in other shooters (that they attempted in Killzone 3 to very mixed reception). The result is excellent gunplay that still manages to feel like Killzone while still being accessible to a larger audience. Taking into account the PS4’s new controller, the Dualshock 4, Killzone: Shadow Fall plays like an absolute dream.
Though I certainly wouldn’t put the gameplay above the rest of the genre. Shadow Fall’s gameplay is great and can definitely hold it’s own against the genre’s stiff competition; but it also doesn’t do enough to really stand out. If somebody is already really into another shooter, It’d be hard for me to imagine them jumping ship.
Shadow Fall offers two methods of enjoying this gameplay: The campaign where you assume the role of shadow marshal, Lucas Kellen. And of course the online multiplayer.
Killzone: Shadow Fall serves as a loose reboot of the franchise (meaning you need not have played any other game in the series to enjoy it) and takes place 30 years after the events of Killzone 3. Helghan,the home planet of the series antagonists the Helghast, is gone and the side you fight for, the ISA/Vektans, have given the surviving Helghast access to a large part of their homeworld. The two sides are separated by a giant wall and are locked in a cold war with tensions rising every day.
There’s a surprising amount of diversity from level to level. There are times when you’re in a huge open area with free reign to do whatever you want and other times where you’re in tight corridors. Gameplay involves huge dogfights, stealth, or a combination of both. There are even instances of platforming and a few puzzles sprinkled throughout the campaign. This helps keep everything fresh throughout.
Also new is the OWL, a drone that you can use throughout the campaign in a variety of ways. Shadow Fall’s campaign features enemies with surprisingly strong AI and can be quite challenging at times. The OWL can be your great equalizer when used well. You can use it as a turret, a shield, or as a stun blast. You can even use it to help traverse terrain. The OWL was an excellent gameplay mechanic that helps set Shadow Fall’s campaign apart from other shooters.
The quality of the campaign, however, varies just as much as the gameplay. Certain segments are absolutely dreadful and very poorly designed. They completely broke immersion and led to a lot of frustration for me. I won’t provide any specifics but I get the feeling you’ll know what I’m talking about once you get to them. On the flip-side, certain levels are simply phenomenal. There are parts of the game that rank among the best I’ve ever played in ANY shooter. This tends to make the poorer segments that much more frustrating because the developers are clearly capable of brilliance.
The story is just as inconsistent as the campaign itself. It starts off compelling, rocking the whole “Iron Curtain In Space” thing. But it quickly derails and starts to make little to no sense as it goes on. Once things start getting back on track, they go array again. Rinse and repeat throughout the whole campaign.
Shadow Fall’s biggest draw (as with any shooter) is it’s online multiplayer. It’s here that Guerrilla decided to be a little more ambitious. The thing that strikes me most about the multiplayer is just how balanced it is. Three classes are featured (Assault, Scout, Support) and they all seem to be on equal footing and are equally viable while all offering something different. This is difficult to accomplish in almost any shooter so Guerrilla Games should be commended for their fine work in tuning every class, ability, and weapon so that nothing has an inherit advantage over anything else.
Even the maps are remarkably well balanced. Not once have I felt like a design layout gave one side in particular an unfair advantage.
Like in past Killzones, Shadow Fall offers up plenty of different game-modes (now standard for almost any shooter out there). You have classic deathmatches, take and hold, destroy objective, etc. Whether you prefer mindless killing and mayhem or team-oriented play, there’s something for you here.
I mentioned earlier that Guerrilla had gone a little ambitious with their multiplayer here. Allow me to elaborate. You can customize literally every single aspect of it. When you create a game, you can choose which weapons, what abilities, which maps, and whatever game modes you want to include. The possibilities are almost legitimately endless! Want to do pistols only? Okay! Want to make sure nobody can snipe? No problem! Want to play on that same map over and over? I do too! This is something that’s surprisingly rare in the realm of shooters and Guerrilla deserves props for implanting it.
Killzone: Shadow Fall was exactly what it needed to be: A really good shooter that breathed some new life into a relatively stagnant franchise that also showed what the PS4 is capable. It has a few flaws and can be frustrating at times, but this title is an overall very enjoyable game that’s definitely worth checking out if you’re interested in a different or exclusive shooter for your new PS4.