Killzone Shadow Fall Review

Killzone: Shadow Fall is a launch title for the PlayStation 4 worldwide.  North America and Europe saw the game released on November 15th and 29th respectively and Japan will see it on February 22, 2014.  Killzone is a science fiction first-person shooter video game series developed by Guerilla Games that dates back to the PlayStation 2 in 2004.  This is the fourth game in the series to be released on a home console.

I have said many times before and will say many times again: I am getting a little burnt out on first-person shooters.  I played through Killzone 1-3 earlier this year and came away from it more pleased than I had predicted I would.  Though not great, Killzone is a solid shooter franchise so I was pretty excited going into Shadowfall.

Shadow Fall takes place many years after the events in Killzone 3.  Helghan is uninhabitable due to the “terracide,” so the humans and Helghast formed a treaty that would allow the Helghast survivors to take refuge on the planet Vekta by colonizing half of the planet.  A giant wall is built to separate the Helghast and the ISA from each other (Berlin Wall anybody?).  This wall however does not completely separate them as they continually sneak over to try and finish the war started on Helghan.

You play as Lucas Kellan, a human civilian from the planet Vekta.  After witnessing a traumatic event as a child while leaving the Helgast part of the planet, Lucas grows up and joins the ISA Shadow Marshals.  Lucas and the Shadow Marshals have to protect the Vektan civilians from the Helghast threat such as terrorist attacks performed by the “Black Hand.”

Most first-person shooters struggle to have a compelling storyline.  They focus so much on having great gameplay mechanics that often the story in the game falls short.  This is exactly the case for Shadow Fall.  Guerilla Games established a GREAT premise and setting for the game but was never able to completely realize the potential the story could have had which left it lackluster.  Everything was so similar to the Cold War in Germany that this really could have shined had they fleshed it out more.  On top of this, they added some absolutely ridiculous sections to the story that just did not seem to fit in the game at all.  In fact, they made the story suffer even worse for it.

 This graphics are where Shadow Fall is at its best.  This is one of the most visually appealing games I have ever seen and reminds me of the Crysis games.  Guerilla Games took the game to a new world with a whole new color palette.  Gone are the days of only using different shades of gray for environments.  There is now sunlight, grass, forests, water, trees, and snow.  Planet Vekta is absolutely gorgeous during certain sections of the game, such as scaling a mountain and looking down below.

For the most part, Shadow Fall is exactly like the previous Killzone games when it comes to its gameplay mechanics.  Most guns are similar as well with a few new ones here and there that you will barely even notice.  The main difference with the shooting mechanics comes with how it is accessed on the controller.  The PlayStation 4 has new L2 and R2 buttons which are now more like triggers than ever before.  Shadow Fall was the first shooter I was able to use them on and I came away extremely pleased with the outcome.  It felt almost natural after the first few minutes of readjusting myself to it.

The other major difference with Shadow Fall’s gameplay is the use of the OWL: a hovering attack drone that acts as your partner or just special weapon.  The OWL can attack or stun enemies for you.  This can be extremely helpful when surrounded by multiple Helghast.  Your OWL also has the ability to deploy a zip line that allows you to reach faraway places.  Another ability it has is to send out a scanner through the area that will highlight enemies and ammo/health packs for you so that you can locate them easier.  The final ability the OWL has is that it can hack and scan different terminals and alarms throughout the game for you.  The OWL was definitely an interesting addition to the Killzone franchise, but not one that makes the game special in any way.  It easily could have been made without it and it wouldn’t have changed a whole lot.

The multiplayer portion of the game was very fun during the time I spent with it.  There are a total of 10 maps that come with the game.  For a first time player the maps will appear to be huge and confusing, but you will adjust and learn them over time.  Every user has all of the classes, abilities, and weapons unlocked from the very beginning which is different from most first-person shooters.  The class system includes Assault, Scout, and Support which make it much simpler to choose from.  There is an enormous list of challenges for each class that the player can unlock and complete in order to gain skill enhancements to make their character better.  Overall, the multiplayer is very fun but takes a little getting used to if you have been playing games like Call of Duty and Halo for the past several years.

The Verdict: 7.5 out of 10

Launch titles always have too much hype which in turn leads them to being such a letdown for so many gamers.  This appears to be the case for Killzone: Shadow Fall.  I really wanted to love this game.  In fact during the first few missions I said out loud several times, “Woah, this game is awesome!”  But as I got farther into the game and started running into the mindless shooter mechanics that are in so many other games, I started to lose interest.  On top of that and with the story starting to lose me, they throw in some ridiculously frustrating and stupid sections like Chapter 8, and I almost ended up quitting the campaign entirely.  The amazing graphics and addition of the OWL could not save the campaign.  Hopefully the multiplayer will end up being popular and will continue to hold people’s attention who found the campaign as disappointing as I did.  Guerilla Games had a chance to make a spectacular game with the launch of a new console and instead delivered a game that is just about average.  

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