Killzone: Shadow Fall Review

Killzone Shadow FallKillzone: Shadow Fall (Available exclusively on PlayStation 4)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1 to 24
Genre: FPS
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Release Date: November 15th, 2013

Parent Talk: Killzone: Shadow Fall is rated M for mature because of blood, intense violence, and strong language.  You can sneak up on someone and slit their throat with a hunting knife, so yes, this is very much a well-deserved M rated game.  The interesting thing is that the series, while brutal, has actually been getting less and less graphic with each new installment.  There’s no question children should stay far away, but squeamish adults may actually be able to play through this one without too many problems, just be sure not to stealth kill too many enemies.

Plays Like: Imagine any modern day first-person shooter, and you know what to expect.  While the Killzone series has always felt unique in that the characters feel heavier than they do in something like Halo or Call of Duty, it’s pretty much your standard FPS fair.  You explore a massive alien world, take out thousands of enemies, spice things up with zero-g sections and non-linear missions variety, and away you go.  Shadow Fall is a bit different in that your main character isn’t quite as heavy as those featured in the rest of the series, but the core gameplay mechanics remain largely unchanged, albeit far more refined.

Review Basis: Finished the single player campaign, and tried my hand at the various online multiplayer options.

Sony has tried very hard to position Killzone as the PlayStation’s Halo, and while that has never really happened, the series has matured into a very fun, and serious FPS.  It may not sell tens of millions of units, but I’m pleased Sony put enough faith in the brand to make it the poster child for the PlayStation 4.  What fans are left with is without a doubt the single most technically impressive game of the system’s entire launch line-up, however a few odd development choices keep it from achieving true greatness.

Killzone Shadow Fall2The Great:

Welcome to the next gen.  This game looks absolutely breathtaking.  From trillions of particle effect, to wonderful lighting, animations, and spectacular environments, Killzone: Shadow Fall shows the early processing power of the PlayStation 4.  What games will look like in another year or so is beyond imagination.  I also really enjoyed the variety offered in the environments.  One minute you’re in space, the next you’re in a lush and beautiful mountainside.  It’s spectacularly well done, and brings the series already impressive technical presentation to an entirely new level.  For years the series has relied on grays and browns, but with Shadow Fall there’s color!

Killzone Shadow Fall1The Good:

+ The story is well done, even though it’s very cliché.  It’s great seeing both sides of the Vektan-versus-Helghast war.  Typically we treat the Helghast as some sort of menacing evil, but when you spend time seeing the regular people, you realize just how devastating the effects of the end of Killzone 3 have been on everyone.  The story dares to challenge your knowledge of the past games, and because of that is one of my favorite stories in the series thus far.  If you haven’t experienced the other games, fear not as there’s a wonderful intro that brings you up to speed.

+ Nice amount of mission variety.  You might have to disarm bombs on futuristic trains, or break into a spacecraft floating somewhere in space, or you just might be in the wrong place at the wrong time and have to prevent further damage from an ongoing terrorist attack.  Whatever it is you do, virtually every individual element is fun to play.

+ Fun and effective weapons.  All your typical FPS weapon-types are here from hand guns to shotguns and everything in-between.  Some even have secondary fire options.  The grenades, C4, and other explosives also feel much more powerful than their PS3 counterparts, which was a welcome surprise.

+ OWL, your companion-of-sorts proves to be extremely useful.  You use the track-pad on the DualShock 4 in order to command him to put up a shield, hack or disrupt a computer or turret, attack all enemies, or create a zip line for you to rappel off of.  It works perfectly.

+ You can also emit a sonar scan, which pulsates a light beam all around you.  This goes through walls and pinpoints where enemies are in the environment, but can also be used to locate other goodies, and often helps you figure out where to go next.

+ Most chapters feature one giant map, which allows you to use non-linear attack patterns.  This is a first in the series, as you can decide to take out enemies from ground level, from above, or try and get around them to take them out silently one at a time.  Unfortunately not every chapter allows this freedom though.

+ Speaking of great fun, the online multiplayer modes are great.  Warzone randomizes classic multiplayer modes like deathmatch, capture and hold, and more.  There are ten maps to choose from with some standouts including Penthouse and the Remains.  There are three classes, scout, assault, and support, each with their own unique abilities.  By far the coolest aspect of the multiplayer mode is the sheer amount of options you can customize within the Warzone.  You can limit weapons, classes, and typical stuff like that, but it goes a step further and allows you to change the location of capture beacons, alter your hold times, and pretty much anything else you can think of.  I also love the fact that bots are present to fill up maps, or to use as you see fit.

+ While the graphics steal the show, the audio is also extremely well done.  From great sound effects, to interesting use of the microphone in the DualShock 4 (audio logs play out exclusively through the controller), it all comes together to bring you deeper into the experience.  The soundtrack is also wonderful, featuring fantastic Vangelis-like tracks, to more in-your-face heavy music.

Killzone Shadow Fall5The So-So:

This is minor nitpick, but the lip syncing is off for many of the characters during cutscenes for some reason.

The Bad:

– No online co-op…really?!?  This has been a pet peeve of mine for a while now.  I don’t really care if it doesn’t make sense to the story, I just want to be able to play with a friend of mine through the campaign.  Is that truly too much to ask for?  (An online co-op pack is being released as DLC, but it acts more like a Horde mode than anything else).

– The pacing is completely off.  One minute you’re taking on what feels like an entire armada, the next you don’t see a single enemy for ages.  The zero-g missions can also be tedious as they feel like they go on for a little too long.  There’s a free-fall section that will have you ripping your hair out, it’s so frustrating.  I get that the developer wanted to spice things up with variety, but in the end the game feels really unbalanced as a result.

– Where’s all the fighting?  There are a few large scale battles, and they’re absolutely great, but far too often you spend your time simply moving from one location to the next, or trying to activate or hack a specific computer terminal with only a few enemies in along your path.

Killzone Shadow Fall3The Ugly:

The absolute worst aspects of Shadow Fall has to be the lack of a true map system or what I call intelligent nav points.  The vast majority of the time when you hit up on the d-pad, the nav point only shows you where your next true destination is, however it doesn’t lead to you said point.  That means in certain areas, especially those with long twisting corridors or other areas that are vast in size and scope, it’s super easy to get lost.  There was one section in particular that forced me to walk away from the game for a bit because I was getting so frustrated.  I just couldn’t see where I was supposed to go next.  Eventually I realized there was a small crevice I could fit under and away I went, but getting stuck like that is highly annoying.

Killzone Shadow Fall4The Lowdown:

Killzone: Shadow Fall is the perfect technical showpiece for the PlayStation 4, however it does suffer from a few glaring faults.  At times it can be extremely frustrating, annoying, and confusing.  Other times its rip-roaring good fun.  Thankfully the good outweighs the bad, but why certain designs choices were made to break up the pacing so much is beyond me.  I also can’t understand why they didn’t include a better mapping system.  Thankfully everything else came together well, especially the online multiplayer mode.  It’s a very fun game, but the few issues it has do bring down the experience.  If you have a PS4, this is one you really should experience if only for its pure technical impressiveness.

Final Score: 7.5/10 

6 thoughts on “Killzone: Shadow Fall Review”

  1. I’ve never liked the Killzone series, in part because of the lack of co-op gameplay. I’ve tried Killzone 2 many times and just couldn’t get into it. I am really interested in the Vita version, if you ever get around to actually sending it to me. The game that interests me the more on the ps4 is Knack, which is what I really want to play if I had the console.

    1. Knack is the next PS4 game I’m covering. I also plan to cover Resogun shortly thereafter. Over the next few days I plan to post a bunch of videos, include the ridiculously delayed Zelda video review.

  2. Knack is an awesome game although most review gave it mediocre stats. It’s what I expected in a Crash bandicoot makers style of game very fun, repetitive & checkpoints are terrible but makes the game more challenging. Speaking of Knack to collect collectibles it helps to have more friends on your list to help with that if you wish Jarrod add me up Skulltrasher.

    Now on to Killzone I wish could enjoy the feel of Killzone but never could jumped on the band wagon on KZ 2 but never enjoyed the heavy feel for the controls. Tried my hands on KZ 3 since I was told control felt smoother but couldn’t get into it either but visually they were amazing games. unfortunately this isn’t a game for me.

    1. Stephane add Elder, and say “it’s Stephane” so I know it’s you. I’m currently going nuts trying to get together other vids right now.

      As for Knack, I gave it a 7, as you’ll see on Wednesday. It’s extremely fun in short bursts, but gets very repetitive if you plan to play non-stop for hours on end. That doesn’t mean it’s horrible though, and I go to great lengths to stress that fact. I still haven’t completed it on my personal profile yet, which is what I’m actually going to be doing over the holidays. Really wish the co-op mode was online enabled though as I think it would have greatly expanded the gameplay experience, much like Dead Rising 3.

    1. I did, until I played it in co-op and felt it deserved the extra little bit. If this would have featured online co-op I think it would have scored an 8, but alas no.

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