With DriveClub delayed and inFamous: Second Son missing launch and heading further out into the “launch window” with a March release, this leaves Killzone: Shadow Fall and Knack as the two retail PS4 exclusives left for PlayStation die-hards to choose from on day one. Killzone is the clear winner here, if only due to Knack being a new IP with a younger audience appeal, while Killzone is a staple PlayStation franchise and a shooter, catering to a mature crowd. But is that the right choice? Is Killzone: Shadow Fall the PlayStation 4 exclusive to own at launch?
Killzone: Shadow Fall takes place 30 years after the catastrophic events that took place at the end of Killzone 3 that nearly wiped out the Helghast race and left Planet Helghan in shambles. The remaining Helghast take refuge on Planet Vekta, and oddly, the Vektans are forced aside to allow them to occupy half of their planet—totally not fair! The two conflicting races can’t co-exist, so they’re divided by a massive wall. Still, the two sides plot against each other, and a constant war ensues leaving the entire planet and its people in fear and turmoil.
In no time at all, the Helghast get right back to their old, devious ways, and a rebel group decide to attack the Vektan people to escalate the feuding. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, this rebel Helghast faction kidnap the scientist and engineer that created the weapon that annihilated Planet Helghan, and plan to use it to rid Vekta of the Vektan people so that the Helghast can live free and propser. But before this can happen, the Vektans send in Lucas Kellan, an elite agent of the Shadow Marshals, to stop them.
Kellan soon learns that the Vektan military’s plan is just as dangerous and despicable as the Helghast’s, and teams up with a half-breed female descendant of Visari to kill Massar, the scientist, and with her, the chances a weapon this destructive and deadly falling into the hands of either side of the fighting. In essence, it’s a story based on an arms race, with deep racism, hatred, and segregation themes.
Kellan himself doesn’t do all that much talking, and through his actions, he actually isn’t much of a badass, and he certainly doesn’t have the mouth Sev or Rico had in past games. He’s more respectable, but he also comes off as a bit of a nobody despite the game pitching him as this “elite” Shadow Marshal. He does get the job done, though, but he’ll never be a memorable character—in fact, none of the characters in Killzone: Shadow Fall struck a chord with me.
As a Shadow Marshal, Kellan handles a weapon well, and moves with a loss less weight than in past games. I had always preferred the weighty controls of Killzone, but I also did enjoy the swiftness of Kellan. He needs this, because there are more than a fair share of platforming elements, that sadly come off unsuccessfully in first-person view. Anti-gravity gameplay can also be annoying, but thankfully don’t take up much time during the eight- to ten-hour campaign.
A much better addition to the Killzone universe is the OWL attack drone that accompanies Kellan throughout his journey. Early on in the game I found little use for the OWL, and chalked its usage up to simply being added to show off the DualShock 4’s touchpad as a control input. But as the difficulty spiked (and boy does it spike), it became an invaluable tool. Using the OWL to distract incoming soldiers or disable their shields proved useful many a times, and it can also revive you if you fall during battle if you happen to have adrenaline packs.
Killzone: Shadow Fall has some truly stellar moments, such as the barely lit, abandoned spacecraft that has an eerie Dead Space vibe to it. But these epic and memorable areas are sandwiched between dreary, cookie-cutter (in terms of the Killzone franchise), industrial-type landscapes. The actual gunplay is excellent also, but that too is hurt when the game switches to some down time, which usually involves unlocking a door, or hacking some terminal—terminals that have an orange glow just like so many other background elements and tend to blend in adding to frustration. 90% of the time, the objective is unclear, leading to a lot of confusion and even more time wasted.
On the bright side, Killzone: Shadow Fall is an absolute showpiece with stunning graphics, gorgeous textures, and some of the very best lighting, shadow, and facial expressions I’ve yet to see in any video game ever. No other PS4 game looks as good as Killzone: Shadow Fall so far—not even close. It’s the only game to show of the console’s true power, and it does a great job at utilizing the new features of the DualShock 4.
For example, the light bar turns yellow when taking too much damage from a once steady-blue. Then it turns red when the situation turns dangerous and you need to restore your health or risk dying. Audiologs found throughout the game are played back over the DualShock 4’s built-in speaker. These can be jarring at first if you don’t expect it, and a little loud, but it’s a very cool touch and I could see it being put to good use in a game like BioShock: Infinite. And then there’s the aforementioned OWL that can be commandeered via the DualShock 4’s touchpad.
Warzone multiplayer rounds out the Killzone: Shadow Fall package, and is exactly what you would expect from Killzone multiplayer. Gameplay-wise it resembles that of Killzone 3 very much, and isn’t that big of an evolution for a next-gen title. Warzone matches are highly customizable, leading to some fun or hectic situations. And there’s a great active community of Killzone players just waiting to start playing and occupy those servers, which have been very stable thus far.
Killzone: Shadow Fall isn’t the best game for the PS4, but it is the Trophy Wife of the PS4 launch lineup. It’s absolutely gorgeous, and you’ll love to show it to be the envy of all your friends. But beyond the good looks, she’s actually kinda dumb, lacking personality, and can get on your nerves at times. Despite all of this, she’s still worth the price and can make you a very happy man if you know what you’re getting into.