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The Cold War Endures in Killzone: Shadow Fall

New technology meets tense storytelling.

by

Picture a Killzone that almost entirely breaks from the earlier entries in the series in its storytelling. Shadow Fall, which is set 30 years after the events of Killzone 3, adopts a Cold War tone. The Intergalactic Strategic Alliance has allowed Helghast refugees to resettle, and the Vektan and Helghast factions live on opposite sides of an enormous security wall with tensions running high between the two sides. In one cutscene, refugees are slowly walked through a security line; those who fail security screenings are pulled aside by armed guards and detained while their friends and spouses scream that a mistake has been made. The scene carries an emotional tension similar to the "fugee-culling" scene from Children of Men as well as the opening City 17 scenes from Half-Life 2. There's an idea of a threat of terrorism as opposed to the ongoing "hot" war of the previous Killzone games that adds something new, and Guerrilla Games has strongly hinted that you will be able to directly play a Helghan storyline (as opposed to disguising yourself as a Helghan soldier for purposes of infiltration in one specific level Killzone 3), allowing you to see the ongoing conflict between the ISA and the Helghans from a different perspective.

This type of storytelling is rare in a video game, but masterful if pulled off correctly. The prisoner line scene works on nothing less than a gut, instinctive level, the members of the line muttering their distrust of the security forces in barely audible tones, a sense of fear marking the scene. These are the moments, as conveyed perfectly here as well as in Half-Life 2 and Spec Ops: The Line where the presence of a police state has gone too far, you can sympathize with anyone living under these conditions, especially in the face of seeing family members segregated and pulled away at the militarized checkpoint you might have to pass through on a daily bais. This is where you'd be willing to fight for the side that's long been considered the bad guys, even if only to reach a stalemate, a sense of equality and a home to call your own.

It's this variation in perspective that could make for the most interesting storytelling of the game. After several entries, continuous conflict between the ISA and the Helghans, invasion, and nuclear fallout, the war between the two sides has dragged on for too long; the two cultures have pounded on each other for years and now share two sides of the same city, albeit in a state of inequality, the security wall marking a clear distinction between what seems to be a Vektan paradise and a Helghast slum. Now, in the midst of resettlement, there come the same questions that come with any long term occupation--a la the 70's/80's Belfast or Israel/Palestine scenario--and the actions both sides might take given these circumstances.

The new PlayStation 4 hardware is also in place to deliver an incredible new story both in terms of appearance and performance. After 90 minutes of gameplay, I was impressed by how the new game flexes its muscles with the PlayStation 4's powerful hardware. The textures, lighting, and shadows were far more impressive than anything current consoles are capable of, new portions of the level loaded without delay and in a sequence where my character was walking through a prisoner line, I could count the threads of the jacket worn by the character in front of me. Impressive, too, was how well the game uses the new PlayStation 4 controller, which feels a little lighter in your hand than the current PlayStation 3 DualShock controller while still feeling solid. The PlayStation 4 controller's built in touch pad allows you to quickly assign offensive, defensive or hacking-oriented tasks to your OWL.

Guerrilla Games has strongly hinted that you will be able to play missions as the Helghans.

What Guerrilla Games is doing with Killzone: Shadow Fall is adding both variety and a larger scale. The game, which the developers claim features 1,500 in-game challenges as well as unlockable weapons and items, will also offer new roles and classes to vary the gameplay: a support class for medic-types, a scout class for those that prefer to snipe from a distance, and an assault class for when you wish to wade into the fray. In addition to new central characters and a new shadow marshal role (essentially a black-ops assassin), a deployable flying OWL drone also helps differentiate Shadow Fall from the franchise's previous entries. The OWL creates shields, brings your character back to life provided an adrenaline injection is available to it, acts as a decoy, creates zip lines for travel, and hacks consoles found throughout the game.

Killzone has always prided itself on its weapons, and with 22 weapons available to play with at launch, there's generally something for everyone to play with. The M82 assault rifle, stA-52 assault rifle, and stA-18 pistol return from the previous games, and Shadow Fall's standard rifle can switch between a conventional machine gun and what feels like a hybrid of a sniper rifle and a rail gun.

Guerrilla Games has an arresting new approach to missions in Shadow Fall. Where the previous games had you implanted in the middle of a "hot war," going in loud and with little focus on stealth or subtlety, Shadow Fall lets you choose your approach before initiating a mission; the game suggests routes to enter silently or routes to go loud and charge in with guns blazing. If you prefer to keep a low profile, you can sneak through ventilation systems and get behind opponents without drawing attention. Finally, a Tactical Echo mode will allow you to partially see infrared signatures through walls and inform you as to what's around the next corner before you charge in. It's been done before, but it could add a new element to the franchise.

Shadow Fall's multiplayer game mode isn't the most original, but there's room for it to grow. The game will ship with 10 multiplayer maps and will offer additional free content over the coming months. Multiplayer is centered around the creation of warzones, which allow you to choose the game's rules, equipment and objectives, customizing the match as you see fit. Beyond the standard team deathmatch style demoed on-site, the series' signature Warzone game type returns, in which objectives change every few minutes, keeping you on your toes. Shadow Fall's multiplayer mode throws in the assorted unlockable weapons, challenges, and goodies, but also strips down your character before beginning the round. Remember the exoskeleton and jetpacks you loved to use in the previous games, and the single player mode's OWL? They're gone in this mode, leaving you to fight with fewer gadgets and more gut, relying on your skill for survival. In addition to rewarding players for long kill streaks and impressive kill methods, Shadow Fall's 1,500 challenges also reward cooperative multiplayer gameplay, so there's an incentive to use your character's abilities to heal a wounded teammate or attempt a stealthier set of kills.

There were still a few bugs left to iron out. The artificial intelligence on the NPCs in single player mode was about where it needed to be, but there were still occasions when characters would run into each other or get in the way of the player's movement. This was accompanied by a multiplayer bug in which your character would die, then respawn between two of your opponents who are more than happy to shoot you. Finally, the OWL, while a great tool for the single player campaign, seems to be limited in its offensive capacity. It's empowering to deploy the OWL to help attack your enemies, there's the feeling that not that many of its rounds are hitting or doing that much damage.

Killzone: Shadow Fall looks ready to offer interesting new elements to the Killzone franchise if executed well. Strong voice acting, incredibly detailed graphics, and a larger map to explore help create a great new world, the OWL drone could make single player gameplay that much more fun, and the chance to play as the Helghans could add an entirely new perspective to the game. This won't be an entirely radical change to the franchise, but it could be what's needed to convey a new kind of story and relaunch the Killzone franchise.

Discussion

53 comments
kishen95
kishen95

Hell yes I am so happy that this game is changing the usual Killzone formula, KZ3 honestly was not that great, a good time but not as great as it was said to be.

Tsuchikage
Tsuchikage

This looks pretty good.  It's certainly not at the top of my must-play list, but as one of the few next-gen exclusive launch titles I'm interested in, I'll pick it up.

cboye18
cboye18

Pff I haven't experienced a great storytelling in a video game for quite some time.

Total_mischief
Total_mischief

I thought that Killzone 3 lacked a certain level of polish, but I say Shadow Fall looks excellent. Looking forward to it's release.

RoboThreat
RoboThreat

Look awesome. Might pick up a PS4 before March now.

Born_Lucky
Born_Lucky

This is the first shooter in years, that looks interesting.

Goron24
Goron24

I hope the controls are tighter than 2 & 3, while i loved those games the controls felt really loose and imprecise.

ristactionjakso
ristactionjakso

Dreams have been realized!!! I may be able to play as helghast? That would be phuckin awesome. 

Like the first playthough you play as the ISA, then once you complete the game you playthrough from the Helghast point of view. It would be the best game ever.

Ensabuhnur
Ensabuhnur

too sweet first game on day one to get played

jamesbigmac
jamesbigmac

I really hope they go with a story that presents an almost grey tone so that you aren't even sure if you are doing the right thing. Perhaps some places that you can choose to murder everyone or just pass by without causing an incident. I hope they really play on the fact that the refugees might be as right as the ISA.

Nightflash28
Nightflash28

This is one weird article...
"The PlayStation 4 controller's built in touch screen allows you.." - It's a touch pad, not a screen. 
"
For those wishing to keep a low profile, an in-game ventilation system gives you the opportunity to.." - a WHAT? An in-game ventilation system?! ... WHAT?!

DarkSaber2k
DarkSaber2k

Must have cost Sony a pretty penny for this advert.

se007
se007

Does someone else got the "commercial pamphlet" feeling while reading this article?

lamprey263
lamprey263

I think an "apartheid" analogy makes more sense than a "Cold War" one.

Ducez_III
Ducez_III

"Guerrilla Games has strongly hinted that you will be able to play missions as the Helghans."

I hope so.

smokeless_0225
smokeless_0225

hmmmm...I wasn't putting too much thought to this game since I really wasn't impressed with the last one. However I may find myself picking up this title on launch day.

Does anyone know if you need to know the storyline from the previous games to understand the storyline from this one? Let's just say that I've been "out of the loop" on Killzone games since I finished the first one years ago, lol.

Dracaroni
Dracaroni

Can't wait for this game omg :D.

itsHumanity
itsHumanity

About 8 paragraphs down missing on "S" at the beginning of the paragraph.

Other than that - I can't believe I'm saying this but I'm actually getting kinda excited to play a Killzone game.

Imperiusmax
Imperiusmax

I have played every game in this franchise and am yet to be disappointed and it looks like this game will be another awesome addition.

iampenguin
iampenguin

The game had me at  1,500 challenges

Brakkyn
Brakkyn

I always wanted to play the Killzone series, but as a PC gamer it is forever denied to me.  But I look forward to watching a YouTube playthrough.  I hope the game doesn't disappoint.

R083R70
R083R70

@cboye18 Though it sometimes feels like some games take the route of current movies and replace good storytelling with better effects thanks to new technology, but many games have instead used their new advantages to tell an even more compelling tale.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@cboye18 You haven't been playing many games then!

Flonne_N_Etna
Flonne_N_Etna

@Born_Lucky 

Bioshock 1,2, Infinite?
Mass Effect 1,2,3?
Halo series? Gears of War series? Fallout 3 and NV? None of them was interesting to you?

Jay2528
Jay2528

@Goron24 I thought the complaints most people had with the controls in Killzone 2 & 3 were that they felt too "heavy" (especially in part 2) and not that they were too loose and imprecise? I think I remember the complaints led to some changes via patches for Killzone 2, but I could be wrong.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@DarkSaber2k :/

You know what previews are, right? They let us share information and impressions of a game in progress. If you are reading previews and hoping for us not to share what we think... wait, why are you reading previews? If you read things about bugs and ineffective game mechanics and think that Sony asked us to write that, well, I don't know what to say. 

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@se007 :/

You know what previews are, right? They let us share information and impressions of a game in progress. If you are reading previews and hoping for us not to share what we think... wait, why are you reading previews? If you read things about bugs and ineffective game mechanics and think that Sony asked us to write that, well, I don't know what to say. 

iampenguin
iampenguin

@Brakkyn yeah go watch a youtube playthrough and hold a control to pretent playing it too

MjnE
MjnE

@Brakkyn why would you limit yourself to PC only? there are dozens of games exclusive to consoles you miss out on, and even worse the PS exclusives that you miss out on.

PS(4) + PC is the golden combination.

R083R70
R083R70

@Flonne_N_Etna @Born_Lucky Don't forget Borderlands, Max Payne, Unreal Tournament, Prey, Serious Sam, The Darkness, Bulletstorm, Resistance, Crysis, Far Cry, Metro, and of course the previous Killzones.


Obviously more could be listed depending on your definition of shooter and quality, but you get the point.

Jay2528
Jay2528

@Flonne_N_Etna Technically the Mass Effect and Fallout games are not shooters but RPG games (although they do involve shooting).

Nightflash28
Nightflash28

@The-Neon-Seal @Nightflash28 Yeah, but that really shouldn't happen on a gaming journalism site. Regular newspaper, ok, I'd excuse such slip-ups. But not here, GS staff should know better. 

se007
se007

@Kevin-V @se007Wow, take it easy Kevin! I'm only saying that this preview contains too much praise, and not a single word of critique that's all, like it was written by some fanboy. No need to be aggressive. You for example was much more sceptical at ryse preview, and I like such attitude more. 

Hurvl
Hurvl

@MjnE @Brakkyn The PC has almost every game I want to play, so it's the silver combination for me. There aren't enough games on consoles that I would really like to play and I don't even have time to play all the PC games that I'd like to play.

wyshouldi02
wyshouldi02

@MjnE @Brakkyn PS4 + PC + XB1 is the golden combination my friend. This coming from a PS4 fan, if I could have it all I would.

The-Neon-Seal
The-Neon-Seal

@wyshouldi02 @MjnE @Brakkyn I dunno. Microsoft doesn't really have enough good exclusives for me to buy one of their consoles now. I bought 360 first this gen (not counting the Wii) because of Fable and Halo, but they killed those series!

The-Neon-Seal
The-Neon-Seal

@M3o5nster @wyshouldi02 @MjnE @Brakkyn Wii U really has to be the most forgetable console ever... alongside the Ouya. It rarely comes to mind when I think of current consoles. Usually, somebody will bring it up (as you did) and I'll be 'oh yeah! forgot all about that one!'