Killzone: Shadow Fall Review for PlayStation 4 (PS4)

Killzone: Shadow Fall Review for PlayStation 4 (PS4)

Shooting the Helghast has Never Been So Pretty

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.

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.

Another bit of technology featured is a sort of tactical sonar that can be used at any point, as long as you don’t overcharge it, to mark enemies, cameras, and other environmental points of interest on your screen. These are denoted by an orange outline that can be seen no matter what is between you and the object or enemy, for a short period of time. This, coupled with your Owl, is at the heart of the experience of Killzone: Shadow Fall , taking what could have been a bland PS4 tech demo and turning it into something fun and interesting. Conversely, enemy AI leaves a little bit to be desired. While it is by no means incompetent, it certainly isn’t the smartest AI I’ve ever ran into, with enemies gathering at certain points for easy multi-kills, losing track of me after simply running behind a wall, staring right at me, and not engaging until I shoot them, or engaging me even though they can’t see me. It must be said that the AI isn’t horrid, it just doesn’t give you the feel that the Helghast is an organized fighting force, more of a collection of mindless drones. These issues don’t occur all the time either, just at random points throughout the game, which becomes only mildly frustrating.

Killzone: Shadow Fall Screenshot

The soundscape of Killzone: Shadow Fall is a competent one, with the exception of some spotty voice acting on the part of our protagonist, Lucas Kellan. Honestly, he talks too much. His voice seems weak and underpowering next to other voice actors in the game. The rest of the audio in the game does what it’s supposed to do and not a whole lot more. It’s quality work, just nothing that will transcend its intended purpose. On a side note, audio logs play through the speaker on your controller, which was pretty cool the first time I did it, and it made me feel as though I had picked up the audio log and had it in my hands, which added to the immersion of the game.

Killzone: Shadow Fall is a solid launch title for the PS4. It delivers the next-gen experience without cramming it down your throat too much, which is a great change of pace from previous console generations. While it obviously presents what the PS4 is capable of, the developer was careful after the beginning of the game to make sure that the Killzone experience was delivered, no matter what platform it was delivered on. This is definitely a good thing. All-in-all, Killzone: Shadow Fall brings more good things to the table than bad, and a robust multiplayer component gives it a lot of playability past the campaign. This exclusive next-gen shooter is one of the reasons to own a PS4 at launch, and even though it’s not perfect, shooter fans will no doubt enjoy Killzone: Shadow Fall for what it is–a good game.

Next-Gen visuals are showcased here for sure. 4.0 Control
Tight controls translate very well to the Dualshock 4 controller, but some annoyances rear their head. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
A competent soundscape that is sometimes marred by weak voice-acting. 3.5 Play Value
A weak single-player story is strengthened by solid online play. 3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • A new breed of hero for a new vision of Killzone: Play as Shadow Marshal Lucas Kellen, equal parts elite soldier and master spy. Representing the ISA’s finest and entrusted with stabilizing an ever-deteriorating cold war, your choices will determine the world’s fate.
  • The benchmark cinematic shooter of the next generation of gaming: With breathtaking environments, jaw-dropping futuristic setpieces; and deviously smart enemy AI – Killzone: Shadow Fall is a true showcase for the unbridled power of the PS4 system. The new DUALSHOCK®4 wireless controller and its refined analog sticks and improved triggers further enhance the shooter experience.
  • Utilize an expansive arsenal of futuristic weapons and gadgetry: As an elite operative of the ISA, you have a vast selection of multi-purpose weapons and tech at your disposal. The game-changer, however, is the OWL, a versatile, commandable combat drone that functions as an extension of you, dramatically augmenting your abilities and offering a host of new tactical options.
  • Tense, realistic cold war sci-fi: On a divided Vekta, one in which bitter enemies are forced to coexist, constant discord threatens to unravel into all-out war.

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