Tech News on G4
Frustration awaits in Killzone: Shadow Fall
Nov 22, 2013
By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada
It seems European developer Guerrilla Games borrowed a phrase - literally - from a past Playstation 3 motto while creating its latest shooter, Killzone: Shadow Fall, for the Playstation 4. "It only does everything" fits the newest entry in the Killzone series, but the game isn't any better for it - not by a long shot.
There's absolutely no doubt that Shadow Fall serves as a stunning visual set piece for Sony's brand new console. The problem is, Guerrilla Games was clearly hell-bent on changing up the typical first-person shooter format, but what results is a campaign that's more infuriating than anything else.
Shadow Fall takes place 30 years after the events of Killzone 3. With a war constantly raging between the planets Vekta and Helghan, the Vektans decide to detonate a bomb that kills off most of the inhabitants of Helghan. For reasons I still can't quite understand, the Helghast survivors are offered refuge on Vekta, a massive wall is built separating the two factions, and a cold war-esque planet is borne.
You take on the role of Lucas Kellan, a Vektan Shadow Marshal. The game features a superb opening sequence where players take control of a much-younger Lucas, but as compelling as this first level is, it mostly goes downhill from here.
It's not long before you're equipped with a shiny new battle rifle and your trusty OWL combat drone, and sent from Vekta to outer space (twice!) to Helghan, all in the name of keeping the peace between two factions that clearly hate each other.
Let's be clear here: Guerrilla Games knows how to craft a firefight. The shootouts in Shadow Fall are superb, generally speaking. You won't just be holding down the right trigger and spraying everything you see until the I'm-participating-in-a-firefight music stops, though.
First, you'll have to take advantage of your OWL, which can be both an offensive and defensive weapon. In a neat move to show off one of the Dualshock 4's new features, the OWL's different capabilities are mapped to the controller's touch pad, and it works well.
You'll also have to disable alarms, use specific weapons depending on the situation, employ cover as much as you can - some of it is destructible though! - and even do a little sneaking.
Keep in mind, the enemies in Shadow Fall are very smart, and they're great shots. If you're expecting mindless AI that you can mow down like Rambo did in the sequels to First Blood, you've got another thing coming.
This is good though, because enemies shouldn't be pushovers in first-person shooters. The frustration lies in all the other stuff you're tasked with doing in Shadow Fall.
Where to begin? For starters, there's a level set on a space station where doors will only open after you've found and inserted power cores, and another level where you run through a darkly-lit slum with nothing more than someone over a radio to guide you.
Some of these sections actually show some potential, but none of them are ever fully realized.
Then there's the downright awful stuff. There's more than one instance where you're forced to avoid fast-moving objects, with one level in particular set on a train station where you also have to climb up and down platforms to reach your objective. This is essentially first-person platforming, and while this has been done successfully in the past in games like Mirror's Edge, it doesn't work - at all - in a game like Killzone that features more lifelike "heavy" controls.
Don't even get me started on the "free-fall" section that occurs very late in the game, either. I won't give away too much, but I will say that it's bound to go down in gaming history as one of the worst-designed sections of a level ever.
As mentioned earlier, Shadow Fall does look achingly gorgeous from beginning to end. While the graphics are superb, Guerrilla Games was once again overambitious with the power the PS4 offers. The levels are massive, and draw distances are beyond impressive, but the problem is, many levels still contain fairly set paths (even if you have a bit of wiggle room in terms of how you get to where you're going). This results in a lot of confusion as you run around a level trying to figure out how to actually reach the area highlighted by your tiny objective marker.
Guerrilla Games should absolutely be commended for stepping out of its - and most FPS players' - comfort zone with Shadow Fall. Still, I'd rather a rock-solid game that checks all of the typical FPS boxes than one that's different but so terribly frustrating.
Where Shadow Fall earns some serious points back is in its multiplayer offering. Fans of Killzone 3's superb multiplayer will surely notice some things that didn't carry over to this newest Killzone, but it's a great way to jump into the online world of Playstation 4 nonetheless.
The bread-and-butter here is the awesome Warzones mode, which is one long round made up of several bite-sized game types, from Search & Destroy, Beacon Retrieval, Capture & Hold, and classic Deathmatch. The aim, of course, is to win more rounds than the other team.
It constantly feels fresh thanks to the order of the different objectives being switched up every round. The maps help things a lot too, as they all feel very different, and offer plenty of secrets that you'll be discovering weeks into the game's release.
In an interesting twist, players don't level up in the typical FPS way, earning points and having those accumulate as you reach higher ranks. Instead, players unlock new weapons, abilities, and upgrades by completing tasks.
For instance, if you like using a particular gun, and want to unlock an awesome scope for it, you'll need to kill a certain amount of enemies with it first. Switch to another gun, meanwhile, and you'll have to start from scratch before you get upgrades for it. The same premise works for abilities and perks.
While Warzones has a lot of staying power, it's a real shame other features from Killzone 3 were left out. Killzone 3's Operations mode, which featured a mini-story and cinematics mixed into a battle between teams as they fought over objectives, is completely gone in Shadow Fall. Also gone? Jetpacks. Why, oh why, did they get rid of jetpacks?
There are other little annoyances that seem unnecessary. For instance, certain players can equip themselves with the ability to heal teammates who are downed. In Killzone 3, you simply click a button, and the player is up and running in a moment. In Shadow Fall, once the downed player is revived, he or she has to hit the triangle button to confirm the revive. The problem is, in the heat of battle, it's really not easy to see the icon that tells you you've been revived and need to press triangle. It's a small thing, but it's annoying nonetheless.
Still, the multiplayer is a great package, all things considered. There's plenty offered for everyone, whether you're more of a run-and-gun person, or someone who prefers to play strategically. Same goes for the game types themselves - there's lots of straightforward killing, if that's your bag, but lots of objective-type stuff is also mixed in as well.
Killzone: Shadow Fall goes out of its way to be ambitious. It works in terms of visuals, but as painful as it is to say, ambition is its biggest downfall in terms of gameplay. There's a lot to like in Shadow Fall, but we'd prefer it if Guerrilla Games went with the notion "It only does most things."
Killzone: Shadow Fall
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