Killzone: Shadow Fall (PS4), Review

Killzone: Shadow Fall is a game that is no doubt a next gen game visually, but we're not so sure about gameplay-wise...

Genre: First-Person, ShooterRelease Date: 11/15/2013Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America, Inc.Developer: Guerrilla Games

Platform: PS4 (Reviewed)

When a new generation finally rolls out and we have that shiny new piece of hardware in our hands, there are two ways you can assess the software that is going to accompany it. You can, 1) take it as nothing more than a showcase for what the hardware can do graphically and expect nothing more; or you can, 2) expect great things from a game that is supposed to give everyone their first taste of a new generation.

I didn’t pay too much attention to Killzone: Shadow Fall until I had it in my hands the day that the Playstation 4 came out, so I went into it with little to no specific expectations. However, given Sony’s insistence that their platform is the “Best Place to Play,” I approached this game from the second standpoint listed above, and taking that route did not at all play to Shadow Fall’s favor.

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The biggest problem that Shadow Fall has is that it only provides further evidence that Guerilla Games is only really interested in making games that are easy on the eyes, and totally inoffensive to play in any way. They will bring little to nothing new to the table, and if you’re coming here for a coherent narrative, just forget about it. Shadow Fall’s plot and characters are about as interesting as your average ham sandwich.

It’s not just that the plot is full of holes or that the characters are poorly scripted and acted, but the whole premise is just foolish. Killzone 3 ended with the Vektan forces annihilating planet Helghan, home to the Helghast people and army. Shadow Fall begins with the Vektans inviting the surviving Helghast onto their planet and handing over part of it to them, allowing them to militarize it and build up a new army with which to attack at their leisure. Not only did it feel illogical – it also felt forced. I will give it points for trying to make fairly interesting criticisms of many relevant societal problems we have today, such as ongoing wars, the pointlessness of it all, and capitalist greed.

Not only that, but it also shows that Guerilla really hasn’t learned much over the past few Killzone games. Aiming is still clumsy, thanks to the fact that there is still a slight delay between joystick input and movement onscreen. Enemies are still bullet sponges, whether you shoot them in the head, chest, groin, or anywhere else; and they’re also still impeccably stupid – piling through doorways like lemmings over a cliff and leaving themselves exposed while in cover. Couldn’t this next gen hardware be used to program some more competent A.I. that doesn’t depend on bullet sponge enemies to be a challenge?

Despite the A.I.’s stupidity, though, they’re crack shot – shooting you through the tiniest of openings. This problem is only exacerbated by the fact that the cover system the series has used since the second installment still doesn’t actually provide any cover. Even when I was stuck in cover, I was still getting pelted with gunfire, and many aggravating, cheap deaths ensued.

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To make matters worse, the series not only refuses to fix problems that have plagued it for years, but it introduces new ones, as well. Killzone: Shadow Fall decided to remove itself from the mostly linear environs of previous titles and introduce levels that are a little more open ended.

While this can make firefights a little more interesting because you have more angles from which to attack and little nooks to explore, the momentary enjoyment found in that great flanking maneuver you executed or the small weapons cache you found is soon extinguished when you actually have to navigate the level or complete an objective in a jiffy.

I often wandered around for minutes on end not knowing what to do, or had to reload a multiple times because I needed to complete a task urgently, but was not instructed clearly enough on how to do so. There was an objective marker that could be brought up, but it often blended in with the background and was extremely difficult to see.

Shadow Fall also introduces a lot more stealth options than previous Killzones, and this is a mixed bag. There were some levels where the stealth elements came together perfectly, and I felt a true sense of satisfaction missed with relief when I got through an area. Unfortunately, the enemy A.I.’s freakish cones of vision just made stealth frustrating in some instances, and I ended up just shooting the whole place to hell.

Not only that, but in some levels where stealth was the focus, you wouldn’t run into enemies for minutes. Yeah, the graphics are sure pretty to look at, but this is a shooter after all. I should be shooting things more often. The characters and the plot were not well enough thought out to really justify all of the quiet time spent in the game.

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One relatively cool gameplay element, however, came from the OWL, a small device that you could use to heal you, shoot a zipline across a gap, throw up a bullet shield, attack enemies, or short out and hack electrical equipment. Admittedly, the best part about this was the zipline, and I always felt clever zipping right over the heads of my enemies, unbeknownst to them. I regularly found myself using the bullet shield, as well. All in all, it added a little spice to a shooter that was lacking in flavor.

Now, if I had judged this game solely by the first criterion I had mentioned in the opening paragraph, it would have favored much better. Shadow Fall is just simply gorgeous. From the lighting, to the textures that you want to reach out and touch, to the freakishly detailed faces and animations, I never once saw a blemish on this game’s graphical face.

It wasn’t just the graphical fidelity that was a sight to behold, however. The art style was great, as well. The Vektan-controlled half of Vekta is bursting with color and natural beauty, with plenty of greenery (something Killzone has never been known for) and ultra-modern architecture to behold. The Helghast-controlled side, on the other hand, feels like an interesting mix of cyberpunk and Nazi-controlled Germany, with stark reds, grays, and blacks creating a very oppressive feeling.

Where multiplayer is concerned, it’s, well, multiplayer. It’s nice having most of the gear in the game available to you from the get-go, which keeps things more focused on skill than anything. There were plenty of ways to customize your own Warzones, as well, from which guns and classes could be used; to how fast (or slow) your health regenerates. Besides those things, though, it’s really your basic multiplayer offering with your basic modes. I can’t imagine that anyone but hardcore Killzone fans will be playing this one a couple months from now.

Killzone: Shadow Fall is a game that is no doubt a next gen game visually, but in terms of its gameplay, it does nothing that something from the last generation hasn’t done better and in a more interesting way. The only ones who will really appreciate the different direction the game takes are hard core Killzone fans. The only other ones that need apply are those looking for a game that shows us just how beautiful this generation of gaming is going to be graphically, or those that really want to play a shooter that is exclusive to Sony’s console.

Story: 5Gameplay: 7Graphics: 10Soundtrack: 8Replayability: 5Multiplayer: 6

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