Killzone has long struggled to make its mark in the first-person shooter wars.
While it always looked fantastic and the fascistic Helghast give it one of gaming’s most memorable villains, the series has never matched the gameplay high notes achieved by Halo and Call of Duty. Now, thanks to being a flagship PS4 launch title, Killzone has a real moment in the spotlight, but can it finally join the ranks of the FPS elite? And does it offer a real next-gen experience?
Shadow Fall takes place 30 years on from the end of Killzone 3. The Helghast’s home planet has been destroyed and the flawed goodies the Vekta have handed over half of their own planet to their former enemy.
The result is like the Berlin Wall on a global scale, with the totalitarian Helghast on one side and the capitalist Vektan democracy on the other. Inevitably it doesn’t take long before this uneasy arrangement leads to conflict and the player’s character, one of Vekta’s covert Shadow Marshall agents, is called on to prevent this cold war turning hot.
The first thing you are going to notice about Shadow Fall is how damn good it looks. From the details of the architecture and the foliage swaying in the wind to the grand vistas, it is a stunning looking game.
It’s also backed with far more aesthetic flair than any previous Killzone as the gloriously imaginative Vektan city demonstrates. It’s the perfect showcase for next-gen visuals – the kind of game to make your non-PS4 owning mates seriously jealous.
Two-thirds of a great campaign
The Shadow Marshal scenario gives Killzone’s rock-solid gunplay a stealthy twist, something aided by the campaign’s open-ended missions that allow you a decent degree of scope to complete objectives your way.
Then there’s OWL, your multi-purpose drone that can heal you, hack computers, attack or stun enemies, create ziplines and generate shields. It’s rather brilliant and adds another layer of tactics to the game.
The campaign does boast some impressive moments, too, not least the infiltration of a creepy Helghast spaceship. However, the lack of distinctive guns and the way the creativity of the campaign fizzles out towards the end disappoints.
Warzone mode is a winner
On the multiplayer side, Killzone’s distinctive Warzone mode – where team objectives change over time – remains a winning formula. Killzone also avoids XP grinding. Instead you get new kit by completing any of the game’s 1,500-plus challenges. It’s a wise move that pushes players to try different approaches rather than sticking with the same tactics.
Where the game trips up is in its slow pace – it works well in the single-player campaign but means the multiplayer can feel sluggish, something not helped by some of the more sprawling maps that make reaching the action a chore.
Killzone Shadow Fall is a polished first-person shooter that delivers beautiful visuals, a killer multiplayer mode and some top-class moments in its campaign.
But, possibly as a side effect of having to meet the PS4 launch deadline, the game falls short of true greatness. The last third of the campaign disappoints and the multiplayer lacks the compulsive appeal of Call of Duty or the grandeur of Halo. Nonetheless it’s a good launch game and one that makes us hopeful that the next Killzone will see the series finally realise its potential.