We know Jack, do you?
I admit, for the last 10 months I’ve been unbearable when it came to my excitement for the next generation of consoles . And nothing makes my blindness to rational thought more apparent than the fact that I actually thought a Killzone game would be a genre defining title and nothing more than a typical console launch title.
Following up from the ending of a game I’ve never played, the game opens with you as a small child learning the basic controls, all wrapped up in a tragic backstory that attempts to pull at your heartstrings but doesn’t quite pull it off; a statement that sums up the entire story of Killzone: Shadow Fall quite well, I’m afraid.
There are a few rad ideas in the campaign, so let’s just grab those and get it all out of the way right now. What sets Shadow Fall apart from the glut of other FPSes on the market is a little robotic operating buddy called an OWL. The OWL is introduced pretty early into the story and basically acts in a manner similar to armor abilities in Halo, or the various tools available in kits for Battlefield.
The OWL has five abilities built-in — each one actually pretty useful, to my surprise — and switching between each of the abilities is as simple as swiping on the Dual Shock 4’s touch pad in one of the four cardinal directions. I ended up using OWL’s standard turret drone ability the most, which sends out the little dude to go shoot down various enemies or provide a distraction to the questionable A.I. enemies while you take them out from a different angle. Other abilities include a stun blast which really helps when taking on shielded enemies or a big pack of enemies; a one-way energy shield that you can fire through in case you can’t find some of the game’s plentiful cover points; a zipline that lets you easily traverse to lower areas that slowly becomes more useless as the game goes on; and a context-sensitive hack ability to take down enemy alarms or open doors. Unfortunately, that’s where my praise of the campaign ends.
The campaign feels almost schizophrenic, like it was designed by commitee rather than by a team of developers. In one level you’re sneaking around with no real stealth system in place, in another you’re in an empty spaceship solving a puzzle where you hunt down batteries and install them into the ship (with all the batteries basically being five steps away from where you are). There’s also some questionable zero gravity sections with awkward controls, and a segment where you enter Earth’s atmosphere have to glide into a (pretty) collapsing city with some of the most awkward and unresponsive flight controls that I’ve ever seen. Top all that off with your typical “walk into room, hide behind cover, shoot, walk to next checkpoint” gameplay and one of the most forced “War is hell, but both sides are monsters” stories in recent years, and the campaign of Killzone just collapses in on itself like a dying star, bringing forth one of the most frustrating and outright annoying campaigns I can think of in the last generation or two of consoles. (Not counting the PS4/Xbox One, of course)
Luckily, Shadow Fall’s multiplayer is the single greatest thing about this game. In Killzone, a game can shift between five different multiplayer modes per match rather than focus on a single set gametype. It feels like a mix between the match speeds of Halo 3 and Call of Duty, resulting in a nice middle ground with a decent level of match customization for the custom playlists. Plus, the framerate is better than the campaign.
The multiplayer also unlocks every primary weapon from the get-go, with the only unlocks being focused on attachments and abilities locked down and divided between the three classes. It’s a step in the right direction in terms of setting Killzone apart from it’s competitors. There are no levels. There are no experience points. There are no prestige unlocks. Multiplayer is instead focused on a level playing field with weapons and such, and instead ranks players by the number of challenges they complete such as performing a certain number of kills with a set weapon.
On a technical level, Killzone is a stellar game. Aside from some incredibly spotty voice acting , the sound effects and the sound mixing in this game is incredible. You don’t notice how much sound contributes to the feel of a weapon until you play a game where the developers just get it right. The weapons feel outright powerful and satisfying to use. Shifting the audio logs over to the controller’s newfound speaker was also a great move. The lighting is fantastic, and the game just looks phenomenal.
Despite their numerous differences, I can’t help but consider Killzone: Shadow Fall to be the Playstation 4’s equivalent to the Xbox One’s Ryse. A few of you reading this probably just rolled your eyes at that, but let me explain: both games are technically proficent titles with pretty good graphics, but are hampered by some of the most generic gameplay in genres where you need to do SOMETHING to stand out. If you don’t, you’ll get lost or be compared negatively with competing games. Both titles feel like they completely miss the mark, and overall can be summed up as $60 tech demos for their associated platform; highlighting and teasing the capabilities of the systems themselves, while the gameplay suffers in the end. Both games were disappointing, but also make me look forward to what the next generation of consoles can provide, and in that sense they have succeeded.
Overall though, for a $60 title with a campaign that falls flat on its face at every step and decent multiplayer with a questionable lifespan thanks to its competitors, Killzone fails to leave its own mark on the genre, but leaves me excited for the future of the PlayStation 4.
(Watch_Dogs, please come home)