Launch titles are often a cumbersome subject, they have been known to majestically swoop in and flutter their spectacular plumage in an effort to distract you from their minor but often basic flaws. Let’s hope that Guerrilla Games latest foray into the Killzone series doesn’t become one with the dodo.
The Helghast have had a rough time of late, following the events of the ‘Terracide’ at the hands of the ISA in Killzone 3, their home planet Helghan became ultimately uninhabitable. Fear not though, the helpful humans have delegated half of the derelict planet to the Heghans, (whilst retaining the other half for themselves of course) and even erected a giant wall, which has absolutely nothing in common to the Berlin variant, to keep both sides from coming into conflict.
Shadowfall is set approximately 30 years after the events of Killzone 3; with each faction’s political states on the precipice of war, a whispered word in the wrong ear could be more deadly than a bullet. Covert operations are requisitioned from both sides in an attempt to finish what was started; here as a young child being sneaked across the border by his father, we encounter our first Shadow Marshall. Inevitably, unfortunate things happen to our young protagonist’s father and we are left with Sinclair the Shadow Marshall promising to look after us.
Fast forward some more years and we’re off on a Sinclair sanctioned mission as a fully trained Shadow Marshall ourselves. Due to the tiptoeing plot, you’re generally encouraged to stealth it up as opposed to engaging an all out firefight. The sandbox style, large open area at the start is filled with glorious foliage, waterfalls and derelict buildings, but houses only a smattering of enemies. Whilst under the false pretence of freedom, you arrive equipped with a trusty hybrid assault/sniper rifle and a pistol; if you fancy going on a little rampage, you’ll find you’re often ill equipped to deal with the terrific onslaught of problems four or five enemies can give you. Being able to only hold one primary weapon limits your ability to adapt to situations. A shotgun, on these quite large maps renders itself useless save for a few select scenarios, the same problem occurs with the sniper rifles meaning that the starting, recoilless gun is often the least exciting, if not most effective weapon for each situation.
Fortunately, you also have access to an OWL, a hovering drone with four modes. You can, rarely, deploy a zipline to reach some normally inaccessible areas, or use it’s other, more combat related roles. A shield can be set up to protect you from potential dangers and is invaluable in enclosed, corridor style battles. Whilst the more offensive stun move can help you out in most situations whether it be all out stealth or a brief respite in a gunfight. The final; least used for me, is the attack function where it usually places itself between two or more enemies and fires volleys of popcorn until it’s expected demise. Another useful tool, especially when keeping it quiet is a pulse scan which highlights enemies it reaches, making them visible through walls and ripe for the picking. Considering the lack of a mini map, this really is one of your only advantages. With it’s range dependant upon how long you depress the button, there is a caveat, hold it for too long and it will alert any nearby guards to your presence.
Mission objectives are varied enough, if not a little vague at times, a temporary waypoint can be blipped onto the screen giving you a helping hand should you get lost however. Some small puzzle sections are dotted around that seem scarily reminiscent of Dead Space 3, the usual, carry this battery over there malarkey. However, it’s something different to do in a game where there isn’t that much downtime, therefore the slower, more deliberate sections are welcome whenever present. A slight drawback is that the cutscenes aren’t really all that dramatic when they should be, and that some situations can seem overly convenient for the sake of the plot.
The classic Killzone multiplayer also plays it’s part, perhaps more admirably than the single player. Not unlike the campaign, it tries to encourage freedom with game variations you can actually set such as the amount of player lives, classes and guns permitted in your match. Another large multiplayer shooter could also learn from this. Warzone returns with it’s on the fly objective changes, keeping things fresh and engaging throughout the match. Guerrilla Games have also tinkered with the traditional unlock system too, weapons are unlocked from the start and challenges are now required to unlock certain new gear. Three classes are available with each having their own ‘powers’ to utilize in one of the ten maps available at launch. Whilst not expansive in the same right as the campaigns, there is ample area to set up and get your camp on, as well as many tight corridors just waiting to be rushed with a shotgun.
With it’s gloriously high resolution and suitably smooth frame rate in both single and multiplayer, you really can feel the weighted trudge in your step. Guns are great fun to fire and most have a secondary function too. Muzzle flash looks blindingly spectacular, especially in a dark setting such as the second mission and the lighting is second to none, reflecting as you might expect on surfaces that should. Graphically superb is an understatement, a fantastic debut into the world of next gen; luckily for us, it can only get better.
Only a few things keep Shadow Fall from becoming a truly great game, some derivative missions and the occasionally wonky AI being the main suspects. A few other points such as the rigidly daft, ladder climbing animation being the polar opposite to the rest of the games fluidity is annoying at best, and the almost forced reliance on stealth in lieu of action keep it from stardom. Everything else however is astounding, the graphics, the audio, the multiplayer, the large playable areas and more besides. As a whole, a little disjointed yet individually, spectacular.
Reviewed on PS4, exclusive to PS4.