Killzone: Shadow Fall Review

The PlayStation 4 was set to launch back in November of 2013 brandishing three first-party retail titles: DriveClub, Knack, and Killzone: Shadow Fall. After Evolution Studios pushed the release of their racing game to 2014 and Knack failed to garner the praise of critics, all eyes shifted to Killzone to save the day. This added pressure may have contributed to the further undoing of what is a decent, but ultimately lacking first-person shooter.

OVERALL, THE MULTIPLAYER SATISFIES.

Killzone has always been largely a multiplayer-focused game, with a large variety of game modes and a dedicated clan system. The focus is still there, but quite a few things have changed. In stark contrast to third party competitors, Killzone shuns the traditional experience and level-up system in favor of a challenge system. Players have access to all weapons and classes from the outset, and gain upgrades through completing challenges, of which there are over 1000. This focus on challenges helps encourage players to actually play the objective to proceed, rather than seeking the fastest exploits for farming experience. I approve.

The seminal multiplayer mode that gave Killzone its identity is Warzone, a mode that mashes up several other objective-based modes. Warzone is still the center of the online multiplayer experience, now with a twist. Players have the ability to design their own Warzones with their own parameters – from loadouts to objectives. These can be shared online, and Guerilla Games even spotlights the best creations. This helps contribute to the sense of community, though the absence of a clan system simultaneously detracts from it. Also missing are voice chat outside of parties, in-game partying, and rankings. These are all planned updates.

Killzone Shadow Fall Artwork

Other than the afore-mentioned, Killzone Shadow Fall‘s multiplayer will feel very familiar to franchise veterans. Small tweaks were made to cater to Call of Duty fans and the like, but none that detract too much from what’s expected. Characters are less weighty, but still absorb a lot of damage. As a result, Killzone retains its engagement practices and manages to refrain from becoming a twitch shooter. So fear not, purists! The multiplayer is good, and will be better once it’s complete.

After posting this review, the v1.07 patch went live, adding features like team chat, player customization, and several tweaks and bug fixes. We’re getting there!

THE SINGLE PLAYER CAMPAIGN IS FRUSTRATINGLY MEDIOCRE.

I had high hopes for the game upon completing the second chapter. Taking place in a forest on the outskirts of Vekta City, players can tackle the engagements from multiple angles and multiple levels – there’s not a corridor-shaped path that the player is forced to take. And it’s tough, requiring strategy in approach. One I finished it, adrenaline pumping, I thought this is it. This is the game that’s going to wow everyone. It’s beautiful, it’s thrilling. But the game was quick to change my mind.

The next eight chapters of the game were long, uneventful, and frankly boring. I found myself in long stretches of exploration where my rifle sat idle and cold. And the exploration wasn’t really rewarding in terms of gameplay; it was nothing more than walk from A to B and back to A. Outside of a few good firefights, I felt completely disengaged and unchallenged. What’s worse is that there were none of the awesome, pace-changing vehicle sequences that made Killzone 3 thrilling. The only time that the player mans a vehicle, a cutscene ensues showing the vehicle crash seconds later. What we got instead was walking, walking, and more walking with occasional plinking.

Killzone Shadow Fall In-Game Screenshot

The series has always been marred by cheesy dialogue and questionable voice acting (looking at you Rico). But otherwise, the lore and plot of the Killzone universe are actually really interesting. A lot of thought was put into the timeline and sequencing of events. Parallels to the American Revolution and the World Wars are sprinkled throughout. The thing that I like best about it is that, despite always playing as ISA forces, I constantly question who’s right and wrong in the struggle. I don’t always side with the character I’m playing as. This was particularly highlighted in the Vita’s Killzone: Mercenary earlier this year, as the playable character was a for-hire soldier that fought on both sides of the line. Unfortunately, Shadow Fall feels a bit disconnected from the rest despite its promising premise. For me, its story was the least interesting of the series.

As a Killzone fan, I’m disappointed. Guerilla Games is a talented developer, but Shadow Fall suffers greatly from launch window woes. A lot of the “big moments” I’ve come to expect from the series were missing. For now, missing or incomplete features don’t cripple, but certainly hinder the multiplayer experience. If I’m being honest, Mercenary is the better Killzone game this year. It’s certainly more action-packed. To its credit, Killzone: Shadow Fall is the most gorgeous game on the platform, easily besting its flea-ridden, leading competitor. It’s just not as fun to play.

Final Score: 7/10

Killzone: Shadow Fall is available on PlayStation 4.

Release Date: November 15th, 2013
Developer: Guerrilla Game

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