The original Killzone was released back in 2004 for the PS2, with subsequent games being released on the PS3 and Vita. Killzone has remained popular with each release, and now two console generations later, the series is still going strong and remains a popular title among Playstation fans. In fact, many people may choose the PS4 as their next-gen console primarily to play the PS4 exclusive Shadow Fall. So we are here to answer the question: does the fourth title in the main series hold up?
The first thing to address is most likely the very first thing you”ll notice when playing Shadow Fall. This game is ridiculously good looking! Killzone has always been known for looking pretty, and Shadow Fall does not disappoint. The game has yet to stop wowing me with its incredible visuals. Every time I sit down to play – whether it’s the campaign or multiplayer – I am blown away by what I see. The crisp visuals and bold textures really stand out throughout the entire game. The grand color scheme helps assert the immense setting your eyes will witness. The first level with a lush forest captures your attention immediately, and I feared as the game went on it would slowly become redundant shades of gray, but it never did. Whether you are inside sci-fi spaceships, or in the slums of a dirty city, each area never feels dull or boring. There is always something to see and something to catch your eye.
That’s only the landscape, everything else looks equally amazing. The Helghast look as cool (and frightening) as they ever have. I feel weird for how many minutes I spent switching between different weapons to exam every little nook and cranny on them. From the character models to level design, everything is amazing. The fictional world of Vekta is completely believable. The beautiful visuals are a big help, but it’s the plausibility of each building, transportation, or structure that sells this world as possible. Overlooking the levels, everything seems believable, whether it is the docks and ships on the water far below, or how the city is built in terraces. Yes, it is sci-fi and you need to suspend some belief, but Shadow Fall isn’t absurd or outside the realm of possibility, and that increases the immersion.
Half of Vekta looks beautiful, but seeing the other half paints a pretty clear picture that it isn’t exactly happy times. Shadow Fall takes place thirty years after Killzone 3 where a series of events transpired that forced the Helghast to leave their home planet Helgan. The ISA made a truce with the Helghast that they can live on half of Vekta. A giant wall erects between the two factions on Vekta, and things are anything but calm. While open war is not occurring, there are still covert missions being carried out across the wall. You play as Lucas who is one of the elite Shadow Marshalls, and carries out many of these secret missions.
Killzone games have always taken place during a war setting, and this is the first game where open war is not ongoing. That doesn’t mean there isn’t fighting, but as far as that tense war feeling goes, I was worried it would fade in this title. I enjoyed previous Killzone titles, because they were always morally gray games. Can one really call the Helghast evil when they are an abused colony against a mother planet? Like any imperialistic situation, you tend to side with the underdogs, but Killzone places you on the side of the big dogs: the ISA. It gave mixed feelings, because the Helghast were evil, but the ISA were no better. I enjoyed playing in that morally gray spectrum. I feared Shadow Fall would lose this quality that the series has always done so well. I was pleasantly pleased to see it’s still there, but not in the same sense of open war, if anything, there is a distinct Cold War vibe throughout the game (when do giant walls not remind someone of the Cold War).
The story is slightly disconnected at first, and it didn’t really grab me until a few missions in. Once it did, it certainly had it thrills and I was entertained thoroughly. The plot wasn’t anything especially new, but it was still enjoyable. Unlike the the characters, who left a little to be desired. Lucas doesn’t have much of a personality, I believe that is to help the gamer feel as if they are playing the game themselves, but either way, you don’t care much for the guy. The villain was not nearly as entertaining as previous antagonists. Although Echo was cool in some ways, she came with some pretty big clichés. While none of this really weighs the game down, because they are good characters just not great, the story is still entertaining and won’t leave you upset. I did have a problem with the ending, but I don’t think I have ever been satisfied with any Killzone ending, and I can’t discuss it here without spoilers, so you’ll have to experience it yourself.
Gameplay wise, Shadow Fall is wonderful. The controls feel tight, and for better or worse, that classic Killzone “heavy” feel is gone. This certainly makes the game feel faster, but many Killzone fans may be disappointed by losing such a mainstay feature in the series. Even without it, shooting a weapon feels powerful in your hands, and seeing bullets land into enemies has sadistically pleasing impact. Few games have mastered the intense feel of shooting a weapon quite like Killzone. Shadow Fall improves a lot from its predecessors as well. Killzone use to be stuck in that typical first-person-shooter cliché where you follow an A.I. teammate down hallway after hallway never leaving the linear path.
Shadow Fall has reworked this system for the most part. There are still a couple linear moments in the game, but they normally still grant you enough options where you feel some agency in the game. The first mission in the forest is the most apparent, and Guerilla Games was obviously trying to show what the new system was all about. You are given three objectives in three different areas, and you can tackle them in any order you wish in any way you wish. You can sit back and snipe a couple enemies, but they will probably raise the alarm to call in reinforcements. You can also try to sneak in to disable the alarm, but getting caught will put you in a bad position. This leaves some welcomed options up to the player. As the game goes on, it does become slightly linear at times, but you’ll be surprised by the options available. I could walk through a door with a shield into a room full of enemies, and hope to outshoot them, or better yet, I can blast through the wall and take them by surprise. The game didn’t tell me that going through the wall was an option. I actually discovered that myself, and was shocked to see how well it worked. Shadow Fall’s ability to grant you some freedom is a needed change of pace from the usual hallway shooter.
I just mentioned walking into a room with a shield. That of course is a reference to the new addition of an OWL. It is your trusty little flying robot buddy that is always handy for whatever the situation. Remember being able to disable alarms? It’s the OWL that has that ability. Besides that, the OWL has four abilities: shoot enemies, give you frontal shield, zip-line, and release a stunning burst. This is all done through the ingenious touch pad on the Duelshock 4 controller. It isn’t gimmicky in any way, but used essentially as a second control-pad. Swipe, up, left, down, or right to choose which action you want the OWL to carry out. It worked flawlessly, and I never had a problem with it.
While I’m on the controller, it has some other nice touches when it comes to Shadow Fall. When you take damage, the light on the controller changes from green to red. Not only that, but when you pick up audio logs, they play through the controller speaker. This makes it feel like you’ve actually picked up a physical audio log. They are small touches, but it’s always the little things that people love, and this gives Shadow Fall that extra uniqueness.
There were only a few minor issues when it came to gameplay. There are times when you can float in zero-gs, but it brings you more yawns than excitement, which is a wasted opportunity. I would get lost a lot on where my next objective was. Even if there is a marker to show where you need to go, it isn’t always clear, and the marker finds a way to blend into the surroundings as well, making it even harder to find. Having a more open world game always comes with the possibility of getting lost, but if that’s the downside to getting off that linear path, it’s well worth it.
The most frustrating issue for me was attaching to cover. I didn’t think you would literally attach to it; instead, I thought you would hide behind it casually. There is a distinct difference to being attached to it and freely moving. When you aim down your gun, you become attached, and you can no longer move, but only aim. If you are near a wall and aim, there is a good chance a mysterious force will grab hold of you and fling you into the wall so you’re forced to use it. There were numerous times it messed up my aiming, or I couldn’t get off the wall. Eventually, I didn’t really rely on shooting from behind cover because it was too much of a bother.
The good side of that is you don’t really need to shoot from behind cover. The bad side is why you don’t need cover. The enemy A.I. has decreased in intelligence from previous games. I always held the Killzone series as being the games that had some of the most intelligent enemies. In Shadow Fall there are multiple times when shot-gunners charge you blindly, or other enemies do as well. They don’t play as wisely as they use to, and even though they do try to flank you. It’s often running straight at you first, leaving them exposed far too long before they duck into cover. I never felt the intensity of a fire-fight like I had in past games.
Besides those minor inconveniences (because they really are minor) the campaign is a lot of fun and well worth experiencing. Afterwards, to keep you coming back for more, Shadow Fall has an addicting online multiplayer. Killzone’s multiplayer has always been more difficult compared to some other ones out there, but Shadow Fall has a system to make it easier to pick up, but still hard to master. There is no leveling based off experience, and every weapon and ability are unlocked from the start. To unlock attachments or upgrade your abilities, you have to complete challenges. This system relies entirely on a gamer’s personal skill, and forces players to use the abilities or weapons they want to upgrade. With every weapons unlocked from the start, beginners aren’t obliterated immediately, but veterans will still have an advantage when they are able to unlock the better gear by completing the later challenges.
On top of that great system in place, the maps are well done for the most part. I never found myself hating any particular map; even though I certainly had my favorite and least favorite. A good level design in multiplayer is imperative, and Guerrilla Games has succeed in this department as well. Not only is there a lot of personal customization, but you can also create your own matches. This gives the multiplayer the possibility of always being relevant. You can tweak most settings, from how many lives, to what weapons are allowed. The only limit is your creativity, and this will ensure that Shadow Falls multiplayer won’t grow old any time soon.
Shadow Fall is a great game to play and it will not disappoint Killzone fans. This is arguably the best looking next-gen title out right now. Its visual appeal has yet to subside, and you’ll find yourself stopping quite often to take all the beauty in. With the reworked combat system to take the game off the linear path, the gamer has more control in how they carry out a missions. Minor inconveniences like getting lost, some cover difficulty, and subpar A.I. won’t dampen the experience more than some brief frustrating moments. The multiplayer is well done and highly addicting. You’ll easily spend hours trying to complete the challenges in order to unlock new gear or upgrade your abilities, and having the ability to make your own matches inspires some unconventional fun. When it comes right down to it, Shadow Fall is a great game that is highly recommended, whether you are a longtime Killzone fan or a newcomer, you can rest assured that this is another successful title in the series.
This review is based on a retail copy of the Playstation 4 version of Killzone: Shadow Fall developed by Guerrilla Games and distributed by Sony Computer Entertainment. New Gamer Nation did receive a copy for review.
- Gorgeous Graphics
- Fun Gameplay
- So-So Characters
- Okay Enemy A.I.