The Berlin Wall was erected to separate the citizens of East and West Berlin, protecting Eastern Berlin from fascist influence while it attempted to create a socialist state. While Killzone: Shadow Fall isn’t as politically complex as 1960s Germany, it does share some elements.
Shadow Fall follows on from the total annihilation of the Helghast planet, Helghan, as witnessed at the end of Killzone 3. With no home, the Helghan were forced to seek refuge on the Vektan planet. An ironic twist considering the aim of the annihilation was to extinguish the Helghan race, not to become roommates. In deciding that living on the same planet could lead to conflict, the Vektans and Helghans decide to build a planet-wide wall separating Vekta from New Helghan.
Set 30 years after Killzone 3, Shadow Fall utilises this as a background story premise while you take the reins of one Lucas Kellan, Shadow Marshall. Kellan undertakes covert operations requiring him to cross the wall and keep the Helghast from starting a war by breaking a neck or two. Although Shadow Fall has the potential to do something interesting with its Cold War scenario, Killzone never capitalises on this. Instead Shadow Fall prioritises gameplay over drama, leaving you to follow Kellan on a heroic quest of ‘shoot everything in sight’.
Another gripe with Killzone’s writing; the cast is two-dimensional, especially Kellan’s commander Sinclair. Sinclair will do anything to eradicate the Helghast scourge and never shows any hint of sincerity or consideration to their race. He is boring and unfortunately your main point of communication throughout the game. You will hear him rattle on mundanely for a great deal of your experience.
OLD DOG, NEW TRICKS
Killzone nails its shooting mechanics, opting to drop the series’ weighty feel in favour of a lightweight control seen in other modern first person shooters; COD, Battlefield, et al. The selection of weapons makes you feel like a badass, ranging from pistols to shotguns to the Pnv06 Voltage, an anti-personnel explosive-firing rifle. Kellan’s starting gun, the LSR44, is without a doubt the coolest. It’s a machine gun that transforms into a railgun for one-shot kills.
Although Shadow Fall’s Campaign is only a solo affair, you are joined by a robot companion called OWL. You control him by swiping either up, down, left or right on the Dualshock 4’s touchpad and although this isn’t a revolution in touch controlled gaming it is nice addition. OWL can shoot enemies, fire an area of effect stun blast, create an energy shield or deploy a zip line to quickly traverse levels.
The levels of Killzone are a mixed bag. Some levels revel in their open-nature, giving multiple paths to reach the same location. One of the first levels of Shadow Fall is set on a damn overlooking a forest. This level gives you the entire area to explore with a set of objectives to complete. This allows a smidge of choice as to the order you tackle your tasks. On another level you are tasked with stopping a hostage situation. You can blast through the front door, rappel down the back of the building for a noisy surprise or sneak through the ventilation to stay off the Helghast radar. This makes Killzone both fun and replayable.
Not all of Killzone delivers on this creative level design. Many levels are very typical of a modern day shooter and do a fantastic job of leading you through an interactive firing range. Killzone is at its weakest during these moments, making an exciting experience grind to a halt.
Shadow Fall radiates with beauty at every turn. It is a graphically gorgeous game that reflects light wonderfully. Foliage pops out of the ground. Shadow Fall benefits from a vibrant colour palette and seldom makes use of the dull greys that usually plague shooters.
The multiplayer component of Killzone is smart but not flawless. Each player starts with all weapons and abilities from the get go, preventing those with more time on their hands to have an unfair advantage. Progression is in the form of challenges. Completing challenges will unlock additional upgrades and attachments for weapons. There’s a heap to complete and keep dedicated players busy for a long time.
The main draw to Killzone’s multiplayer is Warzones. These are customisable game modes that allow for multiple games to take place in one sitting. For example, you may start defending in a game of Search and Destroy, then upon failing or succeeding the game will turn into a Team Deathmatch before finally turning into a round of Capture The Flag. This is all seamless and the team who wins the most scenarios will win the overall game. Although there are official Warzones, customising and inventing new ones is celebrated, with the developers (Guerrilla Games) promoting their favourite custom Warzones. My favourite so far is Cloak and Dagger; it’s Team Deathmatch but knives only and everyone has the ability to turn invisible. Sneaky stabby fun.
Note: Although the 10 maps in single player are diverse and interesting, a couple allow easy spawn camping. Being caught in this scenario is not fun and is, in a sense, game-breaking.
- + Freedom within levels
- + OWL is a hoot
- + The next most beautiful thing to real life
- - Story is lacking
- - Multiplayer can occasionally be unbalanced