EXCLUSIVE GAME REVIEW: Killzone Shadow Fall

Killzone Shadow Fall is a beautiful and accomplished dystopian sci-fi first-person shooter that really shows off what the new PlayStation 4 can do.

But it also, sadly, has a number of issues, including some obvious and easily avoided mistakes, as well as a problem that’s so prevalent lately that I really fear it will be a hallmark of this new generation.

Killzone Shadow Fall 01

When we last vacationed on Helghan (in 2011’s Killzone III), a W.M.D. had rendered the planet largely uninhabitable. Which is why most of the surviving Helgast now live on Vekta, with a Pink Floyd/Game Of Thrones-like wall keeping the two sides apart. But as we’ve seen in real life — and on classic prog-rock albums, fantasy novels, and their respective adaptations — putting a wall between people doesn’t make them get along.

Like other games in this series, Killzone: Shadow Fall is beautiful, with detailed visuals of stunning vistas, lush forests, and dirty industrial areas. And like other games in this series, the controls are way too loose and need to be adjusted before you really dig in (I recommend bumping the X- and Y-axis sensitivity down to 20%). But once you fix them, the game has plenty of engaging opportunities for you to put your trigger fingers to the test.

Killzone: Shadow Fall also has the same compelling online multiplayer, especially if you play this series’ signature mode, “Warzone,” in which a you play through a number of different multiplayer game types within a single match. Why more games haven’t adopted this mode is beyond me.

Killzone Shadow Fall MP

Like 2009’s Killzone 2 and III did with the PS3, Killzone: Shadow Fall also takes full advantage of the capabilities of the PlayStation 4’s improved and augmented controller. Assisting you this time out is a automated drone, which can deploy a temporary shield or zip line, stun enemies, hack terminals, go on the attack, get you coffee…. But since the D-pad is already being used to locate objectives, use adrenaline when you’re hurt, and so on, the game uses the controller’s mini touch screen like a second D-pad.

Even cooler, the controller also has a small speaker. And when you find an audio log lying around somewhere, the game pipes the audio through the mini speaker in the controller. This not only doesn’t blot out the rest of the game’s audio, which is usually what happens in these situations, but it also fit the narrative since it’s like your listening to an audio log on a small device in your hand. Though you might want to go into the system’s settings menu and turn it down a bit.

Best of all, neither of these new features are as gimmicky or annoying as when you had to use the sixaxis motion controls to arm a bomb in Killzone III. Especially the idea of using the touch pad as a second D-pad, since the alternative would’ve been to have players hold down one of the triggers or bumpers when you want to switch the D-pad from its normal function to the drone ones, which would’ve made using the drone in combat situations that much complicated.

Killzone Shadow Fall drone

It’s just too bad that Killzone: Shadow Fall, unlike other games in this series, isn’t an improvement over its predecessor. Instead of being better than Killzone III like that game was better than Killzone 2, and Killzone 2 was over the first one, it’s only about as good as Killzone 2.

For the most part, this is because the firefights in Killzone: Shadow Fall, like those in Killzone 2, are neither as frantic, not set in as interesting places, as those in Killzone III (though it does decidedly get better as it goes along). But it also doesn’t help that the aforementioned drone has excellent aim and a lot of ammo. Used sparingly, it can help you when you’re really stuck or outnumbered. But because you can use it rather freely, it just makes things too easy.

Similarly, the shotgun is also overpowered, and can take out enemies with a single shot, even if they’re not holding the shotgun’s barrel up to their foreheads.

The there are the issues that are, sadly, not unique to Killzone: Shadow Fall. For starters, you can’t turn the music off, only down by half. Which wouldn’t be as big of a problem if the music didn’t often sound like a bad nine inch nails cover band or the kind of strings you’d hear at the beginning of a cliché pop ballad.

Killzone Shadow Fall 02

Even when the music in Killzone: Shadow Fall is good, when it’s more like an atmospheric orchestral score, not being able to turn it off is still be an issue since, even at half volume, it sometimes overwhelms the game’s sound effects. Which is why, during some of the longer gun battles, wily Helgast were often able to sneak up behind me and shoot me in the back.

Killzone: Shadow Fall also has this annoying habit of switching you back to your main weapon when you dismount off a zip line, regardless of which weapon you were using when you grabbed the line. That your main gun is often less effective than your other one just makes this that much more annoying.

Batman: Arkham Origins Battlefield 4 Killzone: Shadow Fall also has a problem, both in multiplayer and the campaign, which is so prominent these days I feel like I could cut and paste a variation of this paragraph into almost every review I do: the type is too small. Unless you sit really, really close to your TV, it’s impossible to read any of the text, be it part of your hud, hint and/or control messages, or the menus.

Killzone Shadow Fall SMALL TYPE

In the end, though, being able to turn off the music or not have to switch weapons every time you dismount from a zip line or just being able to read something, anything, isn’t as much a problem as the lack of frantic firefights or having an overpowered drone or shotgun. But even with these flaws, Killzone: Shadow Fall is still a solid sci-fi shooter, one that not only shows that there’s still life left in this series, but that the PlayStation 4 — especially its controller — has some interesting tricks up its sleeve as well.

SCORE: 7.5

 

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