Killzone: Shadow Fall Leads PS4 Launch Line-Up, But Has Its Fair Share Of Problems [REVIEW]

Find out what we thought of Killzone: Shadow Fall, the fourth console outing for Guerrilla Games' first-person shooter franchise, and whether we recommend picking up the only PS4 exclusive currently available at North American retailers. (PHOTO: Sony / Gu
Find out what we thought of Killzone: Shadow Fall, the fourth console outing for Guerrilla Games' first-person shooter franchise, and whether we recommend picking up the only PS4 exclusive currently available at North American retailers. (PHOTO: Sony / Guerrilla Games)

Just two years after Killzone 3 debuted to relatively little fanfare, Guerrilla Games is back with Killzone: Shadow Fall, a PS4 continuation of the narrative from previous Killzone titles, packaged inside of what could very well be the best looking game we've seen on any next-gen platform.

I remember spending hours at a time playing the first Killzone with an old friend from back home; gradually increasing the number and difficult of the computer-controlled opponents that would swarm us in that first game's Horde Mode equivalent until we could practically lay waste to the entire Helgast army with our eyes closed. I never did complete the second or third entries in the series, but have always hoped that another must-play Killzone title would emerge, and Killzone: Shadow Fall certainly seemed capable of filling that role.

While opinions of the game seem to be fairly wide-ranging, from "half-bred" to "most beautiful video game ever", I'm happy to say that I very much enjoyed (most) of my time with Killzone: Shadow Fall. Hell, I could even see myself investing some serious time in Killzone: Shadow Fall's multiplayer component over the next few weeks/months. The single-player campaign certainly has its weak points -- most notably, a late-game gliding sequence that seems to be universally-despised by players and critics alike -- but I still came away from Killzone: Shadow Fall with the distinct impression that Guerrilla Games did the Killzone series justice in its first outing on the PlayStation 4.

Killzone: Shadow Fall Review - Graphics

If you've been paying any attention to Killzone: Shadow Fall, since the game was announced back in February, then you won't exactly be surprised by just how beautiful of a gaming experience Guerrilla Games has put together in Killzone: Shadow Fall. That said, it's difficult to convey just how great Killzone: Shadow Fall looks in motion, especially if you have an HD television that can make proper use of the game's/console's native 1080p support.

Killzone: Shadow Fall's near-constant 1080p/60fps performance is only made all the more impressive by the destructibility of many of the game's environments. Not since playing the criminally underrated Black has my jaw actually dropped in response to the carnage unfolding on my television. Many of the objects you hope to use as cover will degrade over time, with most gun fights leaving behind volumes of blood, corpses and rubble that practically beg for Killzone: Shadow Fall to get its own Viscera Cleanup Detail add-on (à la Shadow Warrior).

Killzone: Shadow Fall (PHOTO: SCEA / Guerrilla Games)
Killzone: Shadow Fall (PHOTO: SCEA / Guerrilla Games)

While many of the initial releases for both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 only look like slightly enhanced versions of their current-generation counterparts, it's clear from the game's opening moments that the Killzone: Shadow Fall visual experience could not be replicated on the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. Of course, like many next-gen titles, Killzone: Shadow Fall did have the occasional dip in frame rate. However, I could probably count on one hand the number of times that I witnessed noticeable drops during the eight to ten hour Killzone: Shadow Fall single-player campaign.

To be honest, I'd have forgiven two or three times as many drops, considering just how great Killzone: Shadow Fall looks, even when compared to fellow triple-A PS4 launch titles like Need For Speed: Rivals or Battlefield 4.

Killzone: Shadow Fall Review - Sound

There's actually very little to be said about the audio in Killzone: Shadow Fall, other than to say it's pretty much the definition of passable. Voice acting doesn't sound terrible, but is unlikely to win the game any awards either. The same can be said for the Killzone: Shadow Fall soundtrack; a combination of the same generic heavy metal and industrial music that's provided the soundtrack to a million other first-person shooters over the last two decades.

I've always found it a bit difficult to comment on the sound quality of weapons that aren't inspired by or clearly attempting to replicate real-life weaponry; however, nothing seemed out-of-place with the sounds produced by the weapons found in Killzone: Shadow Fall's virtual armory. Nothing is quite as gratifying as, say, the sound of firing an AK.762 in one of Payday 2's outdoor environments - my own personal gold standard for the sounds of digital gunplay in 2013 - but each firearm's respective sound seems to match the weapon its paired with. If nothing else, things sound properly hellish when the guns come out in Killzone: Shadow Fall, and what else can you really ask of a first-person shooter like Killzone?

One change that lore junkies may enjoy is Guerrilla Games' decision to push playback of audio logs, one of several sets of collectibles strewn throughout the Killzone: Shadow Fall game world, to the speaker found inside your PS4 controller. Rather than muting the in-game audio, or forcing you to revisit any logs you find while story-advancing narration is already being provided, audio logs found in Killzone: Shadow Fall will play from the speaker found inside your DualShock 4. The slight downgrade in audio also helps convey the idea that Killzone: Shadow Fall players are tracking down forgotten audio logs from the Vektans' and Helghast's respective pasts.

Killzone: Shadow Fall (PHOTO: SCEA / Guerrilla Games)
Killzone: Shadow Fall (PHOTO: SCEA / Guerrilla Games)

Killzone: Shadow Fall Review - Campaign

Killzone: Shadow Fall sees players assuming the role of Lucas Kellan, a Vektan Shadow Marshall looking to infiltrate and destroy the remnants of the Helghast civilization, roughly three decades after half of Vekta was given to those who survived the world-crippling Petrusite detonation above Helghan.

Like previous entries in the franchise, you'll have access to a variety of Vektan and Helghan weaponry, ranging from basic pistols to rocket launchers, and Killzone: Shadow Fall will also give you the opportunity to travel on both sides of the massive wall that now separates the Vektan and Helghast civilizations.

You'll also be able to make use of Kellan's OWL, an automated drone that provides support to Lucas in a variety of combat and non-combat scenarios. On paper, it's an exciting addition for anyone that doesn't have a friend to run through the single-player campaign with them, but (for the most part) your automated helper fails to prove useful outside of clearly-designated situations. On occasion, players might need to take advantage of the OWL's shield and stun abilities; however, it's pretty much useless when sent out to fight on its own.

Despite starting strong, with a tale inspired by both the Cold War and the U.S. military's current presence in the Middle East, the narrative of the Killzone: Shadow Fall campaign ultimately proved disappointing as well. I suspect many of those who finish the Killzone: Shadow Fall campaign will do so either for the trophies or because they (like me) feel some strange need to finish any game they matter how predictable or frustrating it may get along the way.

Killzone: Shadow Fall wasn't all bad though.

While few of the Killzone: Shadow Fall campaign's later chapters match the near-open-world freedom offered by the game's earliest chapters, there are at least moments in nearly all of the Killzone: Shadow Fall campaign's various scenarios where players are given a bit more freedom than "Move forward and keep shooting." Thankfully, the rather irritating alarm towers from the game's opening chapter don't return very often throughout the Killzone: Shadow Fall campaign, though I'd probably habe been willing to put up with them for slightly more-diverse missions towards the end of the story.

Guerrilla Games also consistently delivers environments that are large enough to offer players multiple lanes of attack in the majority of Killzone: Shadow Fall's combat scenarios. The massive levels also display a verticality not typically found in console titles, though there's very little reason to actually explore the relatively sizeable game world that Guerrilla Games has created. In fact, I'd be a bit shocked if many players chose to deviate from the semi-obvious path that the Killzone: Shadow Fall dev team has threaded from the start to end of each mission.

So, what about that "most" that I slipped into the opening?

As many other reviewers have already pointed out, whatever your feelings on the rest of the Killzone: Shadow Fall turn out to be, there's a chapter towards the end of the campaign that's likely to make you take a few moments to consider just how badly you want to see Killzone: Shadow Fall credits roll. It's a skydiving sequence that, if you ask me, never should have been included in the final game; not only because it adds nothing to the final product, but because the sequence in question seems to actively diminish many players' enjoyment of the game. Hell, the brief slice of Killzone: Shadow Fall in question took one writer more than 35 attempts to complete.

Killzone: Shadow Fall (PHOTO: SCEA / Guerrilla Games)
Killzone: Shadow Fall (PHOTO: SCEA / Guerrilla Games)

Right about now, you might be thinking, "But Scott, aren't you making mountains out of mole hills here?"

Sadly, the answer is no. The gliding sequence that I've now devoted two entire paragraphs to discussing is the last in a series of pretty terrible free-fall segments that were, collectively, my least favorite moments with Killzone: Shadow Fall. Granted, those who aren't looking to complete the game for review purposes could walk away if/when the game gets a bit frustrating; however, I suspect most players aren't looking to replay a thirty-to-sixty second segment of any game (that isn't Dark Souls) twenty-plus times. Especially one that seems unnecessary to the narrative, tacked on for the sake of an expanded product sheet, and detrimental to the overall Killzone: Shadow Fall experience.

Overall, the Killzone: Shadow Fall single-player campaign could definitely use some work. However, I suspect the gorgeous visuals and mostly enjoyable gun play will be enough to get most fans through the Killzone: Shadow Fall story at least once, and help prepare you for the game's main course.

Killzone: Shadow Fall Review - Multiplayer

The single-player campaign in Killzone: Shadow Fall might be a bit all over the place, but one area where Guerrilla Games' latest first-person shooter absolutely does not disappoint is multiplayer. With a selection of environments lifted from and inspired by the game's campaign missions, Killzone: Shadow Fall also features the series' trademark multi-round matches, giving you a series of timed-objectives and awarding the win to whichever faction has the most points after the predetermined number of events have taken place.

Players have their choice of three classes (Assault, Scout and Support), each with unique weaponry and gadgets, and a reasonable number of options for customizing the appearance of your Vektan/Helghan soldier. You'll also have access to most of the Killzone: Shadow Fall armory from the get-go, with weapon accessories like ACOG sights and red-dots unlocked by completing the game's various multiplayer challenges. Your challenge progression also doubles as character progression in Killzone: Shadow Fall, completely replacing the leveling requirement present in many modern shooters, much to my own personal delight.

The real selling point, though, is the truly insane level of customization that players have over the multiplayer games they create in Killzone: Shadow Fall, from the number of players allowed to join the server to the types of weapons that will/won't be allowed. And that's just the beginning. Dozens of options allow players to create highly-specialized game types that will allow them to play Killzone: Shadow Fall exactly how they'd like.

Killzone: Shadow Fall (PHOTO: SCEA / Guerrilla Games)
Killzone: Shadow Fall (PHOTO: SCEA / Guerrilla Games)

Want nothing but Beacon Recovery missions between two teams carrying basic pistols? You can do that. Think Killzone: Shadow Fall multiplayer matches would be way more fun if everybody was carrying rocket launchers, but only had one rocket? There are options for that too.

Personally, I've become a huge fan of the Tactical Team Warzone, which features all the same weaponry found in standard Killzone: Shadow Fall multiplayer matches, but with a number of adjustments that force players to actually stick with and support their teammates. Games play a bit slower than "normal" Killzone: Shadow Fall matches, or just about any other console shooter for that matter, and becomes extremely enjoyable if/when you land on a team that's actually willing/able to work as a unit.

It's not an infinite number of combinations, but the sheer customizability of the Killzone: Shadow Fall multiplayer offering very nearly guarantees the game will have something for anyone who currently enjoys at least one multiplayer first-person shooter.

Inexplicably, Killzone: Shadow Fall shipped without in-game voice chat of any kind, forcing players who'd like to actually communicate with their team mates to rely on the console's "Party Chat" feature. Of course, that doesn't really help out any team larger than 8 players (Killzone: Shadow Fall supports up to 12-vs-12), which could lead Guerrilla Games to introduce native voice chat to Killzone: Shadow Fall at some point in the future.

Personally, I've thoroughly enjoyed taking part in Killzone: Shadow Fall matches that are entirely devoid of the homophobia and racism that seem to go hand-in-hand with most online titles, but understand why more competitive players would still want the team to introduce a dedicated voice chat for Killzone: Shadow Fall.

Killzone: Shadow Fall Review - Final Verdict

While Killzone: Shadow Fall may not be a perfect game, or even one that would rank as highly if it were released a year or more after the launch of the PS4, Guerrilla Games' first-person shooter will remind you that we've reached the next generation of gaming every moment that it's on your screen. Few are likely to be blown away by the game's single-player campaign, which serves little purpose other than to continue a narrative that many players have likely paid little attention to over the years, but the Killzone: Shadow Fall solo experience does at least do an adequate job of introducing you to many of the game's new features and weapons.

At its core, Killzone: Shadow Fall is a game for those who enjoy multiplayer shooters, and offers an unprecedented level of customization to separate itself from fellow PS4 launch titles like Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts. Instead of focusing on kill-death ratios and Final Kill cameras, Killzone: Shadow Fall allows players to tailor the multiplayer experience to their own personal preferences, giving you the freedom to find the rules and game types that make the game most exciting for you.

Some sites and popular online publications may have been looking for Guerrilla Games to reinvent the wheel with Killzone: Shadow Fall, but those who've taken a long break from the series or are experiencing it for the first time will find plenty to enjoy in Killzone: Shadow Fall. While the single-player campaign may not have been as consistent as I'd have liked -- seriously, f**k that glide sequence -- there are plenty of fun moments to be had playing Killzone: Shadow Fall, both independently and with friends/strangers on PSN.

At the end of the day, Killzone: Shadow Fall is easily one of top offerings from the PlayStation 4 launch line-up, and (at times) one of the most fun gaming experiences that I've had this year. If you're still wondering what game(s) to pick up for your brand new PS4, and you are a fan of first-person shooters, there's a pretty good chance you should make this one of them.

Score 3.75 / 5

Be sure to check back with and follow Scott on Twitter for more on Killzone: Shadow Fall and the rest of the PlayStation 4 launch line-up as we continue to bring you the latest on all things PS4 in the months to come.

Have you had a chance to play Killzone: Shadow Fall yet? Think Scott's review of the game is wildly inaccurate? Have a question about the game that wasn't addressed in our Killzone: Shadow Fall review?

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