Killzone: Shadow Fall takes place shortly after the events of PlayStation 3 exclusive Killzone 3, as the ISA and Helghast are forced to co-inhabit the planet Vekta. Living together in peace is not on the agenda for either faction, however, as the Helghast fight to push the humans out of their own home. This location has been the source of many battles throughout the series, but this time the two sides are determined to end the war once and for all.
The narrative is both emotional and exciting during the high points, but it largely remains vague and under-developed. Still, it’s interesting to see the story from both groups’ point of view, and the events at least move along at a solid pace. It also provides window dressing for a host of beautiful environments that offer a welcome change from previous instalments. From pushing back the Helghast while leaping from high-speed trains to watching your footing as buildings collapse around you, there is really very little repetition which results in each chapter feeling unique.
Conversely, the combat is largely what you should expect from an entry in Guerrilla Games’ popular property: heavy and brutal. The weaponry is believable, and the movements and animations suit the setting. The artificial intelligence is drastically better than previous titles, too, and can really test your abilities in certain areas. If you knock out a Helghast communications system, the orange-eyed foes will sniff out your whereabouts and increase their patrol guards in an effort to catch you out. They also have the ability to sound alarms, forcing you to either deal with endless waves of grunts or quietly hack the appropriate panels to stop the onslaught.
The only real issue with the action, then, is just how infrequently the battles actually occur. In most chapters, enemies are spaced very far apart, and that breaks the fluidity of the combat somewhat. With the firefights being so satisfying and entertaining, it would have been nice to experience a little more of them throughout the campaign.
Regardless, there are new additions to the gameplay, too. The OWL, a small robotic attack drone, can be employed by swiping the touchpad on the DualShock 4. You’ll be able to use this device to act as a shield, a stun weapon, a zip-line, and an attack decoy. Even better, if you have an adrenaline pack, the OWL can also revive you in the event that the Helghast take you down. The touchpad actually works well here, allowing you to toggle between your options extremely quickly. It’s an amazing tool that adds a decent amount of depth to the combat, and while it can be easy to forget how useful the option is at the start the game, it completely changes the tides of battle as you soldier on towards the conclusion.
At times, various puzzles present themselves, forcing you to complete certain goals like opening locked doors, starting a nuclear reactor, or disabling machinery. While at first the conundrums – involving the use of canisters and canister ports – offer an interesting change of pace, they overstay their welcome by reappearing multiple times throughout the story. Another major gripe pertains to the fact that it can often be difficult to determine what you’re supposed to be doing. Granted, a tap of the d-pad will point you in the direction of your next objective, but it’s often unclear or even misleading.
Still, the sheer gameplay variety on offer is an enormous change for the series, with stealth comprising an important aspect in many chapters. In some situations it works well, too, but it mostly feels like a poor substitute for the much more satisfying heavy combat. With the awesome guns and OWL drone, you can sometimes end up feeling a little silly trying to sneak around when you clearly have the firepower to deal with your foes. Furthermore, a couple of forced stealth segments are frustratingly difficult and unnecessarily impede the pace of the game.
Those who wish to look around and explore the amazing environments will be rewarded with a slew of collectibles. From audiotapes that play directly through the DualShock 4 controller’s speaker to a full Killzone-based comic book, there’s plenty to keep completionists busy. It makes for a great excuse to drool over the gorgeously rendered world, which is dripping with next generation textures and lighting effects.
It’s the multiplayer where the title shines the brightest, though. The maps are amazing well laid out and offer various routes and methods for you to overcome the enemy. Well choreographed teamwork is rewarded by the multiple paths, as you coordinate flanking manoeuvres in groups. The spawn killing issues of previous titles have already been countered by the placement of impenetrable barriers and extremely powerful unmanned guns in and around the area of each faction’s base.
All of the weapon and class abilities are unlocked from the start of the game, making it accessible for individuals who are intimidated or lack the time to unlock everything from the off. This means that a brand new player will not be at an equipment disadvantage to an opponent with hundreds of hours under their belt. Each firearm is well balanced and offers enough flexibility that you won’t feel forced to use a particular loadout over and over.
Even though everything is unlocked from the offset, using the same weapons and class abilities repeatedly will boost said items. For example, frequently using the shield will unlock rewards making the defensive option more potent. The best player in each faction is also included in a brief cinematic at the end of each mission allowing skilled players to show off.
Irritatingly, despite the team focus, the multiplayer mode lacks the ability to voice chat between group members. Considering the fact that the PS4 actually comes bundled with a headset, it’s an odd omission – especially when this was such a common feature on the PlayStation 3. It’s still possible to Party Chat with friends while you’re playing, but this is a workaround for a problem that really shouldn’t exist to begin with.
Of course, we couldn’t conclude without a longer look at the graphics, because this game is utterly astonishing. As previously alluded, the real-time lighting, rain, dust, and particle physics all running at a fairly flawless 60 frames-per-second in multiplayer make this one of the best looking games to date. The lens flare effects can be a little bit distracting at times, but it’s difficult to fault the visuals or audio anywhere else. The single player may half the framerate, but the experience looks absolutely phenomenal throughout.
Despite being beyond brilliant at times, Killzone: Shadow Fall misfires in many of the same areas as previous entries. It undoubtedly does an exceptional job of demonstrating the power of Sony’s next generation system, but the single player pacing issues and narrative flaws let it down. These issues are accentuated by the fact that the core combat and multiplayer is outstanding – even if the lack of voice chat augments an unnecessary obstacle when communicating with your team. Still, while these issues aren’t game breaking, it feels like there’s always a problem lurking in this otherwise exceptional exclusive’s shadow.
I would take an up-ressed port of Killzone 2, hell i would take a remade port of Killzone 2 on PS4.
Get Guerrilla Games back to their glory days, now its just missing something that Killzone 2 had.
I'm still miffed that Joris De Man is still not present.
I'm disappointed to hear about the poor pacing - Killzone's gunplay has always been brilliant and I can't believe that it's been ditched at times to provide less developed styles of gameplay. Still, I look forward to playing it.
Great review Nathan.
Nice write up but it Comes across as only having a couple of minor issues that seem subjective (some people may prefer the slower pacing to a CoD style slog fest for example) Maybe it's just me
i love it so far
I bought Killzone 3 Multiplayer separately on PSN and it was one of my favorite games on PS3 hands down. I couldn't care less about the single player (don't even own it) and think of the multiplayer as the whole game. It seems like Killzone is always dragged down for single player issues and I wish it could get some stand alone scores for the multiplayer because it's some of the best I've ever played and I'd pay full price for it alone.
WOW, Shadow Fall is worse than Mercenary... OMG, That's a surprise, guys.
@Gemuarto Different platform, different expectations. It's not really fair to compare the two directly.
@Legendaryboss have you played it yet? I feel like this destroys killzone 2 from what I've played. For what it's worth, I've played about three hours of both.
@Gemuarto I liked the single player content in Mercenary a TAD more than the single player in Shadow Fall personally. For multiplayer, Shadow Fall is a lot more fun for me.
@MadchesterManc: It's hard to say. It just seems that with combat this good, a bit higher enemy density would have probably been welcomed by most without it feeling simial to less heavy/gritty fps games.
I'd say they're about equal. If enjoy Mercenary I'd say at least give this game a try when you get a chance. It doesn't move at the same quick pace but the gunplay in this one is as good as its ever been in the series. The stealth gameplay does slow things down a bit but I've actually found it to be quite fun (not perfect, but I commend Guerilla for trying something different). Since the game is on PS4 though, obviously higher expectations so I'm not surprised it got a lower score than Mercenary which is the best FPS that has ever been released on a handheld console. Shadow Fall is still great though, it's not ground breaking but out of the big 3 home console FPS this holiday season, it is the best one.
I never really gave Killzone multiplayer a great deal of time before Mercenary despite loving the series, which I'm sure you're all aware is excellent.
Dabbled in 2 after finishing the single player and did pretty well in 3 using the sharpshooter.
I've usually found for mp I much prefer a faster pace, a throwback to my Unreal Tournament and Quake PC days. For that, CoD works very well. UT3 is still a gem of a game on PS3 though, it's a shame it didn't get the user base it really deserved.
Mercenary bought that quicker pace in mp for me, and everything I've seen of SF so far seems to mirror that.
Either way, I'm looking forward to playing!
Couldn't have written a more accurate review myself. Objectively this is a really good game, but compared to Killzone 2 and 3, it fails in almost every way. It controls much smoother than Killzone 2, but they tried to give the game variety and I think that's where they failed. There's a huge emphasis on stealth, and that really brings down the entire package, especially when it isn't handled as well as it could have been.
Yep, saw it coming. Other than a pretty game, I had no interest in playing this. Anyone without a PS4 shouldn't dwell too much. We're really not missing much yet lol
@ztpayne7 I haven't yet the joys of being in Europe But i have seen playthroughs and it doesn't strike me like Killzone 2 did.
Don't wanna say I've been saying exactly this for months but... Who am I kidding? Told you!
(quiet down whiners, I'm just pulling your legs)
I've been playing it about an hr every night after work and I love it so far, although the beginning was a little bit slow.
I get confused a lot but I MUCH prefer looking around and using my brain over Naughty Dog's painting everything interactive bright yellow. "Climb this, morons" and "you clearly need a hint" both got so insulting to me. Sometimes confused is better, like SH or Myst : )
So far I'm enjoying this game
@Gamer83 Thanks, man. To tell you the truth I beat most Mercenary Story levels using stealth=). So I like stealth =). Definetly will give this game a chance, but after some price drop =). Guess I'll buy PS4 with Drive Club or Infamous, then.
@Gemuarto Stealth was definitely a better fit for Mercenary since it was possible to customize weapons a bit more. I think in the entire Shadow Fall campaign, you only get two silenced weapons so stealth was more about absolute avoidance or carefully planned knife kills.
Shadow Fall still has my recommendation for anyone with a PS4 who enjoys FPS; however, I don't think you'll be missing much if you wait to get it later with Drive Club and inFAMOUS.
Great Review Nathan! Can't wait to play this game on launch day even though there are some issues with it
Excellent review, Nathan! Just finished KZ3 for the first time and can't wait to continue the story with Shadow Fall. I have a feeling that I will enjoy this game a lot!
Keep up the good work!
It's a shame this is not the groundbreaking game I was hoping it would be but still I look forward to giving it a go when my PS4 finally arrives!
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