(This review may contain minor spoilers for the Killzone Universe)
Killzone: Shadow Fall is the sixth entry to the Killzone Franchise and the fourth in its main series. In the past, I’ve never been too keen on the Killzone series due to their excessive use of motion blur (causing motion sickness) and their straightforward, lackluster FPS gameplay. Yet Killzone: Shadow Fall, as the PS4’s flagship launch title, and its developer Guerilla Games have made great strides in improving on the series’ story and gameplay, succeeding to an extent.
Aesthetics (Story, Graphics, Sound)
Killzone: Shadow Fall follows Lucas Kellen, a Shadow Marshal (Spec Ops soldier) assigned to keep peace on Vekta, now home to the native Vektans as well as the Helghast. For me though, Killzone’s never really been about the specific characters and their struggles and playing through the game I remembered why: they’re not all that memorable (except for a certain, new female character whose back story and characteristics are a welcome change of pace). It’s really been about the broader, general conflict between Vekta and Helghan, between the ISA and the Helghasts. In that respect, the game delivers when the overarching political, cultural and ethical themes come into play, but not much else is presented specifically to make this an unforgettable, enticing story.
But where to even begin on the graphics? As a flagship title for a new console, Killzone: Shadow Fall basically has the secondary purpose of being a glorified tech demo. And boy, does it do a good job. Everything, from the articulate leaves swaying gently in the Vektan winds to the magnificent light refraction and reflection to the details on the people’s faces, is gloriously rendered and operating at a silken frame rate. The blood effects in the game could use some more work, looking cheap compared to everything else, but this is almost completely overshadowed by the awe-inspiring models, landscapes and set pieces.
Gameplay (Combat, Systems, Mechanics)
Killzone: Shadow Fall takes a pretty standard approach to the FPS genre. Combat is solid for the most part; an enjoyable core facet of the game that never feels too repetitive as the game advances or makes you feel frustrated or cheated. Yet it didn’t wow me in any way. The shooting felt pretty generic in terms of its speed and action; the FPS formula (cover-based, aim and shoot, run and melee when feeling brazen) is all there with no new mechanics or components that enhance the overall gameplay. They even took out the jetpacks from Killzone 3 which was such a fun system to play with. Sure, they’ve enhanced their level design, but not enough to really spice up the game and make it truly great. Overall, though, polished but predictable.
The one addition to the gameplay that should be noted is the OWL drone. This little robotic utility device acts as an additional attacker, shield or land-traversal tool. To use the OWL, Guerilla Games has made use of the touchpad interface to switch between these various modes, allowing players to get a feel for how the technology works. It works fantastically. The touchpad is pretty one-to-one and never feels like it’s slowing you down or hindering your gaming experience. Secondly, the OWL has a nifty zipline feature that can be used to add verticality to your attacks. However, the zipline feels completely optional and isn’t too necessary to complete the campaign.
Multiplayer in Killzone: Shadow Fall is enjoyable as well, taking the graphical spectacle and the solid gameplay online against other players. With this title in the series, they’ve introduced the ability to deeply customize gameplay modes and how you play those modes. It’s extremely enjoyable as the variety promises new and tactical ways to approach each game and I rarely found myself sticking to one tactic like I do in other FPS’s. It might be a bit confusing at first with basically a wave of options flooding you at once, but take the time to familiarize yourself with them and you’ll have a blast.
Although the game is still lacking in terms of gameplay, feeling generic and repetitive in some parts, it’s in the graphical detail where Killzone: Shadow Fall shines. As a flagship title for the PS4, it succeeds in showcasing the Ps4’s power and providing a breathtaking visual experience, yet does little to spice up the FPS combat and mechanics. If you have a PS4, I would definitely recommend Killzone: Shadow Fall, but I would not go so far to say that this game is a system seller.
Final Score: 8 / 10
Written and edited by Tim Atwood
Chief Editor at The Pixel Pen Review