Killzone: Shadow Fall Review

By Andrew McDanell on December 5, 2013

The first person shooter genre has seen many iterations, which have focussed on anything from World Wars, modern day fictions and even futuristic space encounters. The Killzone franchise has always straddled the border of a not-so-future science fiction world that brings both grounded elements of civilization and mixes it with future tech and survival. It's a franchise that has seen good success and Sony are hoping it will continue this trend by ushering in a whole new console generation.

Killzone: Shadow Fall takes place 30 years after Killzone 3, with both the Vektans and Helghast now living side by side with only a towering wall to separate them. While the wars may be over, the looming threat of a broken truce is only a stone's throw away. You play as Lucas Kellan, a shadow marshal tasked with entering the Helghast territory to discover a possible danger to the Vektan world.

While similar to most FPS titles, Shadow Fall doesn't have any story elements that are all that heavy. However it does manage to grab your attention for the entirety of the campaign. The narrative is there, along with great voice acting to make for good storytelling that keeps the player motivated to move forward. If you've been following the Killzone franchise, this is something you're probably used to.

One of the more stand-out moments is the constant jumping between the two faction borders. There's a nice sense of post war culture damage and stark contrast between two worlds. The lush beautiful world of the Vektans, as compared to the dirty slums of the Helghast.

This is all presented beautifully by the visual details in the world. It's easy to see Shadow Fall as stand-out launch title from that perspective, it just offers more in that department than its competition. Departing from the muddy environments that Killzone is known for, it offers breath taking backdrops and deep rich environments. Fantastic lighting, detailed and well animated enemies, great weather effects, and an unflinching framerate bring it all together.

Those rich environments are often not just to look at, as many of the areas you come across are large and offer dynamic ways of tackling a task. Shadow Fall gives you the flexibility to take a stealth route, or just go in guns blazing. You can even zip across the terrain using your drone called OWL, giving you a large amount of freedom. It's a fine departure from corridor shooters.

At times however, this openness can come at a cost. While equipped with an interesting scan ability as well as an objective tool, there were so many points that direction is completely lost and you can find yourself running in circles trying to find the next objective.OWL also provides other elements that make Killzone more than just a standard shooter. Using the touchpad, you can put OWL into 4 modes: Shield, Stun, Attack, and Zipline. Shield is a one side protective wall that you can shoot through, but your enemies can not. Stun commands OWL to discharge a large electrical explosion that can both stun the enemy as well as disable fields and electronics.

While at first, it seems like OWL's uses are limited, it becomes very clear later on that it is an important element to the game as more enemies are equipped with shields and more electronic hazards are roaming the environment. It's a fun and interesting element that makes for a much more tactical experience.

It's important to note that Killzone: Shadow Fall plays a lot quicker than previous Killzone titles. It no longer has that slow, weighty feeling, instead offering a quick, snappy and fast paced experience. Long-time fans of Killzone may find this a disappointing change, but be rest assured the change is a great move for the series. This is apparent when moving around the map and dashing, sliding, taking cover or climbing up cliffs. It all feels intuitive and fluid.

At its core, Shadow Fall is of course a shooter, and it comes with a complete arsenal of weapons. However, it does feel as though Guerrilla Games were playing it safe with the selection that's comprised primarily of standard assault rifles, shotguns, rockets, and sniper rifles. It's never underwhelming, but at the same time it's not really trying anything new or unique.

Be it gun or drone, each of the tools is needed to take on many of the enemies. In many cases Shadow Fall is not afraid to throw some nasty groups your way. Even to the point that lower difficulties may even be difficult in certain areas. Though getting back on your feet is simple enough, and OWL can even revive you if equipped with adrenaline.

In case of death, checkpoints then become the biggest worry. In most cases, it does its job of penalizing you, but still putting you back into the game to try again. Sometimes it can be utterly frustrating, putting you quite far back or making you replay scenes that aren't skippable. In very rare cases, you can also be put into endless death loops. It's rare, but can happen.

Final Thoughts

Killzone: Shadow Fall is a great start for this franchise on the PS4. Offering a visually beautiful experience, with some surprising flexibility, it shows a lot of promise for new experiences going forward. While it may not be a system seller, anyone with a PS4 can't go wrong having this in their library if they are looking for a good FPS experience.

Visually stunning
Dynamic campaign elements
Fast and fun combat
Bad or broken checkpoints
Objectives are vague at points
Lack of co-op options.
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