Killzone: Shadow Fall Review
Killzone: Shadow Fall Box Art
System: PS4
Dev: Guerrilla Games
Pub: Sony
Release: Novemebr 16, 2013
Players: 1 (2+ Online)
Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p Blood, Intense Violence, Strong Language
Shooting the Helghast has Never Been So Pretty
by Joshua Bruce

Killzone: Shadow Fall is a great choice for a PS4 launch title. It’s an established series that has a long history on the Sony platform and fills the need for an exclusive shooter to bolster startup sales. I can’t lie; I was ridiculously excited to get my hands on this game (as well as the PS4) and give it a good once over as an entry point into the next generation of console gaming. What I found was a competent shooter that is a good starting point for the genre to grow from in this generation, but it isn’t as great as I hoped it would be.

Don’t get me wrong, Killzone: Shadow Fall is a good game, it just could have been better. For example, the single-player campaign, while fun, isn’t particularly engaging from a narrative point of view. It follows a Shadow Marshal named Lucas Kellan, who lost his father to Helghast goons in the first days of the Helghan occupation of their side of Vekta. This is the starting point of the story, and as a young Lucas, you experience the loss of your father and meet a Shadow Marshal named Sinclair, who somehow becomes your adopted father. This spurs Lucas on to become a Shadow Marshal himself, and the rest is history. Well, kind of; this game is set in the year 2390, about two decades after the opening of the game.

The part that bugs me the most about the beginning of Killzone: Shadow Fall is that the loss of the father character is inconsequential. In the context of the story, he is immediately replaced by Sinclair, and the game charges headlong into the future without looking back. This attempt at storytelling seems more like a tech demo of the capabilities of the game than anything else, showcasing draw distance, lighting effects, and character models in their next-gen glory.

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But as far as the visuals go, Killzone: Shadow Fall excels--as it should. With all this horsepower under the hood, the PS4 runs the game at a smooth 60 frames per second, without a hiccup. As with most next-gen games that I have played so far, the details are what sell the capabilities of the new console. Dynamic lighting effects are more accurate and realistic than I have ever seen, bouncing off of all surfaces with ease, even during changes in the environment or as the character moves. For instance, I was almost blinded by the reflection of the sun off of my knife as I walked by a window, and reflections of light on the surfaces of my weapon added a depth of visual immersion that is only possible with this new hardware. One graphical oddity that gave me pause was the ambient or environmental particle effects. As you move into an area, you see particle effects in the distance, dancing in the light. But as you move closer, they fade from view and disappear altogether. I found this odd. It’s a minor complaint, but a complaint nonetheless.

Killzone: Shadow Fall Screenshot

But, we expected a major graphical upgrade on this generation of consoles, so saying that the visuals are excellent isn’t really that much of a surprise. As we all know, there is much, much more to a game than its eye candy; I’m talking about gameplay.

Killzone: Shadow Fall Screenshot

Killzone: Shadow Fall functions pretty much like any other first-person shooter, specifically other Killzone games, so any shooter fan won’t have a problem picking up the DualShock 4 controller and laying waste to the Helghast hordes. Control differences come into play, however, when you start talking about gadgets. The most notable technological aid in the game is easily your Owl drone. The Owl can be used in a multitude of ways to aid you in your missions. Attack mode will prompt your drone to attack selected enemies; Shield mode will produce an immobile shield in front of you to protect you from enemy fire; Stun mode will disorient enemies within a short radius from a selected point, and Zipline mode uses the owl to create a zipline for you to easily traverse uneven terrain and cross treacherous areas. Your Owl can also be used to hack enemy tech (such as communication towers) and revive you if you fall in combat, provided you have an adrenaline pack handy. This versatile tool is invaluable as you shoot and stab your way through New Helghan, and you will find it adaptable to almost any situation.

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