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.
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
Some decent characters would be nice
Just make sure that the combat feels right
Honestly, I'm only interested in multiplayer
I don't really care about the game at all
Please login to vote in this poll.