Killzone Shadow Fall review
- Next-gen visuals
- Varied action
- Nice multiplayer ideas
- Dull story
- Poor signposting
The face of KillZone is the face of the Hellghast. The jack-booted, space Nazis with glowing red eyes and East End London accents are the most recognisable factor in what has become Sony’s de facto PlayStation platform flagship shooter.
It’s been this way since the first instalment almost ten years ago, which may explain why it’s so hard to recall the protagonists of every campaign in every entry in this series.
This may change with Killzone Shadow Fall, the latest installment in the series and one of the PS4's launch titles. In the past, players controlled identikit, lunk-headed modern military types in every Killzone entry.
In Guerrilla Games’s first foray on the next generation Sony machine, players will control a Shadow Marshall, a super-powered special operative who operates on a level that can only be described as morally murky.
Killzone Shadow Fall: Plot
Killzone Shadow Fall picks up several decades after KillZone 3, the ending of which saw the Helghast’s home world completely destroyed and millions of them wiped out.
The remainder of the Helghast population has been transported to the world of Vekta, which just happens to be the headquarters of the Interplanetary Strategic Alliance (ISA), the people responsible for the destruction of their homeworld.
The Helghast now live in a city with the ISA Vektans but the two populations are separated by a massive wall. On the one side, the Vektans live in a beautiful urban metropolis, where wealth is plentiful.
On the other, the Helghast live in a dour, sprawling slum, where rows of container dwelling plunge into the earth. Tensions between the two sides due to the conflicting wealth disparity and social orders are reaching breaking point.
Killzone Shadow Fall: Characters
In the middle of this, the player’s Shadow Marshal plays the role of both a supercop and a black ops agent. In the first level of T3’s hands-on, we were tasked with neutralising a group of Helghast who have taken an apartment filled with Vektans hostage.
In the next, we were sent into the Helghast side of the city to hunt down and eliminate the Helghast insurgent leader responsible for organising the hostage taking.
The first mission was sanctioned by the Vektan authorities. The second was a far more clandestine – and it was inferred illegal – activity. The Shadow Marshal was heading into enemy territory undercover to meet an informant who would give him the location of a target for assassination.
The briefing from the Vektan Security Director, played with palpable menace by Homeland’s David Harewood, revealed how close to the knife-edge both populations were; “You’ve seen these people. They’re animals!” he snarls, the spite practically dripping from his mouth.
Killzone Shadow Fall: Visuals
Both missions also showcased the new KillZone’s two biggest trump cards. The first is the gloriously presented world of Vekta. Whereas past KillZone games plonked players in environments that looked harsh, unforgiving, obliterated or a combination of all three, Shadow Fall presents them with the cyber city of the future.
The Vektan side looks like a grand, pristine holiday resort where gleaming skyscrapers tower above rows of cherry blossom trees. The Helghast side looks like a dirty, neon- encrusted hellhole filled with security checkpoints, shanty towns and streets constructed from garbage brick-a-brack.
Killzone Shadow Fall: Features
The second is the loose and far more open gameplay structure. Players are no longer forced into the same corridor and pressed against waves of foes. Instead, they’re able to tackle a mission from numerous entry points and use different styles of play. There’s a stealth option available for some parts of missions, although running and gunning is also an option.
The Shadow Marshal also has an array of attack options next to their firearm – which, incidentally can snap between full-auto and one-shot sniping – such as the Tactical Echo, which allows them to detect enemies and items through walls and floors. Players can also use Stim packs to slow down the action, allowing them to target multiple foes in quick succession.
The biggest new addition to the player’s Killzone article is The Owl, a flying robot drone that gives the Shadow Marshal a fantastic edge.
The Owl can fire out bursts of electricity that stun enemies, pepper them with machinegun fire, drop a shield in front of the player and even fire a zip line between platforms allowing the player to reach areas the AI enemies can’t. They can even revive downed players – provided they still have a Stim pack spare – and hack terminals.
Killzone Shadow Fall: Multiplayer
The Owl also comes into play in the game’s online mode, even though its powers have been pared down to balance things out. Players can pick between three classes – Assault, Support and Scout – and customise their load-outs and Owls before each match.
Interestingly, although Killzone Shadow fall will ship with 10MP maps, the Match Types aren’t set in stone. The reason for this is that the developers want to encourage players to use the game’s assets to mix up their own match types and share them with the rest of the community.
Killzone Shadow Fall: Verdict
Killzone Shadow Fall represents a giant leap forward for this shooter series. Whereas past iterations were uniform in both their structure and their character creation, Shadow Fall is a nuanced and innovative affair. If it lives up to its potential, Shadow Fall may be one of the best shooters released all year – which is great news for anyone who has pre-ordered a PS4, as its line up seems to be dwindling by the day.
Killzone Shadow Fall release date: 29 November 2013
Killzone Shadow Fall price: £49.00
Preview by Nick Cowen