So you’ve gone for the Killzone Shadow Fall PS4 bundle have you? Or you’re at least eyeing it up? Well rest easy, there are enough next-gen sparkles here to make it a clear winner when showing off your new PlayStation 4, while still providing a satisfyingly crunchy shooter with more substance than you might expect. There are tangible demonstrations of power throughout the experience in terms of sweeping vistas and eye-widening set pieces but, most importantly, the new tech has been used wisely to add fresh spins to the gameplay.
These new mechanics aren’t revolutionary and clearly take on influences from the likes of Bioshock and Deus Ex in giving you more power and space to control the action. Where the last three Killzones pushed you through corridor firing ranges at a pace dictated by Guerrilla Games, this opens up the world and opportunities. Now the studio gives you the ability to decide how things go down by your choice of gadgets and tactics.
Shadow Fall provides this with a modest array of options that let you better dictate the gunplay. The tools can provide for a much more thoughtful take on the whole ‘shooting everyone’ plan. For starters, you have Tactical Echo, essentially magic vision that highlights enemies and useful things in the environment. Then there’s the OWL, a personal attack drone that can target enemies, drop a static shield, discharge stun blasts or provide handy ziplines.
After explosive space beach landings & expensive set pieces, it’s a brave move on Guerrilla’s apart to shoo you outside and
ask you to play, but not tell you how
The first main level, set in a lush forest, provides a great way of trying these ideas out. It’s a well planned introduction, dropping you into an open area with no immediate guidance other than objective markers. It almost immediately challenged my expectations as a beautiful, mist-shrouded tree line rolled out in front of me. After explosive space beach landings and expensive set pieces, it’s a brave move on Guerrilla’s apart to shoo you outside and ask you to play, but not tell you how.
The lack of immediate things to kill forced me to stop and take stock of the situation, using the Tactical Echo to feel my way around, locating enemies and options before deciding an approach. As I said, the choices are modest. There are adrenaline packs that serve either as a health boost or bullet time, forcing you to choose carefully. The remaining combat combinations usually involve using the OWL to attack or stun enemies directly, shield you or you can go it alone with a stealthy option.
And stealth is actually an option here, rather than a set piece. It’s rarely easy and nearly always ends in chaos and screaming eventually, but it’s a good example of how being able to exert control over things makes you feel more involved – causing a mess is oddly more enjoyable than being presented with one. It’s the freedom to make plans, choose angles and mix things on the fly that empower here. I referenced Bioshock because there is an element of its weapons/plasmid combo gameplay here, albeit with less options.
It’s when you have the chance to really hunt, plan or improvise in the heat of the moment that Shadow Fall shows its brightest colours. Compared to the likes of Call Of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4, this stands out arguably as more next-gen simply because it tries to do something different. It’s not a huge step away from a traditional ‘triple-A mainstream shooter’, but it’s progressed beyond the ‘last one with better textures’ strategy of its rivals. Because you decide the speed and style of play this can be a much more engaging experience as you script the action yourself with your choice of tactics and tools.
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