Guerrilla Games' Killzone franchise has always been considered the hallmark shooter for the PlayStation brand, mainly due its ability to its technical prowess, but has sadly always fallen behind its competition. Now, as the PS4 launches, the next iteration in the franchise, Killzone: Shadow Fall is once again being touted as Sony's powerhouse, but does it have enough behind the pretty visuals to make it a lasting experience?
From the outset, it is easy to see that Killzone: Shadow Fall is hands down one of the most beautiful titles to ever hit the console market. Long gone are the brown and gray battlegrounds that the series was once known for, replaced by vibrantly lit cities and cascading beams of light that illuminate colors across the pallet. Running at 1080p the majority of the time, Shadow Fall is absolutely the must have title for gamers who are looking for the best way to show off their brand new console.
Like most shooters, Shadow Fall's campaign is nothing remarkable or life changing, as the whole of its story could be explained in little more than a few sentences. Taking place years after Killzone 3, where due to a series of events, the Helghast have had to inhabit half of the ISA home planet. This of course, leads to a number of conflicts that become the premise for Shadow Fall, but ultimately does little more than beat the tired drum of the innocent always being the casualty of war.
Even though the single-player mode does do a great job of staying away from being just another corridor shooter, it seems to constantly fall flat on its delivery. This becomes more and more disheartening as you notice would-be memorable moments like, hanging off of a space ship or bursting through a window, become ruined by a system that can be unclear, and outright clunky at times.
Given that throughout the campaign you will be tasked with a surprising amount of climbing and platforming for an FPS game, the unclear nature of what path to take can become annoying, but not nearly as bad as its animations. Certain actions will require a short cinematic that will override what ever is going on at the moment, such as jumping (which never feels completely right) or the overly drawn out animation for opening a door.
While Shadow Fall's 10 hour campaign might be ruined by some of the engine designs or its generic story, it is still able to create an enjoyable experience with some of the new tricks it brings to the table. The biggest change to the system is the inclusion of the OWL, a flying robot that can receive and execute on certain commands to assist you throughout the game. This addition is both a means for strategic offense/defense and transportation, while being one of the best uses of the PS4's Touch Pad. As it is able to be commanded on the fly, with little more than a swipe of the pad and the tap of the L1 button.
Multiplayer for Shadow Fall will and should be the primary draw for anyone who is looking to pick it up, but sadly while it is by far the most entertaining segment of the game, it too feels like it could have used a bit more work. The biggest issue with the online portion is that it generally does not ever feel like it has its own personality. Even though it does contain the trademark class based skills of laying down a turret or going invisible from the previous titles, its lack of new modes or concepts makes it feel uninspired and generic.
One important, but minor, change to Shadow Fall's multiplayer, is that all of the standard weapons and abilities are now unlocked from the beginning, so no matter when you start, you will have access to the same weapons as your opponents. This is also combined with the lack of a leveling system, which is traded off for the ability to do the hundreds of different challenges to gauge experience, keeping everyone at a fairly even ground perceptually.
Overall, Killzone: Shadow Fall might not be the best shooter this holiday season, but given that this is just one of a small handful of titles available and designed for the PS4, it should be something to consider picking up if you want to see what next-gen really looks like. It tries a few new things for the series while still remaining rooted in Killzone's formula. That means it has many of the same strengths, and also unique quirks. If nothing else, it's the trophy the PS4 can carry around that proves its hardware is the best at its price point.
Dan Oravasaari is a Contributor for CraveOnline. You can follow him on Twitter @Foolsjoker.
Copy provided by publisher. Game is exclusive to PS4.