Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Guerrilla Games
So you’re sitting at home, with your brand new, partially shiny PS4 all hooked up to a 50” plus TV, wondering what the hell should I play on this thing. You’ve got options, a lot of options in fact. Probably more so than any launch I can remember in recent years. Should Killzone: Shadow Fall be one of those options?
That’s not exactly a winning endorsement, so I’ll try to elaborate. For the most part folks will agree that Killzone 2 is the best entry in the franchise, and Killzone: Shadow Fall doesn’t really change that for me. It’s a gorgeous looking game, there’s no denying the whole “oh wow, this is really next-gen” appeal when playing or watching the game. But the actual mechanics behind it don’t really propel this to the top of anyone’s best shooter list.
The real negative here comes from the extremely uneven campaign, filled with highs and lows. Unfortunately those lows typically overshadow the highs. There’s some pacing issues scattered about the 10 chapters that make up the campaign, with some unclear objectives, ineffective storytelling, subpar and uninteresting weapon choices, and some downright aggravating moments (I’m looking at you, beginning of chapter 8).
I also thought that Killzone: Shadow Fall relied too heavily on a personal radar sweep function. By holding down left on the D-Pad you can shoot out a sonar wave that’ll highlight enemies or interactive objects nearby. This sounds like a neat function in theory, but you’ll find yourself stuck in a rut of walking 50 feet, using the sweep, walking, sweeping, and so on. The reason for this comes from enemies being a bit too well hidden, especially in outdoor environments. The wooded area that’s showcased early in the game is a perfect example of this, and if you try to not rely on the function you’ll often find yourself quickly surrounded by soldiers, snipers, and an alarm being triggered before you fully realize how screwed you actually are.
On the plus side, this isn’t another Call of Duty, corridor shooter clone. There’s a lot of open environment to traverse, giving you different ways to tackle objectives, even if you’re generally being funneled to one area on the map. Enemies can be pretty tough and unrelenting, and while the A.I. won’t be the best you’ve ever seen, on the standard difficulty they put up enough of a fight that you won’t really notice whether they’re smart or not. A lot of my issues with the combat in this game could have been alleviated by a better system to highlight, tag, or color enemies on the field.
And again, this is a really pretty game. The lighting here is fantastic, something that couldn’t be accomplished on PS3 even with the talented folks at Guerrilla Games, Sony Santa Monica, or Naughty Dog at the helm. For the most part it’s easy to tell that the texture work is pretty high-res, though there are a few spots here and there that look like shortcuts might have been taken. And while this isn’t the 1080p 60fps future that people were hoping for, the 30 frames per second held by the campaign remains pretty steady throughout.
Also, the multiplayer is a blast, and definitely the best part of the game. This will come as no surprise for most series fans I’m sure, but it’s worth noting that Guerrilla Games didn’t screw this up. Classic Warzone and a newbie friendly variation exist, along with some alternate game types and custom Warzones too. You’ll engage in a series of rounds against opposing teams, often cycling through objective based assault and defend modes. What really stands out here is that Guerrilla Games doesn’t fall back on the standard Team Deathmatch / Deathmatch modes that litter other shooters, allowing the objective-based stuff to shine and sort of force players to engage in these modes instead.
I found the overall connection quality to be rock solid, even at launch, with little trouble finding matches or connecting to other players. It’s a little disappointing to see chat stuck to party only, which goes against the common expectation that you can use a mic whenever you want. Whether or not people would be all that chatty while playing is unknown, but the option to at least use the mic outside of parties would be nice.
Essentially, Killzone: Shadow Fall will impress you from a technical standpoint, but not so much from the actual gameplay. The multiplayer is worth checking out, but the campaign isn’t the best work the series has seen. However, if you’re looking for something that isn’t just another Call of Duty, you’ll be pretty happy with the more unique aspects of Killzone’s heavy-hitting gunplay. And there’s certainly some impressive moments scattered throughout the single-player portions that’ll make you want to employ that new “Share” button on the DualShock 4, just keep in mind that you’ll run into just as many moments that make you want to chuck it through your TV screen.