Microsoft has Halo and Sony has Killzone. Fans of either franchise will of course argue that one is better than the other, but that’s besides the point. Both first person shooter franchises have released sequel after sequel over the course of the last two console generations, and they’re bringing the same warring to the new next-gen consoles.
Guerilla Games is back again with another Killzone game. Set 30 years after the events of Killzone 3 (PS3), Shadow Fall follows Lucas Kellan, a Shadow Marshall who loses his father to the evil Helghast (those ugly space Nazis) at a young age and ends up fighting with the Interplanetary Strategic Alliance (ISA).
The story, in a nutshell, is a bit uninspiring, despite taking a cue from history: Vekta City is now divided by a huge wall (kind of like the Berlin Wall). On one side lives the evil Helghast and on the other the Vektans. They’re warring factors and our Lucas is on a mission to stop the Helghast.
With Shadow Fall, Guerilla Games took Killzone 3 and rethought its weaknesses. You get larger worlds that are just gorgeous to crawl around and missions that offer more ways to complete, which makes the entire single player campaign feel less linear. Unlike Killzone 3 which I was able to breeze through in a run and gun manner, Shadow Fall encourages more tactical stealth mechanics, such as falling from above to knife enemies. That said, the AI can be kind of stupid at times, which makes for melees feel less rewarding than they could have been.
While shooting is the core of Shadow Fall, the game also introduces OWL, an assistive drone that is controlled with the DualShock 4 controller’s touchpad. You can do things like up, down, left and right to trigger different commands such as sending it to send strikes on enemies, but the implementation is a real hit-or-miss and I found myself wishing it was more precise, considering how tight the rest of the controls are.
Shadow Fall is also a longer a game than Killzone 3. It took me about 10 hours to complete the single-player campaign, which is puts it slightly longer than Killzone 3, which took me around seven hours to finish.
Shadow Fall looks amazing. The game runs at a steady 1080p resolution at 60 frames per second. In our entire run of the single player campaign, we only noticed the framerate stutter maybe five times, at most.
The one thing PS3 and Xbox 360 first person shooter games had in common was the extensive use of brown and grey. In Killzone 3, the Vektans were gray. The Helghast were brown. The levels were brown and gray. Suffice it to say, a lot of FPS games weren’t exactly blowing our minds in terms of graphical creativity. More dirt, more grunge. Been there done that.
Shadow Fall is surprisingly more immersive thanks to a wider color palette: warmer oranges, reds and pinks and blues to simulate intensive heat-of-the-battle moments and environments as well as calming moments of sympathy. The futuristic skylines look stunning and the lighting is just unbelievably well done.
My only real gripe with the game’s graphics is how small the onscreen text is. Granted, I don’t have 20/20 vision, but even squinting didn’t help much trying to read my objectives list. I was forced to sit closer to my 46-inch TV.
Shadow Fall ups the ante, but it only scratches the surface of what the PS4 is capable of. The textures are more detailed and the lighting and shadow physics are better, but you have to remember one thing: launch games look good, but games two to three years down the road will look truly next-gen. If there’s one thing we wish Shadow Fall supported, it’s 3D. (Really! Killzone 3 actually looked good in 3D.)
There isn’t much to talk about in terms of Shadow Fall’s sound. Although I didn’t care much for the hollow voice acting, Shadow Fall’s music is mixed well if you can get over some of the syncing issues (the dialogue is sometimes out of sync with the character’s moving lips). One cool thing that I liked was how Guerilla Games decided to use the DualShock 4′s built-in mono speaker to pipe through sounds for the collectible audio logs that you pick up. If you’ve ever used a Wii Remote, you’ll know what I mean when I say that little audio touch adds to a more engaging gaming experience that feels more immersive.
The Verdict: Killzone Shadow Fall is a good game to start your PS4 gaming experience. It has some of the best graphics (if not the best) at the console’s launch and the story doesn’t stray too far from the series with larger worlds and more open gameplay that feels less linear. The only real issues are the buggy multiplayer, the tiny hard to read onscreen text and gimmicky touchpad controls. Otherwise, Shadow Fall is solid FPS that kickstarts the next-gen console wars.
The Good: Very tight controls. Fantastic graphics that really showcase the PS4′s potential. New stealth mechanics give the game greater depth.
The Bad: Kind of dull plot. On-screen text is too small and difficult to read. Using touchpad is frustrating and confusing. AI can be dumb at times.