Killzone: Shadow Fall Review

[As Read on GIO.]

Killzone: Shadow Fall is a different game than its console series predecessors, but that is in no way a bad thing at all. It is set in the same universe and story arc as the previous three games, though it picks up nearly thirty years after the events of the earth-shattering third game. The series now looks better than ever, which is a real testament to the hardware involved from the Play Station 4, and the gameplay is as good or better than ever- stepping up even from Killzone 3’s magnificent mechanics. It doesn’t outright come out and say it is Killzone 4, but we all know it is, and the telltale sign is that it is bigger, bolder, and better than ever before. It may not have the same massive level of outright warfare on each front as its previous three titles, but there’s certainly the same explosive and dangerous force to be had in this cold war campaign as well…and I was more scared because of that.

New characters, new locales, and new enemies comprise the new campaign, and while it has as many or more tense shootouts as before, it is more difficult than ever due to the often solo missions and stealth oriented campaign as well, under the cloak of a Shadow Marshal. The Helghast return as secondary antagonists, though they do have some big bads in the fight as well. The main antagonist is actually the palpable conflict between the Vektans and Helghast themselves, as it sometimes seems to be an enemy itself. By the end of the game, as with many cold wars, you aren’t quite sure is is friendly and who is your enemy- which is quite possibly the scariest thing I’ve encountered in a game to date. After all, normally it’s pretty clear who’s a friend and who is your foe in most games, but here…I’m still not quite one hundred percent sure after the ending just where people stand for the next game coming up…

Both the Helghast- the previous major antagonistic force in the series, and the Vektans- the species under siege, now share the same planet and city in Vekta City. The vast majority of your missions will take place in this sprawling area, though not all will be on your side of The Wall- a giant precipice in the middle of the city, separating the New Helghan portion from the Vektan portion like a futuristic Berlin Wall. For one major area being the backdrop for activities in the campaign, Vekta City has some varied environments, and the attention to detail in each area is impressive as well- whether you are engaging Helghast forces in a crowded central station or stealthily sneaking through New Helghan slums in the dead of night unarmed. You won’t be limited to Vektan locales though, as you will find yourself in space and on a foreign world as well for at least part of the campaign, which clocks in around ten to twelve hours total.

The Killzone series is one that, while for the most part it has always chosen to engage in up front and direct firefights than involve stealth or vehicle sections, has had a plethora of well thought out and controlled sections for these other types of combat and locomotion as well. Shadow Fall proves to be at the same time no different and very different, as it does have its fair share of open firefights, but for the most part relies on stealthy advances through enemy territory, and cautious approaches. Shadow Fall however, also does have a few vehicle segments, which- like the sixth mission in Halo Reach (Long Night of Solace), provide an excellent break from the otherwise soon to be monotonous shooting of the campaign. Another key element of the campaign that not only will save your life quite a few times, but keeps things interesting, is the personal OWL drone that will follow you around throughout combat in most sections of the game. Think of it as a better version of Halo 4’s turret ability.

The OWL hovers nearby and does everything from providing covering fire to flanking enemies for you in order to give you some breathing space before retaliating yourself. The OWL has several different functions in the form of four standard modes: offensive, shielding, hacking, and navigation. You can deploy a lifesaving shield when you are low on health and near death, also like Halo 4’s light shield ability; you can go on the offensive and order the drone to lay down some covering fire; you can have the drone hack into computer systems and gain valuable intelligence for you; and it can also be deployed to set up strategically located ziplines around the environment as well. All in all, this little guy is a handy, trusty tool to be utilized to proceed to the next objective with relative ease.

Killzone: Shadow Fall’s overall experience looks beautiful, plays nicely, and also, for an added and rare bonus- especially these days with shooters, comes bundled with a very well put together story, and an overall quite enjoyable experience. As I mentioned previously, the campaign is around the ten to twelve hour mark, especially if you approach most situations in a stealthy manner. The lore is further expanded and replayability amped up by the fact that the game also sports dead drops and other rare collectibles to expand upon series lore. Each objective is pretty unique, and you won’t often see them being recycled throughout the game aside from a few instances, which is really quite nice as well. As with most games, there are the occasional few scenarios or portions that can be quite difficult to run through and prove frustrating for players, but thankfully these are few and far between, and I only really found about three on my playthroughs with the game. You’re most often to find yourself in trouble when you are going in solo without any companions or the OWL for support, so it only makes sense that the series’ already slightly higher level of difficulty would only increase.

On a multiplayer note- something that was finally included in Killzone 3 and very enjoyable, if underplayed as a successful multiplayer goes, Shadow Fall evolves the series’ formula even more and is quite successful as well. The OWL of course does not appear in this mode, as that would be pretty unfair to other players and make things more difficult and less bearable for players not using the drone to their advantage. However, classes are available which allow players to utilize drones for a short period of time between cooldown timers. The game may not have as many levels, stages, and various other management systems in place, but it does change things to revolve more around using certain weapons and combinations in order to level up aside from grinding for experience points each time. There are thousands of available challenges, and I actually liked this more “fair” method of advancement better than most other methods that involve unfair balancing and killstreaks employed.

There are plenty of enjoyable gameplay modes packaged within the game already, and I am sure they could add more in an update if they wanted as well, but the most different of all of the modes from generic deathmatch and team modes is the Warzone one. Warzone- true to its name, involves a hefty amount of objectives, explosions, and general insanity as things often change and the dynamic landscape is ever moving on its own or with player assistance. As in a real warzone, anything can change at the drop of a hat, and the same can be said here- the mode shifts from focusing on deathmatches to capturing rally points within the same match, and offers a great hybrid combination of most classic game types as well. However, if you would like to play classic match types as well, there are the usual team deathmatch, capture the flag, and straight up deathmatch modes as well. One such deathmatch mode even offers players a similar experience to Halo’s SWAT mode- with less health, one rifle, and limited ammo. It is this and other frantic running and gunning experiences that characterizes the frenetic multiplayer mayhem present within the game, though it isn’t as good as the story itself.

While there have been excellent titles from the getgo within this console series, and even within the handheld accompaniments of recent times, Killzone: Shadow Fall is second only to Killzone 3 in my mind, and rises above Killzone 2 and the original Killzone in so many ways. It beats each game in terms of visuals and competent gameplay, as well as evolving the still fresh multiplayer experience past anything I could’ve hoped for. This game is definitely the highlight of my Play Station 4 coverage and playing, and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything else this year. It may not be receiving the best score of all from me, but I have enjoyed it a lot and the story alone provides so much of a replay value and time commitment as well. Shadow Fall makes me wish that the next game in the series would come sooner, and it is that excitement and anxiety that makes me love it all the more.

Concept: A great start to the next generation of shooters and games in general.

Graphics: Some of the best visuals and animations that I have seen in a long while, and something to set the standard for next generation games as well.

Sound: The voice acting isn’t always the strongest, but the musical scores hit all the right vibes for a futuristic city perfectly.

Playability: The controls are well balanced and laid out, and the extraneous commands for the OWL and allies also fit in the mix without confusing players at all. In a series noted for its excellent controls, these are some of the best.

Entertainment: From the story to the gameplay, this is an exciting and entertaining adventure.

Replay Value: High.

Overall Score: 8.5

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