Killzone: Shadow Fall was a graphical show piece for the launch of the PlayStation 4. Unfortunately, following the path of its predecessor, it was an incoherent and unfocused single player experience that did nothing but bore me.
I found Killzone 2 enjoyable and memorable. It was World War II in space but I appreciated Guerilla Games’ focus on gunplay by refining the weight and impact of shots. Firefights demanded the use of the game’s first person cover system and despite the antics of Rico and co, it was a gritty shooter that found its own niche.
Killzone 3 was a failed attempt to infuse Infinity Ward’s trademark Hollywood action stylings into the franchise. Efforts like this highlighted the fact that not everyone can pull off the Call of Duty brand of set pieces and pacing.
When I saw the PlayStation 4’s lineup of launch games, the FutureShop E3 promotion and trade-in opportunities, I shrugged my shoulders and added Killzone: Shadow Fall to my cart. I wanted a game that no one would mistaken for a PlayStation 3 title; I wanted next generation demo material.
Guerilla Games were amongst the graphical masters on the PlayStation 3; I always found their sci-fi depictions visually stunning. Their PlayStation 4 launch title excelled my expectations — it’s a testament to both the platform’s ease of use and Guerilla Games’ technical capabilities. I admired the scenery and detailing around everyday objects. Next generation ladders and boxes are here, people. And it’s all very pretty.
The scale of Killzone games have always been comparatively small in order to maintain image quality and performance. Killzone: Shadow Fall was the most expansive Killzone yet. Although they’ve managed to increase scale, visual fidelity and performance, I felt Guerrilla Games didn’t utilize that space well.
Firefights lost its edge and intimacy as enemies were often taken out from a distance with ease. The Helghan forces didn’t know how to operate in larger spaces and wandered into the open frequently. It wasn’t as mindless as the troops in a Call of Duty game but with the tools and pace of the game, I never felt challenged.
OWL gave the Dual Shock 4’s touchpad a reason to exist. I was three quarters through the game before swiping through OWL’s multiple modes felt remotely familiar. I suspect its just a matter of time before doing without the touchpad would feel foreign.
Awkward command inputs aside, I felt OWL’s inclusion in the game was a cop out. It seemed like a catch all answer to many of the franchise’s criticisms. Instead of improving the friendly A.I’s ability to revive or help out, they just gave OWL and, by extension the player, that control. To address the knocks against the comrades of past Killzone titles, OWL was made to be as lifeless as the materials he was crafted with. It failed to resonate with me just like the rest of the game.
I think the Killzone franchise is only suited to a specific pace; action heavy scenarios have to be exacting and deliberate akin to those found in Killzone 2. Given the fawning and fetishism over special effects and animations, nothing in Killzone: Shadow Fall felt swift. This was an issue when they’re trying to drum up excitement and including scenarios other games have executed with a precision rhythm.
Chapter 2 was my favorite chapter because I felt it was the most unique and realized chapter of the game. It was reminiscent of a first person Dead Space 1 or 2 but there are worse games to mimic. There was mystery and intrigue that was absent in the rest of the game.
Killzone’s lore is still fascinating to me but these games are not doing that material justice. The explanation to how the Helghan people were able to remilitarize as refugees still alludes me. They weren’t only hoarding of firearms or a handful of vehicles, the Helghan forces living alongside the Vektans appeared to be just as powerful as the forces found in the previous titles. In some regards, they’re even be more capable this go around.
The absurdity of it all undermined the racial tension angle they so overtly pushed upon me. Who didn’t think that male half-breed wasn’t going to pull the trigger on himself as soon as the player lost line of sight? Subtlety in these manners is certainly not Guerilla Games’s strong suit.
Speaking of subtlety, where was the music? Sound effects and voice overs came through but music was either too subtle or absent altogether. Was this due to poor mixing or was the music purposely restrained?
They say you should put your best foot forward and Guerrilla Games did just that with its opening chapters. They also say you should follow through and finish strong but unfortunately that was not the case with Killzone: Shadow Fall. If I stopped playing after the two chapters, that would have been sufficient. I would have left the game on a high. Instead, I waded through lackluster shootouts and witnessed the unfolding of a story that never found its footing.
Worth a try
For more information on Killzone: Shadow Fall, visit the official website.