The latest iteration of Killzone in the relatively long running FPS, PlayStation-exclusive series has finally launched alongside Sony’s next-generation console, the PlayStation 4. Being a huge fan of the franchise, I was a bit cautious, despite liking what I have already seen so far. With fond memories of the multiplayer in Killzone 2, but a disappointment with Killzone 3’s multiplayer offerings, does the latest in the series build upon the components we grew to love, or does it continue to take steps backward even more so?
While the series has had its ups and downs, Shadow Fall takes everything we loved about Killzone 2’s Multiplayer and mixes it up with the new-found mechanics in Shadow Fall. The gameplay feels like a wonderful mix of Call of Duty and Halo. It’s extremely fast paced and fluid, yet you aren’t taken down in a matter of seconds with fast-killing, high-damage weapons. You can ignore all the videos on YouTube, as this game supports a smooth 60 frames-per-second (Youtube only allows for about 30 frames-per-second, giving the game a ‘slower’ appearance’). Yes, the controls do have that classic Killzone 2 ‘weighty’ feel to it, but it isn’t as heavy – more akin to a solder’s weight you’d feel in a Battlefield game. Of course, we have to give praise to the DualShock 4 controller for its slick precision and more-than-welcomed improvements over the gimpy DualShock 3 controller. After getting used to Killzone: Shadow Fall with its lack of auto-aim, I find it just plain awkward going into any other FPS that does feature it.
A Next-Gen Leap in Visuals
As a launch title, Killzone: Shadow Fall does not disappoint when it comes to showing off its graphical prowess on the beefy hardware inside the PlayStation 4. From gorgeous vibrant colors to fluid animations, Shadow Fall is truly a title worthy of being called “next-gen”. Walking through levels, glaring at the lighting, and even textures on the ground and characters, it all looks absolutely stunning and highly detailed, especially at a constant 60 frames-per-second. One can say that the levels truly feel alive (and dead) as the colors really set the tones and moods. In one map, you’ll be battling it out in a luscious green forest, while in another, you’re fending for your life in close, tight quarters of a cold, dark and damp ship. It’s all rather stunning and is a relief to see it move away from the gritty, orange/brown-tinted look that past Killzone Games sported.
The animations and particle effects so fluid, it’s hard not the stare in awe and satisfaction every time. Lighting is second to none, as you’ll see in some of the videos below. Colors bounce off walls, projecting them through hallways that would otherwise be a different color. All the little details in this game are just so impressive, like cloth textures on a Helghast or VSA soldier, or how the textures on walls all appear to look life-like. All of it looks gorgeous on a 1080p TV set, something that never truly felt as satisfying on last-gen consoles, considering the muddy looking textures that were still present. It surprises me to see this game is capable of pulling off such visuals with what’s going on in some of the maps’ backgrounds, such as flying warships whizzing by and all sorts of gasses emitting from the ground.
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There is some light destruction, mostly cosmetic, but nothing huge in comparison to Battlefield. No issue there, really, considering it never aimed to do such things. For the time being, it’s nearly on par with what you can expect to see on a modern, mid-range PC. But for a launch title, it truly is worthy of “next-gen”.
In total, there are ten maps, all of which, I must say, are very well crafted. They all have tight-spaced areas, yet support the distance for ranged gunfights, so any play style a player may prefer isn’t at a disadvantage. The maps are really diverse too, as you’ll never feel like any of the settings repeat. In one map, you’ll be fighting in residential penthouses of Vekta, while in another, you’ll be duking it out in the slums of New Helghan. It’s all captured so beautifully, and the layouts don’t feel problematic in anyway. There are Spawn Bases, as in the last few games, but “spawn camping” really shouldn’t happen (though, it does). I say this because, nearly 90% of the time, players are using the exact same Spawn exit, which has enemies awaiting for them. Spawn Bases are designed with multiple exit points, more than enough to avoid any sort of “camp-ish” behavior. But, as stated, it does happen still.
The only map I disliked in Shadow Fall’s multiplayer is The Remains, only because it’s a remake of Bilgarsk Boulevard from Killzone 3, which, as a personal opinion, I wasn’t too fond of. Though, I have to say the map looks amazing and offers some intense close-quarter combat, just as the other maps do.
A Deeper Class System Than You Think
The Class system in Killzone 3 is utter trash when compared to Killzone 2. None of the roles felt like they served a purpose, and everyone just ran as an infiltrator due to its clear effectiveness. Shadow Fall has since removed that class (though it might return) and has opted to return to the Killzone 2’s style of class play, but better. In total, there are three classes; Scout, Assault, and Support. Each class has a permanent primary ability and then a second ability that can be chosen.
Scouts – This class excels at sniping and counter-sniping. The Scout’s primary ability is to mark enemies within a radius, and the secondary consists of either cloaking, emergency teleport, or a stun drone that’ll explode and stun enemies when deployed. On the field, these guys will supply long-range cover fire and are also used for sneaking past enemies to accomplish/capture objectives. The emergency teleport comes in handy when enemies close in on you, which will teleport you to safety near other allies. As for the Stun Drone, this is a perfect bot to help slow down mass formations of enemies. The Scout is the perfect class for sniper rifle users, and there is absolutely nothing more enjoyable than performing brutal, cloaked kills on unsuspecting enemies.
Assault – These guys are usually the ones out on the front line, though they do have an arsenal of weapons that can be effective at distances. Their primary ability is the shield, which absorbs incoming fire and can be shot through. As for their secondary, you can choose either the speed dash (boosts movement), stun blast (a small blast that blinds and slows down enemies) or a buddy drone (automatically shoots at enemies and follows you around). Most players will opt for the Assault class, considering that they are the go-to soldier that’ll get into action right away. They are the ground warriors who will be in the front lines at all times and can easily wipe an area clean with their abilities.
Support – The support class is probably the most important of the three, considering they can easily determine the fate of a match. Their primary ability is reviving, which, as you can imagine, is a huge asset in firefights. As for their secondary abilities, players can choose turrets to lay down support fire, aerial drones to give air support, and the most important of the selections, spawn beacons. These will truly determine the outcome of a match as they supply alternative Spawns from the Base Spawn. These can practically be deployed anywhere within the map, meaning if you play a match of Search and Destroy, spawns can be placed near the targets for effective offense or defense. These guys — as their name suggests — are used to give supporting fire, and with the mini-gun being a weapon in their selection, it really does help to have their support to get you out of sticky situations.
If you are a veteran Killzone player, you may have noticed after reading this that a bunch of the classes found in previous titles are now merged into each other. Personally, I find it makes more sense as it takes away the need for multiple players to be spread among the larger amount of classes. Really, the option to have a second ability fills in the gap for any missing roles. By “dumbing down” the number of classes to three, Shadow Fall offers excellent combinations for load-outs. Everyone has a main role along with a secondary role that they can play as, placing a greater importance on decision making.
Goodbye, XP System – Hello, Challenge System
This may come to a shock to many of you, but Guerrilla Games has scrapped the long-adopted XP system that we find in basically every multiplayer game. Instead, the studio has created a new progression system based on challenges. At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but honestly, it makes absolute sense. In most multiplayer games, unlocks are based on your rank. Shadow Fall takes the Battlefield approach and accommodates your play style with weapon-based challenges and more. No more having to earn XP to progress through ranks only to unlock a scope for a sniper rifle that you will probably never use, since you never play that role. If you play as an Assault class, then you’ll earn unlocks towards that class. And the best thing is that these challenges don’t take away from playing objective-based games, which could have been a possibility. In fact most are sculpted around working towards them.
There are a ton of challenges as well. The game boasts about 1500 of them, and in my weeks of play time, I have only hit about 400 of them. The only negative aspect I can think of with this system is that the amount of challenges you complete represents your rank. So if you completed 500 challenges, your rank will be 500. For me, this is a bit of a disappointment, as the past games had the standard and beloved military-style ranking. Nonetheless, it doesn’t take away from much of anything and offers a huge amount of replay value, considering that not only does it unlock weapons, but also new emblems and other items.
Warzone – This is the classic Warzone game mode found in previous Killzone titles. It goes through a 5 round rotation of different types of game modes; Team Deathmatch, Capture the Beacon (Capture the Flag), Search and Destroy (Attack and Defend), and Capture and Hold. It’s truly the favorite of the playlist selections due to the amount of time a match can last (20-30 minutes) and that the rotation of game modes doesn’t bore you with playing the same thing over and over again. My only con with this game mode — and many would agree — is that it lacks the Assassination/VIP mode. Chances are, it’ll be added in a future update, but it’s a bit disappointing to see it not included.
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Custom Games – The thing ruined Killzone 3 were not only just the maps, but the limited options. Custom Games were nearly thrown out the window until players started complaining, and from my understanding, they weren’t even considered ranked like in Killzone 2. I’m still a bit confused, but I do believe that, this time around, custom lobbies are counted and can be used towards unlock progress. Sure, it supports boosting, but the lobbies are just as fun because we can edit basically anything.
Custom lobbies range from your standard Warzone modes to Hardcore game modes where health and ammo is limited. If you want to create a game with only a specific weapon, like knife-only, then, yes, that’s possible. Pretty much any type of restriction can be applied to custom lobbies, which is a huge plus. So, while Guerrilla Games has offered players only a limited amount of options when it comes to official game modes, its up to us to get creative and explore other options. I love this idea because there’s always a new game mode being invented with the content available in each one. They even have online bot support, which is great for those looking for some team practice.
What Shadow Fall Lacks And What Needs Improving
There are some things Shadow Fall lacks that I find rather shocking. I already stated that the VIP/Assassination game modes were missing, but among this, features such as Squads, Party, Clan, and even basic in-game mic functionality are all missing. I can let the Party system go, considering that it’s actually done through the PlayStation 4 console, but a different color highlight for allies would be great, considering we usually lose one another on the field. I believe a clan system and squad system are being worked on, but there should be zero excuse as to why there is no in-game chat. I get that it’s a team oriented game, but I am not going to friend every player I play with just so we can chat that one match. There needs to be a way to communicate with random players. Hopefully this is implemented sooner rather than later. These are, after all, core features that made up the past Killzone games. Guerrilla Games has been Tweeting out that they are looking into these features, so we may not need to worry much longer.
Air Drones also have way too much health, considering the amount of kills they can get. And one thing I would like added is marked base turrets on the map. Countless times I have accidentally wandered into an enemy base to be blown to bits by the turrets. There were marks in previous titles, so it makes sense to do it here too.
Out of all those small complaints, this is probably my biggest complaint; Not being able to kill downed enemies. I just don’t get why they would remove this in Shadow Fall. It’s annoying having to down an enemy and not being able to kill them permanently, unless it was with a head-shot first. But so far, I’ve been enjoying how the game is currently set-up, so there’s no real way of telling whether or not this would break the game if we could kill downed enemies.
Overall, Killzone: Shadow Fall Multiplayer is a rather impressive package that’ll continue to get support for many months to come. With free maps on the way, and a reasonably priced Season Pass, I have to say this was a worthy purchase since the community is already established, and veterans of the past games will no doubt absolutely love this iteration. Guerrilla Games has a lot to work with in terms of improvements, but we are sure it’ll all be added in due time. Otherwise this is certainly one addicting multiplayer experience, especially when playing with a party.
4.5 / 5
Killzone: Shadow Fall gets four and a half stars out of five.
This review was based on the retail version of Killzone: Shadow Fall on the PlayStation 4.