When a new console generation arrives, it’s always nice to have that game that you can show off to people. Something with incredible graphics that says, “look mam and dad, it really is worth the money!” It’s even better when said game isn’t just a pretty face, and actually offers strong gameplay and other features to go along with that. That’s exactly what Killzone: Shadow Fall is. An visually stunning shooter with an enjoyable single player and incredible multiplayer.
Killzone: Shadow Fall is set several years after the events of Killzone 3. While avoiding spoilers, a series of unfortunate events resulted in the Helghast inhabiting on the planet Vekta – the homeland of their destructors.
You play the role of Shadow Marshall, Lucas Kellan, a spy for the Vektan Security Agency (VSA), tasked with infiltrating the Helghast side of the giant wall separating the planet in the midst of a cold war. The Helghast want revenge over the Vektans, and the VSA don’t want that to happen – they’d rather corral and wipe out the Helghast.
It’s a story based on moral ambiguity. On the one hand, it’s easy to sympathise with the Helghast. The Vektan army did terrible things to the warring nation in the previous war and essentially left their civilisation in ruin. It’s only natural they’d want revenge. However, the leaders of the Helghast and their army are still as evil as they were, whilst the Vektans on the other hand want to protect their citizens and their city. At the same time, however, it was the Vektans that invaded Helghan and, secretly, they want the Helghast destroyed.
Guerrilla Games did a decent job with the story, all things told. There’s an incredibly interesting backstory and what they do during the single player campaign to flesh it out makes it all the more interesting. However, I don’t quite feel they went far enough. They didn’t delve far enough into the politics of the situation, which is disappointing.
The protagonist, Kellan, is also a poor one. He’s indecisive and sits on the fence too frequently. It’s worth noting though that his boss Sinclair and the Helghast operative Echo are real driving characters in the story, and represent each side of the story appropriately.
A sight for sore eyes
From the environment textures to the lighting, the faces of characters, the textures in clothing, the intricacies of the guns and the animations, Killzone: Shadow Fall is one of the most technical beautiful games ever.
It’s the perfect game for the PlayStation 4’s share functionality. Honestly, I can’t count how many times I loaded into a level and just wandered around, looking at the beautiful scenery, with the gorgeous Vekta City looming in the background before taking a screenshot and sharing it for the world to see.
The variety is one of the most impressive aspects of it. Killzone’s drab, industrial but technically gorgeous environments do make a return at certain points of the game, but they’re mixed with luscious forests, eerie space stations and the gorgeous Vekta City.
Such wonderful visuals are made even better when complemented by incredible sound design. The music is intense, loud and atmospheric. It’s moody and it does an excellent job of setting the tone. Voice acting is also top-notch; Sinclair, voiced by Homeland’s David Harewood, is particularly excellent. Kellan’s voice acting is quite boring unfortunately, but the overall quality is such that his dreariness is ultimately inconsequential.
Guerrilla Games has spoken at length about the amount of work it out into Killzone’s sound design, and it really shows. The guns in particular are an excellent example of this. From the sound of the shockwave of the sniper, to the metallic thumps of the Helghast assault rifles, this is one of those games, like Battlefield, where an investment into some really nice headphones will increase your enjoyment of the game significantly. It adds so much to the immersion.
Shots off target
Unfortunately, Killzone: Shadow Fall’s gameplay isn’t quite as consistently excellent as its visuals and sound design. The improvements Guerrilla Games made to how it controls are immediately noticeable when you being playing the game.
Coupled with the DualShock 4, the reduction in input latency, the smoothing of movement and aiming and the general feel of shooting the excellent guns are such marked improvements over the previous games in the series. It manages to strike that perfect balance between fast-paced shooters like Call of Duty, while still retaining an extra degree of heft that the Killzone series is known for. It’s certainly faster, but it’s good to see Guerrilla hasn’t quite left its roots behind.
This is somewhat let down by generally uneven encounter designs and some often wonky enemy AI. Killzone: Shadow Fall is often brilliant in its environment and battle layouts, particularly in the Helghast city-over-the-wall. However, there are a number of tedious encounters coupled with random difficulty spikes.
These are mixed with some non-combat-centric set pieces, which generally see you free-falling and trying to avoid obstacles and the like. They simply don’t work; they’re frustrating to play and feel like unnecessary filler to hike the set piece quota up. Other encounters are let down by Helghast AI that can only be described as inherently dumb. They won’t flank you and they’ll often just run past you as their scripting goes haywire. These situations aren’t the norm, to be fair, but they put a downer on an otherwise fun and decently lengthy campaign.
Fighting with friends as good as ever
Thankfully, AI based issues and poor set pieces are certainly things that don’t hold the multiplayer back. This is Killzone multiplayer at the best it ever has been. As someone who enjoyed the excellent Killzone 2 and 3 multiplayer experiences, I was initially sceptical when I started playing Shadow Fall’s multiplayer component.
The traditional experience-based levelling system is gone, and instead it’s based around challenges. There are over a thousand of these challenges to complete, and doing so will unlock new guns and class customisation options for each of the three main classes. The number of challenges you have completed is shown beside your name in multiplayer, acting as a good way to show off your achievements in-game.
The fun of Killzone multiplayer is in its Warzone mode. It’s a match based around objectives, with the team winning three of five objectives per match picking up the victory. You’ll pick one of three classes; Assault, Support and Recon, each with their own unique abilities and weapons. The biggest improvement to multiplayer in Shadow Fall is the sheer amount of customisation in Warzone. Want a particular map rotation (all of which are excellent, by the way)? No problem. Not a fan of the energy shield on the Assault class? How about the auto-shotgun? No worries, you can just disable them from use. It’s excellent.
And what would a multiplayer shooter be without its guns? In Shadow Fall, they’re absolutely excellent and the variety in weapons means you’re probably not going to get bored any time soon. At a time when Call of Duty and Battlefield 4 are the biggest multiplayer shooters on the new platforms, I’d argue that Shadow Fall offers the best, most rewarding multiplayer component of them all; especially if you have a group of friends on party chat to enjoy it with.
Killzone: Shadow Fall was honestly a big surprise for me. It’s a great launch title to pick up with your shiny new PS4, offers a fun single player that’s decently lengthy (about eight-to-ten hours long) and possibly the best multiplayer component on the new generation of consoles. It’s gorgeous, it sounds great and it’s well worth your money, despite some issues with the single player campaign.