The PlayStation 4 launch line-up had an impressive variety of titles, arguably more so than the Xbox One. But at its core remained the fundamentals. Racing, platform and FPS experiences are what the modern industry were built upon. Sony had clearly been keen to make sure that all of these genres are represented out of the gate. Killzone: Shadow Fall is the representation for FPS gaming and it filled the void adequately, if little else.
The videogame places you in the role of Shadow Marshal Lucas Kellan, a fighter for the human resistance. Kellan saw his father killed in cold blood at any early age. Since, his entire life has been dedicated to fighting. Moving up through the ranks by proving that he is the best. But he’s not afraid to take chances. Kellan often engages in aggressive activities that his superiors have not sanctioned, yet still getting the results.
Telling this story Killzone: Shadow Fall gets caught in a trap of forcing players to play for half an hour before even giving them a gun. It’s a storyline that takes time to establish as it’s not a simple case of good-guys-kill-bad-guys. But the fact that it was the face of a new console at launch means that many who play wouldn’t be invested in the Killzone franchise and, frankly, won’t care. They want to shoot things and that’s why they’ve bought an FPS game. Killzone: Shadow Fall isn’t any stronger for making players wait to do this.
Once you do get hold of a weapon things don’t necessarily improve. Killzone: Shadow Fall’s pacing is all over the place. At one moment tasking you with a silent infiltration and the next throwing wave-after-wave of pin-point accurate enemies at you. Assault troops supported by snipers; shotgunners taking to wide open areas and entering the field behind you without warning; grenadiers keen to dispense explosive charges with no awareness of friendly fire. These are instances of intense combat that, if truth be told, are simply not fun. The weaponry feels lifeless and is genuinely uninteresting, filling a science-fiction world with Call of Duty style armaments on the same fashion as Homefront before it.
One of the best tactics available is using a drone to thin out the numbers before performing a manual clean-up. An upward swipe on the Dualshock 4’s touchpad initiates combat mode, then press L1 when targeted on an enemy. The drone will automatically engage in combat with any enemy units in the area, leaving the player with the opportunity to simply wait until its taken out a few surplus goons. In an FPS where the combat is fun this would be an interesting tactical opportunity, here in Killzone: Shadow Fall it’s a means to an end.
The campaign is obviously a key component of the Killzone: Shadow Fall experience, and things do improve as you progress. Its mismatch of gameplay design and the objectives which see you traipse back-and-forth across the same land mass (with respawning enemies to boot) reek of a videogame that was rushed to meet a deadline. Killzone: Shadow Fall fills a hole in a marketeers design, not the demand for an enjoyable or innovative FPS experience.
The multiplayer aspect of Killzone: Shadow Fall allows for up to twenty four players to take to the battlefield. A handful of generic gameplay modes were included. At launch it was a by-the-numbers multiplayer component that leaned too heavily towards the Call of Duty standard. As if the development team at Guerrilla Games were unable – or more likely unwilling – to make a play for something fresh with a launch title. Now of course, this is fairly redundant, as playing online is impossible.
The visual quality of Killzone: Shadow Fall is where it shines. The landmasses are vast and impressive. The character animation goes far beyond anything the previous-generation of consoles could have offered. That being said, the facial animation sits well behind the quality of the Xbox One’s key launch title, Ryse: Son of Rome. There are many notably low resolution texture on some of the more incidental items littering the environments. The voice acting however, is commendable throughout. There are few characters in Killzone: Shadow Fall that you’ll care about, but those that you do are ultimately due to the portrayal by their actors more than their on-screen presentation.
To put it bluntly, Killzone: Shadow Fall is a grand disappointment. It’s a game that has been designed with the intention of filling a void. It seems to have not been given any room to grow outside of that most basic need. Whether it was a case of limited time, finance or ambition, Killzone: Shadow Fall ended up being another launch title that looks pretty but plays as a very generic FPS. There are many that were wowed by the visual and aural quality alone, but gamers looking for substance need look elsewhere.
So Killzone: Shadow Fall has not survived the passing of time. This doesn’t mean that the franchise as a whole is dead. However, with single-player FPS games having lost their lustre in recent years, what are the chances of a comeback? Slim though they may be, we would still welcome a new Killzone with open arms.