Killzone: Shadow Fall for PS4
The pressures of adult life mean that it’s pretty common for me to wait till the end of the week to write reviews. This isn’t normally a problem, as most experiences are still fresh in my mind. Really positive experiences are naturally memorable, as are the overwhelmingly negative. The difficulty is when something was perfectly enjoyable, yet utterly forgettable. That’s where Killzone: Shadow Fall lies.
Shadow Fall is my first game in the Killzone series, so maybe there were hidden nuances in the plot I were missing. Many years before the game began, the war between the planets of Helghan and Vekta was bought to a dramatic close by the destruction of Helghan at the hands of the ISA, the Vektan military. As a sign of good faith, Vekta gave up half of their planet to Helghast refugees and built a huge wall between them to keep the peace. The protagonist, Kellan, is orphaned during the Helghast take-over of their half of Vekta, and raised by the ISA solider Sinclair. He trains through his childhood and teenage years to become a Shadow Marshal, an elite soldier. Tensions rise between the two forces in the meantime. As Kellan takes part in a series of missions for the ISA, he comes into contact with a Helghen/Vekta half-breed called Echo, who reveals to him that things aren’t as clear cut as they seem.
Starting with the positives, Shadow Fall has a pleasantly murky plot, where the boundary between the good guys and bad guys actually seems pretty irrelevant. One scene in particular where Kellan encounters Helghen civilians was genuinely quite affecting, and in a more interesting game may have led to some good developments, but Shadow Fall can’t quite escape the cycle of violence inherent to the genre. In some ways, it reminded me of Spec Ops: The Line, but it’s not nearly as brave as that game was. The creators of Spec Ops made the brave choice of making their gameplay less fun to reinforce their narrative, and a big-budget launch title FPS like Shadow Fall just can’t afford to do that, so everything eventually cycles back to shooty shooty simplicity. Kellan is bland even by FPS standards, but Echo was a good character, and would have made a significantly more interesting protagonist.
The gunplay is all very nice, and the weapons are satisfying to use. The main gimmick of Shadow Fall is a little robot buddy who is controlled using the PS4 swipe pad. He can lay down suppressing fire, bring up shields, stun foes and, best of all, be used as a zip line to quickly get around the battle field. The final mechanic is really fun, but not enough it done with it. You could have built a whole game around this free firing zip line mechanic thingy, but again Shadow Fall is too conservative to risk it. Shadow Fall is at its best when it opens up, with the claustrophobic corridor shooting sections standing as the weakest moments. It’s generally fun, but never memorable.
Shadow Fall does look lovely though, with stunning backgrounds and environments. The character models are distinctly dodgy, but other than that Shadow Fall is a good manifesto for what the PS4 will be capable of. The voice acting is fine and the music ratchets up the action quite nicely.
Shadow Fall is perfectly ok, but it does remind me why I don’t go near this genre often, and that I should never pay full price for one. It’s enjoyable for what it is, but I’m still looking forward to something a bit more substantial in future.