When the PS4 launched in November of 2013, amongst the launch titles was a sequel to an established franchise, KillZone. To say this installment had buzz surrounding it would be a massive understatement, everyone I knew was talking about how gorgeous the game looked, and how the PS4 was going to come in and completely dominate the gaming scene. Little did I know how right they were; not going to deny it, I didn’t check out much about this newest installment, KillZone: Shadow Fall, until around the time I knew I was getting a PS4, and ended up getting a copy of the game.
All I knew about the game was parts of the story, the fact that it takes place 30 years after the events of the original KillZone trilogy, and that you control a new protagonist, Lucas Kellan. I dug up more information, and found out that a mass genocide occurred on the planet known as Helghan after a huge cruise ship loaded with weapons known as “Petrusite Missiles” were detonated. This in turn basically killed over half the Helghan global population and its residents known as the Helghast ended up being given half the planet the game takes place on, known as Vekta, to make up for this mass genocide. However, the Helghast refused to adapt to Vektan society and culture, tensions mounted and things started to spiral out of control, resulting in the construction of a wall to divide the two races.
This in turn forces the native Vektans to leave this half of the planet, which has since come to be known as New Helghan, and sets things up for a potential civil war as bad blood remains between the two races. Violence is commonplace, and those whom are half-Vekta/half-Helghast were targeted the most during this timeframe. While I won’t give away too many spoilers to the story itself, I will say that the story itself is very dark; you have to stay motivated as hell in order to play through it because there are moments where it gets genuinely depressing, and just when you think things couldn’t get any worse, they often do. There is virtually no reprieve from the darkness, very little humor whatsoever and it is because of that fact; that I cite the story as being a serious downer.
Once the PS4 was set up proper, including the swap out of the default hard drive with one that has a bigger capacity, I booted this game up and was downright amazed at how gorgeous it looks. Immediately upon booting, I took it all in. Heck, I would say that to call this game gorgeous is an absolute understatement, as the game packs ridiculous amounts of detail to the gills. The city environments in particular cram tons of realistic textures into the buildings, bright colors also run the gamut all over the place, making the argument that FPS games use only different shades of brown, white and grey a thing of the past.
Even rock formations and forested environments pack insane amounts of detail, including individual leaves on each tree and running waterfalls that look amazingly realistic. This made Vekta/New Helghan look like a living, breathing world, and it shows. I could easily see a world like this actually existing and that’s saying something. Not going to deny it, KillZone Shadow Fall is absolutely a visual fete–a tour de force that shows off what the PS4 can do graphically, and it does an amazing job of it.
The controls are smooth and responsive. Once you get used to how things work, it all feels quite intuitive. Each weapon you can equip actually has two methods of firing, using the d-pad you can switch between each method pretty quickly. The controls come with a learning curve, but for the most part they work and work well once you’re used to them. The DualShock 4’s touch pad in the middle is put to good use thanks to a little gadget called the O.W.L.; this little gadget can hack computers, battle enemies, and even transforms into a zipline so you can get to areas far down below you safely, a very nice touch that works pretty well for the most part if you remember to use it.
The gameplay itself does have some flaws, though. For instance, you cannot fall into water or too high off any hazardous zones whatsoever, because if you do? Guess what, game over. Yes sir, you die instantly. Plus, the opponents you end up fighting in the game–the Helghast–are tough as nails. You have to be very careful, and you have to plod very slowly. You cannot go gung-ho in this game lest you want to get slaughtered within minutes by a platoon of Helghast soldiers. While I find this to be quite refreshing at times, others might not enjoy it nearly as much. I will say this and I will be absolutely blunt, you will die, and you will die quite often. This creates a feeling of trial and error, frustration immediately follows suit. The game becomes a chore after that. On-line play is available and it works well with little to no lag if you want a break from single player.
Overall, KillZone Shadow Fall is an absolutely beautiful game to look at with gorgeous, jaw-dropping environments to plod through and in terms of gameplay is pretty solid, everything works and works very well. But some huge flaws keep it from being a masterpiece. For one, the story as mentioned before is absolutely depressing, things just go from bad to worse almost constantly with virtually no reprieve from the negativity whatsoever. The fact that you need to find that motivation to continue where you left off is not a good thing. Combining that with the gameplay flaws mentioned and we have a game that is great looking, controls well, but isn’t exactly what I’d call a fun game overall.