Guerrilla Games try to inject a little more pomp and a lot more circumstance into their first person shooter franchise with their latest title in the Killzone series. But will Shadowfall be a bullseye or a glaring misfire? Read on to discover all in the GamesMediaPro review of Sony’s flagship FPS title.
Bless their little cotton socks, the hardware manufacturer’s and developers, all trying to convince the cash paying public that they ‘need’ to purchase any one of the duo of upcoming next generation videogame consoles, from the much maligned Xbox One to the Playstation 4, have all been touting their own exclusive titles as the main selling points as to just why gamers should opt for their system as opposed to their arch rivals’.
Take Sony, for example. They have been spouting on about Killzone: Shadowfall as some kind of mouth-wateringly gorgeous witchcraft and wizardry, of which the likes have not been seen since the days of Merlin, and with such technological inroads being made that they were hard pressed to keep this title under wraps until the next next generation.
Well, for those GmP readers out there not wearing Sony-branded blinkers it would seem that you were not fooled in the slightest by the ‘laser blue’ lighting effects and the ‘same old, same old’ storyline of the teaser trailer from the now infamous Sony ( deliberately delayed ) E3 2013 conference. You were right in being sceptical.
Killzone: Shadowfall, though a great deal chunkier around the midriff care of a somewhat meatier diet of story telling and digital eye candy, has, unfortunately, fallen foul of that age-old problem of ‘believing your own hype’. A competent shooter at the best of times Killzone was always going to struggle in the ‘shadow’, ( no pun intended ), of a genre defining Halo 4 that set the reviews tables alight with an outgoing 7th Generation showing that was, arguably, the prettiest and most playable version of the series to date. Add to that pressurized pounding the promise of a next-gen Xbox One Halo that has, reportedly, the ‘Promised Land’ of a staggering 60 frames per second of solo, local and online gameplay and you can begin to see a pattern forming already that Killzone: Shadowfall was never going to break free from.
The plot to Shadowfall was typical Killzone fodder with the Helghast once again being portrayed as the bad guys of the piece, even though the Vektan forces have, in effect, bullied and battered this race to the point of genocide, and what we get is another lukewarm telling of a Helghan people who, somehow, miraculously managed to survive the last, or should we say ‘latest’, ‘final’ onslaught and, somehow, managed to re-populate their entire species with some rampant copulation of record-breaking proportions that see’s the decimated race of gas-masked goons rising from the ashes and once again becoming a multi-million strong force of militant minions in only around a fortnight.
But, moving on, as I am sure the writers wish us too, and without too much scrutiny of the time frames involved, we actually are informed that it is, in fact, 30 years post apocalypse and that a handful of Helghan survivors ‘did’ actually manage to scramble from the ruins of their once vibrant planet only to be greeted with a new terror: Vektan’s who have now become Liberals and decided that they are sorry for their most recent act of inhumanity against their people. By this we mean that the Vektan’s now want to make amends for the near total annihilation of their species by building them some hi-rise hovels and becoming their new slumlords. Welcome to the future, Helghans, and your new life in the beautiful cardboard city of a cyber Tower Hamlets.
Still, could be worse. They could have been forced to play Killzone: Shadowfall online as some sort of sick and twisted penance.
So, after thirty years of living under the heel of their Vektan landlords, the simmering under current amongst the Helghan tenants finally boiles over and tensions rise higher than Sony’s expectations for Guerrilla Games’ beleaguered shooter series. Well, maybe not quite ‘that’ high.
Cue the now eye-roll inducing obligatory Sony exclusive cut-scenes that seem to litter every one of their console specific titles like some kind of floating digital detritus, and what do we have? Well, to be perfectly honest with you all what you have is yet another lack lustre attempt at toppling the Microsoft powerhouse sci-fi shooter franchise Halo from its much-coveted Number One spot. Ho-hum, indeed.
So, then, ever onward we trot in the tale of yet another war-mongering saga that leaves the player in little doubt that we, as Human beings, are made much in the same mould as our Helghan and Vektan counterparts, in that we seem to be on some predetermined path to self-destruction and the total annihilation of anything that gets in our path because, well, that’s just what we do…isn’t it?
Much, then, like their Human cousins, both parties in Killzone: Shadowfall seem Hell-bent on blasting everything and everyone back to the aforementioned Hell, before they have it done to them by their opposite numbers. Why, you may ask? Why, indeed, But the answer is as plain as the breathing apparatus on a Helghan’s face, and it’s quite simply ‘because they can’.
Unfortunately this, ‘because they can’, sentiment is the mainstay of the entire games’ plotline, and because of this you soon find that you have a distinctly metallic taste in your mouth when you consider the point of playing as either one of the given sci-fi saga’s people’s, much in the way of a weeping dental abscess that delivers that coppery and zinc taste to the back of your mouth after a serious infection.
The fact that neither one of the armies on display offers up even the remotest scrap of decency or moral superiority, and more often than not always opt for the most antagonistic and outright loathsome of the options available to them, makes for dire and grim playtime indeed when it comes to wading through the fetid filth that is the games’ storyline. You just don’t care about any of the characters enough because of their downright effluent smelling personalities, as well as their blatant ‘one-upmanship’ of motives as they go ‘tit for tat’ throughout the entire single player campaign. If the Helghans kill a family of four, then the Vekatns simply have to murder an extra sibling in their obligatory retaliatory strike. If the Vektans pollute the drinking water of an entire Helghan city and kill of the entire population of said urban environment, then the reaction by the embittered victims is not to seek solace and remembrance of a futile conflict that is aimlessly costing the lives of millions of innocents, oh no! All the Helghan’s want to do is dump 3000 gallons of toxic waste into the Vektan drinking water supply and ‘off’ their entire Race in one fell swoop. The storyline in Shadowfall is ‘such that it instantly renders all of the playable, and even the vast majority of the accompanying NPC’s, as puerile, predictable and thoroughly unpleasant.
And then things really start to take a turn for the worst.
Graphically ‘solid’, but this says nothing considering the promises played out in previous trailers from Sony and Guerrilla Games, Killzone: Shadowfall wades into the fray of yet more pointless combat by once again painting everything in drab and overcast colours, but at the same time strangely thinking that everyone will somehow think that this is okay and ‘next gen’ by the developer merely giving every reflective surface a ghostly blue-ish tinge. They are wrong.
What this graphical faux pas does do, in fact, is highlight the blatant lack of innovative design by making the gameplay look like a Manga styled Japanese anime cartoon as opposed to a title delivering actual gameplay that demonstrates the kind of cutting edge technological marvel worthy of a gamer spending over £500 of their hard-earned cash to enjoy.
Did we say ‘enjoy? Apologies, we meant to say ‘endure’.
The glaring contrast between graphics and gameplay is nowhere more evident than in the games single player campaign as you are treated to some of the most inept enemy AI, complete with head-scratching teammates who makes some of the most confusing decisions to either charge headlong into the battle like suicide bombers, or in a complete turn around they will just stand idly by as the entire Helghan army descends upon your position as they thumb through a particularly engrossing article by Gloria Hunniford in this months Woman’s Own magazine.
Pretty pictures do not a game make, it is in the core mechanics of the actual gameplay that decides whether or not a title is a hit or a miss, and with Killzone Shadowfall there isn’t even a batsman at the wicket to receive the ball from the bowler.
But the flaws do not end there. Not by a long chalk.
Killzone Shadowfall also ‘falls’ victim to a lack lustre character design that renders anyone you come into contact with instantly forgettable or utterly unpalatable, usually a combination of both in equal measure. The checkpoint system is painful, at best, often setting players back through entire chapters before tasking them with repeating the same predictable orders of advance, capture and/or kill.
There is another major problem with combat in that there is absolutely no aim assist whatsoever. Well, for you at least as it would seem that should even the most minute area of your character be visible to the Helghan troopers then regardless of distance, cover, obstacles or weapon they currently have to hand, the opposite numbered ‘space nazis’ will blast you from here all the way back to the next far distant checkpoint. Frustrating? To say the least!
Of course, that’s not to say its all doom and gloom for Shadowfall….after all, it is pretty.
Take the few segments of the game where you are swinging from a rope attached to a helicopter as you a flown around the city whilst all the time desperately trying to cling to the line or drop to your grisly doom. Now that! ‘That’ is a great section of gameplay that shows the player just what the PlayStation 4 is capable of doing, and at least gives hope for the future of the system.
But, again it does raise the point that Killzone Shadowfall is little more than an extended tech demo. A kind of E3 demonstration that Guerrilla Games fleshed out and allowed the customer to take home with them to show off just what the Ps4 can really do when the developer bothers. Whether or not the PlayStation 4 will be woefully underused, as its outgoing sibling the Ps3 can attest too, remains to be seen. But if the truth be told there was little justification from Sony for the huge power and promise of the PlayStation 3, ending up instead more akin to a Netflix playing Blu-Ray movie centre that just happens to also pay a couple of great games once every couple of years. The same fate seems to already have been pre-destined for this latest Sony system.
It’s not even that Killzone Shadowfall with its silky smooth 60fps multiplayer has something to offer in the way of longevity, even with the promise of free maps for the online modes promised from the developers, as there is just not the community there to support any kind of decent fight.
Players are still sat around waiting for lobbies to be populated, and even when the matches do finally kick in they have all the atmosphere of a tumbleweed blowing ghost town thanks to Sony’s unfathomable decision to make it party chat only?
The player classes are still the same three predictable sniper, run and gunner and support soldiers with everything having to be earned in the way of attachments and upgrades, as opposed to earning XP and purchasing the piece of kit that you actually wanted. Again , though, there will also be the undoubted dumbing down of the multiplayer, as both Call of Duty and Battlefield 4 have both done, to attract the less talented players to the fray. With that, then, you will find that everyone takes the ‘scout’ class, hides in corners with cloak and invisibility shield whilst at the same time blasting away with a one shot kill weapon that renders the whole online part of the game futile in the first place.
But it is still very, very pretty!
All told then Killzone Shadowfall is pretty much a last gen first-person shooter, much in the mould of every other FPS game you have ever played, only it has a new slap of next gen paint. If that is enough for you to merely coo at the beauty of inept opposition AI soldiers, or marvel like a slack-jawed loon at crumbling buildings and stare in child-like wonderment at drop ships spewing leather clad Nazi’s from them like some kind of futuristic SS birthing machine, then good for you! Knock yourself out. ( and coincidentally you also could try knocking out the Helghans as the melee combat makes things much easier than the rifles and weapons ).
If, however, on the other hand you had the crazy notion floating in that noodle of yours that the next generation hardware would bring about truly inspired gameplay that would leave you breathless at its pacing and interaction then prepare for some disappoint of the galactic kind. Killzone Shadowfall is not going to be to your liking.
Falling short in every single department from storyline to dialogue, gameplay to level design Killzone Shadowfal is quite possibly the prettiest launch title of this, or any other generation, but is also very likely to be one of the most frustratingly boring romps through a cookie cutter sci-fi shooter that you will have ever likely endured. With its one plus standing proudly in the face of its many faults it is for this reason that we give Killzone Shadowfall a well deserved 5 out of 10.
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Version Tested: PlayStation 4 Exclusive Title
Pegi Rating: 18 ( M for Mature )
Price: £49.50 ( Gameseek )
Score: 5 out of 10