Very few games have had a history as colorful as Killzone. Originally touted as a Halo killer for the PlayStation 2, the game had no chance to live up to the hefty standards given to it. It was an average shooter, though that's not what was expected of it, and was therefore considered a flop. Killzone was also the game Sony paraded for the PS3 with an impossible looking trailer that was supposedly showed off the graphical prowess of the system. The Halo killer title was still fresh in people's minds, and it wasn't uncommon for people to make fun of the series and it's ridiculous trailer. Of course it didn't live up to the expectations of the trailer, but it delivered a multiplayer experience second to none on the PS3. It became a game that, alongside the ever-present Call of Duty franchise, was a must play, if only for the online action.
Killzone 3 came and went without much of a sound it seemed, and here comes Killzone: Shadow Fall. Halo hardly means what it used to after the 9 - 10 years it's been since the original game, leaving the series as a relic of sorts. At least to me, the Killzone series became a testament to outliving its initial purpose, and if I remember back to when the initial game first received it's scores, I would never have expected Killzone to have lasted this long. Yet here we are, another generation passed and Killzone: Shadow Fall enters as the all-important shooter for the PS4.
Instead of fighting on Helghan we return to Vekta because of the Helghast's planet being destroyed by the ISA. Vekta City was split, half of it given to the Helghast and separated by a gigantic wall. It's possibly the most ridiculous plot in a Killzone game yet, and I couldn't find myself caring about it at all. You get the opportunity to hear both sides and their reasons why the Helghast and ISA are fighting against each other in the first place, and why it's continuing: each race sees themselves as a victim to the other. Both factions use this train of thought to justify their urge to out-evil each other.
The entire story is full of so many Saturday morning cartoon level villains I can't help but cringe. Whether it be by the Helghast terrorist who gestures and screams like three Nicholas Cages blended into one man, doing various evil acts like killing massive amounts of civilians, or the ISA scientists using Helghast prisoners as test subjects for biological weapons. Both sides are made up of the worst people, but there's almost no good qualities meshed into either of them. It's as if the Empire from Star Wars went up against the Empire from Star Wars, they all want biological weapons to wipe out the other in order to continue their dreams of oppressing everyone.
The entire story kept me shaking my head in disbelief, and then I realized the plot of Killzone: Mercenary involved both sides attempting to gain a biological weapon to wipe out the other. Why are the Helghast and ISA so hung up on biological weapons? It must be mandatory for the leader of each faction to take a course in the Bond Villain School of World Domination.
The game is gorgeous, there's no other way to describe it. It's possibly the prettiest game I've ever seen running. Everything pops out, and every model and texture looks as if a similar amount of care was given to it. From the canned scenes of flying over the city, or watching the explosions go off in a fight. It's a visually stunning experience that can stand up to even the high standards of PC gaming. The weapons themselves even look and sound phenomenal, whether it's a pistol or a minigun, each gun sounds beefy and are satisfying to use. There's a sense that each weapon has its purpose, something that a great deal of FPS games still struggle with. Nothing feels worthless and underpowered, and every weapon is fun to use regardless of who it's meant for.
Just like every Killzone game, there's an emphasis placed upon grenades and learning to time and throw them, and this is especially true in the multiplayer. Cooking a grenade is very often the best way to deal with any threat. Simply hold your grenade until it detonates right when it plops down beside an enemy, which tends to be harder said then done. A certain finesse is required when accounting for the trajectory of the grenades and how long to hold it in your hand before throwing, and you gain a sense of accomplishment when you perfect using grenades well. Though when joining into a game as a new player, I can see this becoming frustrating to deal with. Fast, quick deaths are great for inspiring improvement in a game, though for those who are looking to jump in and play a casual FPS competently will be disappointed.
The multiplayer as a whole is finely tuned and well executed. There are three classes: Assault for the assault rifle toting jack of all trades, Support for close quartered, defensively minded fighting, and Scout for long range sniping and cloaking shenanigans. Each class comes with specific abilities such as portable cover for the Assault, revives for the Support and radars for the Scout. Each class presents a different playstyle, and the secondary abilities do a fantastic job of conveying the feeling that each class is separate and having their own strengths and weaknesses, but are just fun to see in action. Throwing a support drone right above a group of enemies attempting to take a capture point and hearing a meaty minigun mow them all down is some of the most fun I've had in a multiplayer shooter all year.
Interesting to see is that I didn't see much auto-aim assistance for the controller, if at all. I can see this being a turn-off for some but personally I enjoyed it, and helped lend to the frantic, well paced combat. It's something that has kept me from truly enjoying a great deal of console shooters, especially games like Grand Theft Auto or the other PS4 shooter Blacklight: Retribution. Being able to kill someone with a gamepad with little to no auto aim feels like I earned the kill, that I accomplished something, and not feel like I am having my hand held like a game throwing the iron sights across half of the screen over an enemy's head.
The maps themselves all feel well balanced, with a mix of large, open courtyards and close quarters trench fighting. Every map seems to give the player an option of where to go, whether it be inside or outside. In The Wall, the map offers the player a wide-open top portion with trenches sewn throughout the underground of the level, or on The Park with a garden and yard between the two main spawn points, with a large, closed off building off to the other side of the yard, throwing in a balcony in which to either snipe or transition to an objective. It gives the sense that little details in each map were thought of and tuned in, like vent shafts or crevices next to objective points, that caters to having multiple options for dealing with a mission, and ultimately keeps things fun to play.
This is the sort of shooter that the Playstation 4 needs, with games like Battlefield 4 on the console having problems and Ghosts being the weakest Call of Duty in recent memory. An amazing multiplayer shooter that hooks the player with finely tuned fighting and superbly balanced maps and classes, but it comes at the cost of having a dreadful single player campaign tacked onto it. Keep Killzone: Shadow Fall in mind if you're looking for a multiplayer shooter that shows off what the system can actually do. If you're one of those that are lacking the subscription to Playstation Plus, needed to access the multiplayer, then you will likely leave the game disappointed at a poor single player experience and you can do much, much better in the launch lineup than this.