Killzone Shadow Fall is a typical launch title. It’s a solid game in its own right, with gorgeous visuals, but isn’t the mind-blowing experience we all hope launch titles will be.
I really had no idea what was going on here. The last Killzone game I played was Killzone 2 and there has been an additional PS3 and Vita titles between then and now. They didn’t brand the game as Killzone 4 so I imagine that at least thought it could stand on its own but that’s not really the case. If I was confused then I imagine somebody completely new to the series must be completely lost.
Aside from from providing minimal backstory I think the problem lies in how the game presents itself. In the first level, which is more of a tutorial, you play as the main character when he’s a kid. Then before the second mission you see time jump ahead several times until it’s 12 or 14 years and through all of that a series of confusing scenarios play out. It seems you join the military, and then make Shadow Marshall, then at one point you get captured and are part of a prisoner exchange, etc. This all happens in the span of a few minutes. From there the narrative just seems to bounce all over the place and you’re never quite sure how you got where you are. After you beat the second mission the third drops you off in space outside some station.
The game looks really good. I’m not a tech guy so I don’t know any of the fancy terminology like the blooms, shaders and aliasing of the anti persuasion. Trees and leaves sway, there are light beams/shafts, a crapload of bloom lighting and so on. I guess I’m so used to games running poorly on my PC that I can’t really tell when a game actually runs poorly. So yeah, no complaints with this game! I guess that doesn’t really come off as any kind of sterling endorsement.
When it comes to first-person shooters, gameplay is really all that matters in the end. I have to say that for the most part it’s really good. The gunplay is great and doesn’t have that laggy feeling that I got with Killzone 2. There’s also a decent sticky-cover system which is appreciated for higher difficulties. The DualShock 4 ends up being a better controller for FPSs than I imagined. My thumbs don’t slip off of the analogs like with the DS3 and the new triggers aren’t bad at all. The light on the controller flashes depending on your health and it can be really distracting. I get that they wanted to utilize all of the gimmicks like most launch titles but this just gets annoying. One cool thing that they do is use the controller’s speakers for audiologs. I wasn’t expecting it at first so it scared the crap out of me when somebody started talking in my lap.
The initial gun you get is pretty neat and features a nice alternate fire mode. I was hoping that it would be the first of many really cool weapons with alt modes but unfortunately it seems to be the only one. There are other weapons like various shotguns, SMGs, and assault rifles but they don’t have any unique alternate modes. You can find some with grenade launchers, rockets, or shotgun attachments every now and then though. I was a little let down by the weapons but in the end they all work really well and have their own usefulness.
In most levels you get access to a special drone buddy, which I think is called an OWL. He follows you around cloaked, and you can order him to do stuff like hack, attack, deploy a shield, stun the enemy, or create a zipline. I don’t know why I keep calling it a ‘he.’ In order to choose which command you have to swipe on the touchpad. This seems to be under-utilizing the pad unfortunately and just makes it into a second D-Pad. I would have loved to see maybe some gesture based actions like making and arrow, circle, or whatever to choose and order and then maybe swipe in the direction or draw a path for him. That’s what I would have done anyway.
There are some light stealth elements that you will encounter. It’s nothing on the same level as Deus Ex, Thief, or Dishonored but there are portions in each level where you could opt to be more stealthy rather than brute-forcing your way through. You get some kind of sonar device which can reveal soldiers through walls but will alert enemies with a loud noise if you overcharge it. The device can quickly become a crutch, though. Sometimes there are air vents. alarms, you can disable, etc. Bad guys can get instakilled with a surprise melee attack or if you jump on their head. You can actually perform a really neat move where you jump on one guy and then throw a knife at another in your immediate view. Unfortunately through the whole campaign I think I got to do this maybe twice. Farcry 3 had cool takedowns like this and it just made me miss them.
I don’t remember a whole lot about Killzone 2’s multiplayer, but I do remember the various classes and how much I enjoyed it. Shadow Fall’s online is good, but not nearly as exciting as I was hoping for. Right now most players are in the 14-player Warzone mode with maybe a third to half of that in the 24-player TDM mode. From what I understand, in Warzone games you essentially play through several different gametypes on a single map. I don’t know if there’s a specific order but I’ve been experience stuff like a CTF style mode, bomb planting, area ca-ture, and straight up deathmatch. If your team wins one of these modes you get a point and at the end the team who won most events wins. It’s actually decently fun and a nice way to experience several different gametypes in one session. With only 14 people it feels a little lifeless, though. I’m not sure if you can play Warzone with 24 people but it feels like it would be more fun with the added players.
There are three classes to choose from which are something like: Recon, Assault, and Support. I think there used to be more than that in past games and it seems like they combined some. Recon seems to be your typical sniper class but they can also get a cloaking ability and just run around knifing people or whatever sneaky bastards do. I guess assault, or whatever it’s called, is your typical offensive guy who usually gets the biggest guns. I saw that they can get a little attack drone, which is pretty cool. I mainly played as support, which seems to be a cross between an engineer and a medic. You can rez players at a distance with a drone, place turrets, call in aerial defense drones to fly around and shoot guys, and so on. They seem pretty great which explains why there seems to be so many of them.
The biggest problem with the online is going to be the population. The Killzone series isn’t exactly mainstream, which already makes it’s online playerbase a bit low. It gets worse when you take into consideration that it launched against two powerhouse FPS titles: Battlefield and Call of Duty. I’ve seen Killzone’s numbers anywhere from 700 to 2000 while this past Saturday Call of Duty had about 35,000 players. While that number isn’t terrible for Killzone it may prove difficult when it comes to other modes. Earlier I tried to get into a 24 player match and it told me the wait would be over ten minutes. The playerbase will probably increase around Christmas time but I still find the small numbers worrisome. Espeecially when you take into consideration future map packs. I’m just imagining the the split between those who buy maps versus those who don’t, further lowering the number of players for some.
The Good & The Bad
+ Great-looking game that shows off a little of what we can expect this gen+ Solid, tight gameplay
+ Cool new drone buddy
+ Nice Level design
+ Enjoyable Multiplayer
– Confusing narrative- A little on the short side
– Stealth elements not as realized as they could be
– The damn controller flashes green, yellow, and red for your health and it’s freakin’ annoying as hell
It’s a fun game but it gets a little buried by the barrage of big FPS titles. If you’re looking for purely a multiplayer experience then you might want to look elsewhere. It does offer an enjoyable singleplayer with multiple difficulties and tons of logs and stuff to collect, if you’re into that. It’s far from a Shadow Fail.