A dedicated co-op component has long been missing in action over the course of the Killzone series' multiple instalments. If you've ever wanted to blow up Helghast with a buddy outside of the franchise's sometimes disappointing campaigns, then you've always had little choice but to team up together for some competitive play – but now, there's a new and better way to get your co-op fix. The remedy comes in the form of Killzone: Shadow Fall – Intercept, a downloadable expansion that features four-player co-op missions that task you with taking on waves of computer controlled troops – but is it worth jumping back into PlayStation 4's prettiest shooter for?
Being a premium piece of content, you'd expect Intercept to be a reasonably robust package, and thankfully, it is. As such, it's also being launched as a standalone release later this year. The add-on doesn't really throw any curve balls – this is a co-op component that demands teamwork, a little bit of planning, and a relatively hefty investment of time if you're to seize victory over your orange eyed aggressors. It's a horde mode through and through that comes with four maps and four player classes, but unfortunately, it doesn't come with a reliable user base.
If you're still testing your mettle in the warzones of the title's competitive multiplayer, you'll already know that there aren't quite as many soldiers playing online as there should be. Sure, you can get into matches easily enough, but ever since the launch game's release, its player count has started to shrink bit by bit, and sadly, this issue bleeds into Intercept. The DLC is split into three game types – quick, normal, and long – much to the component's detriment, as it further divides willing participants. We encountered most users in quick sessions, but there were still numerous occasions where we struggled to join up with a full squad, and as you can imagine, that's not a good thing when you're being swarmed by relentless Helghast troops.
Fortunately, the core title's surprising lack of players is the downloadable content's only real flaw, and even then, it can be remedied by teaming up with a good group of friends. As a whole, the component is an absolutely solid and nicely designed addition to the franchise, and at times, manages to capture the very essence of what makes Killzone enjoyable: the gunplay.
That weighty, punchy combat is exaggerated here as you attempt to gun down huge amounts of enemies. Class specific abilities spice things up and are a necessity if you want to come out of the fight in one piece, but it's still the series' gunplay that's pushed to the forefront in all of its glory. Where solo campaigns are usually let down by needless gameplay variety and a poor narrative, Intercept is all about the action. Your task in each mission is to hold off the Helghast forces as you defend three different uplink points that are spread out across the map. It's a structure that naturally lends itself to constant combat as you battle it out in congested areas that are filled with groups of opposition, and needless to say, it isn't easy when you're only a team of four.
Indeed, achieving your objective can be tough when you're part of a squad that doesn't quite click. In order to balance the game and force players to work together, each class can only be selected by one person; you can't, for example, have a team made up of marksmen, or a group full of medics. It's first come first served, and if you end up joining a match late, that probably means that you'll have to suck it up and pick a character that you're not totally comfortable with. As you can imagine, each role fulfils a certain job on the battlefield, and the key to success is enacting that role to the best of your abilities. It's somewhat pointless, for instance, trying to tackle the enemy head-on with your comparatively weak firepower if you're a medic, as you'd be much better off placing ammo boxes and reviving your more offensive buddies. It's an easy formula to wrap your head around if you're used to team-based experiences, but you'd be surprised by how many tacticians you'll see running into the fray armed only with a pistol.
For that reason, communication may prove to be crucial when it comes to the crunch. Something as simple as being able to tell your allies which side of the map the enemy is coming from can be a colossal help when you're about to be overrun, while pointing things out to newcomers could end up being the difference between success and failure. To ensure victory, you'll need to rack up points by killing your foes, capturing an uplink, or making good use of your abilities. You'll then have to bank these points in order for them to count towards the team's total, and when that score reaches the goal, the win is yours. However, it's not that easy due to the fact that if you're gunned down, your points that you've been patiently building up will be cut by a drastic amount, eliminating a lot of hard work if you're not careful.
On the other hand, the longer that you hold onto your points before banking, the higher that your score multiplier will rise, which means that shooting a Helghast in the head will net you 12 points instead of 10. Not a huge amount, you might think, but add it all up as you're mowing down wave after wave of insurgents, and it'll quickly make a difference. The whole setup creates a brilliant sense of risk versus reward, where a death will have you swearing at the television, and hanging on by the skin of your teeth will make you slump back into your chair with a massive sigh of relief. Of course, if you're holding onto 400 points and you get torn apart on the front lines, you're bound to get some flak from your unhappy allies, so it's definitely best to play using your head rather than your heart.
To keep you playing, there's a few weapons to unlock and challenges to complete for each class, and progressing through the ranks essentially requires you to use your chosen character as intended. You'll need to revive people as a medic, rack up kills with your defensive turrets as a tactician, and roast a few Higs with your incendiary shotgun as an assault troop. The only downside is that unlocking those shiny new guns usually takes a very long time, especially since you're not guaranteed to be able to pick your preferred class. It's safe to say that a lot of less patient players won't see the fun in this DLC, but if you do manage to stick with it, swapping out your measly SMG for a powerful shotgun will seem more than worth the effort.
Fortunately, things are kept reasonably fresh on the battlefield as well. Every now and then, you'll encounter a boss opponent who boasts a lengthy health bar and packs a punch. These familiar faces stalk the area and always pose a threat if they're not quickly taken care of, and they even sport their own menacing background music, which only adds to the component's effective electronic soundtrack and typically great audio design. On top of random boss fights, you'll also find petrusite canisters that spawn across the map at certain intervals. Bring these back to the central base, and you'll be able to use them as currency to purchase power-ups such as the immensely satisfying jetpack. When you're in a spot of trouble, these bonuses can make all of the difference – but just be careful not to annihilate your team mates along with the opposition when you decide to call in a devastating artillery strike.
Killzone: Shadow Fall - Intercept's focus lies firmly on the franchise's fantastic gunplay, and it's all the better for it. Requiring a good amount of coordination and teamwork, the expansion won't suit everyone, but victory tastes all the sweeter because of its often intense difficulty. The DLC is let down by a dwindling online user base, but get a group of friends together, and the reasonably priced add-on will almost always hit the mark.