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Feature: How Killzone: Shadow Fall Can Finally Fulfil the Franchise's Potential

Posted by Sammy Barker

Heaven or Helghast

For a franchise once dubbed a ‘Halo killer’, Guerrilla Games’ solid-if-unspectacular Killzone series has frequently fallen short of its lofty ambitions. It’s unfortunate, because the Dutch developer has always possessed the ingredients to make a smash hit, but there’s always been a flaw in the recipe; a misstep mostly negligible, but still prominent enough to squander the company’s shot at a Michelin star.

With the recently announced Killzone: Shadow Fall, the outfit arguably has its best shot at stamping its mark on the first-person shooter genre. As a PlayStation 4 launch title, the impending release will almost certainly find itself on the wishlist of most early adopters; it represents the console’s big first-party exclusive, the title that a large proportion of consumers will snap up alongside the system just to see what their expensive purchase is capable of. And the studio must make that opportunity count.

In recognition of the title’s potential, we’ve compiled a list of qualities that the next generation shooter must feature if it’s to finally sit alongside the juggernauts of the genre. Dismantle your StA-52 Assault Rifle, and sit tight while we put the world to rights.

Explore the lore

For many, Killzone is little more than a generic sci-fi series with a paper thin plot and an iconic antagonist. It’s the developer’s fault that such a criticism continues to surround the series like an ISA attack, because the studio has failed to make the best of the back story it invested hours putting together. Years spent focusing on the plights of dislikeable protagonists Sev and Rico has detracted from the oodles of fiction buried deep within the universe. Anyone that’s bothered to explore it will know that there are some interesting motives behind the Helghast’s questionable actions.

But, thus far, the series has failed to delve into these intergalactic politics, forcing you to pull the trigger on the orange-eyed foes without ever really asking why. Shadow Fall finally has the opportunity to explore parts of that fiction, and really examine the reasons behind the conflict between the warring factions. Assuming it’s done properly, there’s no reason why such revelations can’t add serious gravitas to the game’s gunplay, forcing you to question your actions, rather than brainlessly mow down waves of enemies.

Based on what we know about the sequel so far, the seeds are in place for a dense narrative. The game takes place some thirty years after the conclusion of previous entries in the series, with the ISA and Helghast coexisting on the habitable planet of Vekta. You’ll play as a Shadow Marshal forced to keep the peace between the brooding parties, allowing you to observe the narrative from both sides of the equation. That’s a fascinating premise, but the developer must now ensure that it comes good on the promise, rather than squander another plot’s potential.

Consider the cast

We’re not entirely sure how, but Rico Velasquez has appeared in all four of the Killzone titles released thus far. That’s an incredible statistic, especially when you consider that his turn in Killzone 2 probably made him the most dislikeable character in video games at the time. His frustrating personality was toned down a touch in the shooter’s PS3 successor, but still he was a disposable archetype included as a little more than a foil for the downright dull Tomas Sevchenko.

With the franchise failing to establish an iconic character – the series is recognised for the Helghast’s orange eyes above anything else – it’s about time that Guerrilla Games put together a likeable and engaging cast. We know next to nothing about Shadow Fall’s line-up, other than that, as previously mentioned, the protagonist serves as a peace-keeper between the ISA and the Helghast. But this role should give the character plenty of access to interesting personalities – including the leader of each faction.

The quality of the writing will be pivotal to establishing an interesting cast and story. While the developer recruited recognised thespians Ray Winstone and Malcolm MacDowell for Killzone 3, the title’s clunky writing and unfathomable plot twists undermined their performances, and rendered the narrative forgettable as a result. In an age where endeavours such as Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception and BioShock Infinite have raised the bar for characterisation, the Dutch developer must introduce a handful of interesting characters.

Nail the feel

While its plot’s always been the subject of much criticism, the Killzone franchise has been similarly lambasted for the way that it ‘feels’. The second game in the series suffered from the biggest backlash; its intentionally weighty gunplay drawing criticism from those more accustomed to the water-pistol pace of other shooters. A subsequent patch offered an alternative, ‘Precise’ option for disillusioned gamers, and the control scheme was completely overhauled with the third game in the series.

However, by tweaking the controls, Guerrilla Games attracted some criticism from fans for not – excuse the pun – sticking to its guns. As such, with Shadow Fall, the company must happen upon a solution that it feels supports its overall vision and stick to it. Judging by the sequel’s first gameplay trailer, it looks like the studio is eager to speed up the pace of battle. Throughout the course of the title’s debut demo, the protagonist is shown sprinting around the environment at an accelerated pace.

We’ve got no qualms with this if it’s the direction that the developer wants to go, but it must make the transition from heavy gunplay to more fast-paced action count. A light emphasis on parkour could perhaps sate Mirror’s Edge fans, while simultaneously adding some spice to the gunplay. Killzone has always felt fundamentally different to other games, and we hope that by speeding up the formula, the developer’s not simply cowering to the Call of Duty crowd.

Multiplayer masterpiece

With the focus understandably on single player for the time being, it would be easy to ignore the importance of Shadow Fall’s multiplayer component too. The first-person shooter will almost certainly be forced to compete with cross-generation ports of the next Battlefield and Call of Duty games – as well as the impending Destiny – but with the title being designed from the ground-up for the next generation console, it may hold an advantage over its peers.

It’s incredible that the series’ staple Warzone mode hasn’t been imitated by other shooters yet, and could be the key to the sequel dominating the online shooter space at launch. For those out of the loop, the mode sees you compete in dynamically evolving battles, where your objectives change on the fly, forcing you to keep constant communication with your team mates and stay alert at all times.

A refinement of this mode – combined with the narrative-driven aspects of Killzone 3's Operations option – could help propel Shadow Fall above its peers, but Guerrilla Games must get the basics right. The developer was criticised for fiddling with the character classes in the franchise’s most recent entry, and failing to maintain an enjoyable balance as a result. The studio must ensure that the action feels fair and accessible upfront in Shadow Fall, while also offering a deeper layer for hardcore players to explore.


Are you excited for Killzone: Shadow Fall? What do you think that Guerrilla Games needs to do to ensure that the sequel lives up to its potential? Let us know in the comments section and poll below.

What aspect does Guerrilla Games most need to nail in Killzone: Shadow Fall? (24 votes)

Please pen an interesting plot

21%

Some decent characters would be nice

25%

Just make sure that the combat feels right

21%

Honestly, I'm only interested in multiplayer

13%

I don't really care about the game at all

21%

Please login to vote in this poll.

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User Comments (21)

Epic

#1

Epic said:

Sorry but I'm not interested in this one the FPS genre it was saturated this gen.
I want next gen to start with something we have never seen gen something completly new.

get2sammybAdmin

#2

get2sammyb said:

@Epic No need to apologise, I think that's totally fair. I suspect a lot of people will agree with you.

brendon987

#3

brendon987 said:

I only play the single player campaigns of first person shooters. An KZ 2,3 were my favourites. The enemy AI is great, the set pieces are huge, and you always felt that you were in a war.

Playing KZ3 on a 3dTV is amazing. Seeing the rockets coming, bullets flying by is a highlight off this generation gaming.

Squiggle55

#5

Squiggle55 said:

I really enjoyed KZ3's multiplayer. I hope they sell it to me separate for this game too.

ShogunRokAdmin

#7

ShogunRok said:

Better characters, better writing. That's all I ask to make Killzone a better franchise. It has both the lore and setting to be able to pull this off.

A more expansive mutliplayer portion would be fantastic, too. I felt Killzone 2's multiplayer was infinitely more engrossing than the third's.

BornOfEvil

#8

BornOfEvil said:

Even with the ovrrsaturation of FPS games this gen, I'm still extremely excited for Shadow Fall. Hopefully, Guerilla can really nail it this time.

vmoterani

#9

vmoterani said:

Not meaning to offend anyone, but I have zero hope for the Killzone franchise.
They seemed to have great ideas on gunplay on Killzone 2 (someone even said "We don't want the player to feel like a bunch of guns jumping trough the level"). However, it is like some top executive said to them "No, no original ideas. We need a larger demographic, we need a more casual game". That's how I see KZ3.
If executives keep pushing them to be testhosterone-fueled CoD-clone, that is what we will get. And judging by the trailer, I guess this is only getting worse and more generic.
If they are really being pressed from the top like I think they are, we will get a 7 hour campaing that will focus on how much explosions the new PS4 processor can handle at a single time, and more-of-the-same MP without any really new additions. Playing safe. I want to be wrong, but I just think this is what will happen.
I still wonder why Sony chose to focus so much on KZ and totally buried the Resistance series with the terrible R3 launch date and giving Burning Skies to Nihilistic. They destroyed a franchise with much more innovative potential than KZ.

LEGIT_ELITE

#10

LEGIT_ELITE said:

Lets be honest.... KZ2 had the greatest multiplayer of the 3 the only fault the multiplayer had was that unlocking things was a MESS and a HUGE chore.KZ3 had a MUCH better story, but the "noob friendly" changes made it not as good as KZ2. Especially the lack of lobby system. If KZ4 has the story quality as good or (most likely) better than KZ3, and the multiplayer is like KZ2 I'll be a very happy gamer!

ShogunRokAdmin

#11

ShogunRok said:

@LEGIT_ELITE I basically agree with everything you said. I loved KZ2's multiplayer but there really wasn't enough to unlock, and what was there took far too long.

Cirno

#12

Cirno said:

Oh wow, I didn't expect to see the results there, with Shadow Fall being the PS4's biggest title, I thought a lot of people would love it.

Personally, I would like to see the FPS genre take a backseat this generation to some other genre. 5th and early 6th gen were ruled by platformers (Which usually had more variety to them. I mean, Banjo Kazooie, Crash Bandicoot, Klonoa and Sly Cooper were completely different games) and late 6th/7th gen is ruled by FPSes, which leads me to wonder what will be the major genre of the 8th Generation (I'm hoping for RPG, may Pokémon X/Y and Dark Souls 2 lead the way!)

Scrible

#13

Scrible said:

Killzone sucks, being a launch title is worse, they dubbed the first resistance game as a halo killer and that game was horrible, no hopes for this one either

Ginkgo

#14

Ginkgo said:

Halo is successful not just because of the games. Clearly they are good and people like them, but also because the US is obsessed with FPS, and XBOX is huge in the US. The PS3 community in general has a wider variety of tastes. For Killzone to achieve its "potential", the PS4 has to win back the US, which at this point is a huge challenge.

rockman29

#15

rockman29 said:

The first two options, AMEN.

Plus bring back the gritty deadly concrete atmosphere. Star Trek 2011 looks great, but it's not as inspiring imo.

"Killzone sucks, being a launch title is worse, they dubbed the first resistance game as a halo killer and that game was horrible, no hopes for this one either"

"They" never dubbed Resistance as a Halo Killer. That honour goes to the original Killzone.

"They" was some games media who had a first preview of Killzone.

Gamer83

#16

Gamer83 said:

I'd love a better story and more likeable characters for sure (though I didn't mind Sev) but I don't really play FPS for that. As long as it's paced well and feels like a Killzone game, I'll be happy.

Zetrayrus

#19

Zetrayrus said:

I generally agree with the suggestions put out. Killzone has a lot of potential that isn't used yet.

Oh and about the "Gears Killer" and "Halo Killer" thing. I personally feel that Resistance is the "Halo Killer" while Killzone is the "Gears Killer".

Resistance is all about weapon a massive variety of weapon types and a large variety of enemies with a some-what super soldier feel that I find similar to Halo

While Killzone is a slow paced cover based shooter which I find similar to Gears of War. Albeit with one being first person and the other being third person.

Realitypalez

#20

Realitypalez said:

I want Shadow Fall to feel like killzone 3 because Killzone feel's special and more nazi space people are always good and the berlin wall idea sounds asome

MajikDragon89

#21

MajikDragon89 said:

killzone is an FPS heavy weight and in my opinion playStation’s best exclusive first person shooter, i very much look forward to playing shadowfall. however, my main concern isn't with the campaign, but rather the multiplayer, in which i hope to see bigger maps, more guns and the possible inclusion of vehicles. multiplayer extends the life of a game and makes it worth the money, not a short campaign. if the heavy handling of the controller has been changed to cater for the bloody COD community i will be very disappointed indeed.

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