You are never going to find out how Killzone 3 ends. Shadow Fall designer on rebooting the series & leaving cliffhangers hanging

Killzone Shadow Fall PS4 screen Black Hand

I had a great chat with Killzone Shadow Fall‘s lead designer Eric Boltjes at this year’s Eurogamer Expo. There’ll be more later on the tech and other areas of Guerilla Game‘s next instalment but first here we are chatting about the story, rebooting the series for PS4 and how Killzone 3′s cliffhanger sting will never be resolved.

Shadow Fall designer on rebooting the series

Technically if you haven’t finished Killzone 3 then this next bit could be spoiler. Just saying.

Leon Hurley: Does Killzone Shadow Fall answer the questions left at the end of the last game?

Eric Boltjes: Not directly. No.

LH: The original finished on a bit of a cliff hanger. We see two Helghans bowing and saying, “Welcome home sir”, but it’s never revealed who’s there. Are we ever going to find out who was in the pod at the end?

EB: No, to be blunt.  Basically it’s the same universe, it’s the same world but it’s 30 years on. It’s different characters, different pasts, a fresh world.

LH: Was it a conscious decision to reboot it?

EB: Yes. Reboot is a big word but we did want to have a fresh wind blowing into both the gameplay, the story. Even the graphics. We felt, being on a next-gen platform we had a chance to do so, revamp the Killzone universe and do something different.

Killzone Shadow Fall PS4LH: So is that a reason for moving back to Vekta after two distinctly orange games?

EB: Going back to Vekta was a conscious decision because it give us a larger spectrum of types of environments we wanted to do. We wanted to do city environments, but we also wanted to do more lush nature environments. It doesn’t mean we might not visit the old worlds though. We’ll see.

But with a fresh new look on gameplay and how we wanted to approach Killzone we also said, ‘You know, Killzone is known for its gritty, heavy feel. Lets shake that up a little bit: let’s make it really pretty. Lets see what we can do with a beautiful, pristine world and then break it’. See what what comes out there.

“We said, ‘You know, Killzone is known for
its gritty, heavy feel. Lets shake that up:
let’s make it really pretty. Lets see what we
can do with a beautiful, pristine world”

LH: Has the game stuck with its distinctive weighty movement?

EB: We definitely wanted to keep that. It’s a sense of realism we wanted to keep. So the weapons still feel heavy. The reload animations are quite slow. But at the same time, in the single player, you’re a different kind of character, you’re a Shadow Marshal. They’re very nimble and trying to make that work together is quite tricky because we want that heavy feel but at the same you want that superhero movement. So what we’ve done for example is we’ve added climbing, we’ve added zip-lining and all kinds of other types movements but still the very heavy animations for how you do it. So you can do different things but they’re a lot more weighty.

LH: This time you’re using more open gameplay areas aren’t you? How does that work?

EB: We call them gameplay bubbles. You go from bubble to bubble so it’s not like an open world. Not an open world at all. But you get to an area and you have multiple options. For example, the E3 level, that’s an example of how, technically it’s linear – you still have objectives to complete – but you can complete them in any order. And how you tackle those objectives is not linear: there’s not just one way of doing it. You have different abilities, different weapons and different kind of tactics you can use. Now some bits are still linear because we still want to tell a story. Eventually we need the player to come back to one specific point so we can tell the story and then open it up again.

Killzone Shodow Fall PS4 gameplay. Subscribe for more PS3 & PS4 videos.

LH: So how are the objectives set up? Are there ones you have to do, some helpful side missions and stuff that just for colour?

EB: There ‘red thread’, must-complete objectives. But there optional objectives, side objectives and other stuff to explore while you get to the end of that red thread. So technically it’s linear but there’s a lot of wiggle room in between.

LH: Story-wise the Helghan now refugees in a Vektan enclave, is that the case?

EB: So what’s happened after the Vektans blew up [the Helhgan] planet, they said ‘Okay we’re sort of sorry and you can come to our planet’. And immediately, as soon as they got there, the Helghast wanted their own territory. So, over time (it took a few years) they have taken their own territory. They’ve built gigantic wall in the middle of the city, dividing the two so you have the Vektan bit and the Helghan bit. As the years went on tensions rose and rose and eventually they’ve kicked out all the Vektans and called it New Helghan. And that’s where our games starts. So at the point at where it starts to escalate, where they say, ‘Hey this is now our planet’, that’s where our game starts.

Killzone Shadow Fall PS4 screen Black HandLH: Where do the Black Hand figure in all this?

EB: The Black Hand are a faction within the Helghast. They’re an even more extreme group within the Helghast because that’s a theme we wanted to play on. Who are the good guys? Who are the bad guys? In any war innocent people get caught in the middle. It’s the same for the Helghast. They’re not all evil, they’re not all red eyed. There are normal people going to school and stuff as well. It’s that kind of grey area we want to play with. We want to show the player a lot more of the culture, how they live and how they’re being oppressed and make the player think, ‘Hey am I really the good guy? Or am I the bad guy and I’m oppressing them?’ It’s an interesting theme.

LH: Obviously before it was all out war, you were fighting the enemy and it was a very clear cut world and motivation. How do you push the story this time without a direct ongoing conflict?

EB: It was interesting. We really wanted to play on the cold war aspect: everybody hates each other but there’s no all out war. So there’s a lot of tension and you kind of have to operate behind the enemy lines in secrecy in order to not create a full scale war.

“Rather than have gigantic scenes of battle – which we do have eventually – we start out
much more calm and it’s much more about
you as one person infiltrating enemy lines”

That’s a much more interesting theme to play with. Rather than have gigantic scenes of battle – which we do have eventually – we start out much more calm and it’s much more about you as one person infiltrating enemy lines. There’s a still a lot of shooting, we’re a shooter after all but thematically it’s different.

And that’s Eric on Killzone Shadow Fall’s story and PS4 re-imagining. As I said there’s more to come later. And, in case you didn’t see the end of Killzone 3 or remember what happened, here’s the final post-credit sting where the ‘sir’ you’ll never meet arrives…