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Killzone Shadow Fall - Review
To understand Killzone Shadow Fall take every first-person shooter you've ever played. Imagine throwing them in a blender. Done it? Now picture haphazardly painting that gloopy mess all over a wooden board. There, you have Killzone Shadow Fall.
Rather than construct an engaging single player campaign, Guerrilla Games have built what are essentially elaborate trailer sequences split up with some dull first-person shooting and a few puzzles. Each of Shadow Fall's chapters nabs some elements from another game and simply replaces the enemies with some red-eyed Helghast. The first level for instance, includes enemies attacking you from aerial transports whilst you make your way through a series of non-linear objectives, much like in Bungie's Halo. Or take a later chapter, which puts you aboard a creepy derelict ship (add equal parts Doom 3 and Dead Space and you get the picture), or a section where you're forced through a security checkpoint manned by Helghast, much like the opening to Half Life 2.
It's not that cribbing elements from other games is necessarily a new thing, and Guerrilla Games certainly aren't the first to do so. Nor does it suggest that just because a game uses elements from other titles that it's in any way bad. No, what makes Shadow's Fall single player so poor is how dull it is. Each level is essentially the same thing just in a different environment. On a technical level, Killzone Shadow Fall is gorgeous, with a smooth frame rate and amazing visuals, but that doesn't hide the shallowness of the gameplay, or how silly its story is.
Set after the events of Killzone 3, Shadow Fall attempts to rectify the problems with the previous games' plots - where the ISA (read: the good guys) were far, far less likable than the Helghast (read: the bad guys) - by now making both sides equally as stupid and horrible. Since the Helghast's home planet was blown up at the end of the last game, the ISA have allowed them to colonize a section of the planet Vekta, much to the annoyance of the planet's native population. In order to keep both groups from murdering one another, a planet-sized wall has been built to separate both communities.
On its own, the set-up could have made for an interesting story. Goodness knows it alludes to enough things; from Palestine and Israel, all the way to the Cold War. The problem is that's its scuppered by being both incredibly dull and at the same time, utterly stupid. The main character for instance, is little more than a blank piece of cardboard, with no personality whatsoever. The supporting cast aren't much better, with most of them being so over the top and hammy that you can't take anything that goes off in this world seriously, despite the gritty trappings of the art style.
The Helghast meanwhile, can't seem to settle into a visual style. The original game had them painted as space Nazis, whilst the sequels styled them more along the lines of Soviet Russia. This game instead opts for the least interesting choice, by making the rogue group of Helghast you fight a terrorist cell, meaning that the game ends up feeling more like your average military shooter than it would initially appear to be.
Where Guerrilla do appear to throw something of a curveball is in the actual gunfights. Rather than go for Call of Duty bombast, Shadow Fall opts for a more thoughtful approach to enemy encounters. Equipped with an O.W.L.: a small gun drone capable of attacking an enemy or deploying a shield, the game puts greater emphasis on flanking enemies, placing as much importance on player smarts as it does on having a good trigger-finger. Unfortunately, whilst the idea might be well intended, what usually happens is that you'll hug cover while your robot companion guns down almost all the enemies; usually waiting until there's only one or two left until you decide to mop them up yourself.
By softening you up considerably, (again, this is presumably to make you think more about enemy encounters), Guerrilla turns every encounter into a frustrating slog. Enemies have simplistic A.I. but are capable of shooting you accurately from miles away. It's not uncommon in some of the game's larger levels to be taken out by a sniper that you had no hope of seeing. Things aren't helped either by how unimaginative the game's weapons are, being comprised of nothing more than a slew of assault rifles with the odd shotgun and sniper rifle thrown into the mix. It smacks of yet more laziness, and since there's very little variety amongst the enemies, there's no reason to mix up your choice of weapon.
There's so little to enjoy from Shadow Fall's single player campaign that it's difficult to imagine that the multiplayer component would be any better. But in a surprise twist, it actually is, and it's rather fun. Who'd have thought that if you removed the dodgy A.I., asinine story and boring shoot outs, and replaced it with a bunch of trigger-happy gamers, that things would improve.
It takes a meat-and-potatoes approach to multiplayer to be sure, with the gameplay built around three different classes: Assault, Recon and Support, and a collection of typical game types ranging from your typical deathmatches right through to having to attack or defend specific positions. It's unlikely to coax hardcore fans away from their online shooter of choice but as a game in itself it simply remembers to be fun to play.
Killzone Shadow Fall's multiplayer might not quite make up for the sins of the solo campaign but it does at least make the game not wholly terrible. Provided, of course, that multiplayer shoot-outs are your cup of tea. It's clear from how the story wraps up that this isn't the last we've seen of the Killzone universe. Let's just hope that the next outing's singe player has a lot more care and attention.
Killzone Shadow Fall was released, in the UK, on November 29th as a launch title for the Playstation 4.
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