Killzone: Shadow Fall review (PS4)

iamnsuperman | 144d ago | User review
Reviewing: Killzone: Shadow Fall
Once More Into The Fray
It has been just over 2 years since we last delved into the Killzone universe (on a console) and boy have things changed. Killzone 3, literally, ended with a big bang when the Helghan home world was destroyed by Sev and co. I said back then the ending felt a bit rushed and I was unsure how they could really make a successful sequel without rebooting the series. Their answer was Killzone: Shadow Fall and honestly I would have preferred a full reboot than this half-assed mess. The problem is, Killzone: Shadow Fall is highly unrealistic.

You may say that criticising Killzone: Shadow Fall for being unrealistic is a bit harsh considering it is a sci-fi shooter, with inter planetary travel and a race of human offspring who have a hard on for the Nazi wardrobe, but the set up still needs to make sense. After the events of Killzone 3, the ISA and Helghast organise a deal where the ISA would give part of their world (Vekta) to the Helghast survivors. After several years a wall is built to divide the two nations who live on the brink of war (Cold War parallel here). This causes a major gameplay problem that the developers tried, admirably, to solve. With this setting you can’t have an all-out run and gun type of game because it doesn’t reflect the setting. The set up feels like a list of random “cool” suggestions with little thinking of how this would impact gameplay.

Stories have evolved in recent years; to the point where the story is as much a part of the gameplay as the controls/level design. So when I was mowing down waves of Helghast in Shadow Fall, I often thought that my actions should start a war of some kind. I was clearly ISA (evident by what the Helghast say) and I wasn’t unequipped (so it would be quite hard to deny ISA backing). What I was doing didn’t relate to the setting I was in. At one point some Helghast invade the ISA part of Vekta. The game justifies this action by saying they are terrorists and not the Helghan government but this is quite hard to accept this when they look exactly the same. There is no identifying marker saying these were the Black Hand (the Helghan terrorist group). This all just makes the game extremely hard to follow. I often found myself clueless on where I was and why I was there. The voice acting didn’t exactly help sell the story. Overall the voice acting was pretty weak with cut scenes falling flat and the dialogue feeling it was best suited for a Syfy channel film.

What is odd is, despite the plot being stupid and the voice acting being less than stellar, I really enjoyed myself when I played this game. The level design is pretty damn good. It isn’t as open ended as I would like but you do feel like the environment you explore belongs to a much larger ecosystem. It is something that is lacking from most first person shooters. It feels like the world doesn’t end past the invisible wall which is the problem with a lot of games. This is helped by the phenomenal draw distance. Not everything is fine and dandy with the level design as I did come across an instance of just pure laziness. In one level mid-way through the game I managed to enter a room that was an enemy respawn point. I shouldn’t be able to get to these points in a next generation game. This was something that was barely acceptable at the start of the 7th generation.

Killzone: Shadow Fall does get the graphics and the performance right. This is one good looking/preforming game. The developers have finally gotten rid of the brown smudge effect, which has plagued first person shooters since Call of Duty 4 was released, by adding colour (even the Helghast side of the fence has colour). The character models and environments are extremely detailed (there are some, graphical, stand out moments that will make your jaw drop) and there is little to no performance drop.

Killzone: Shadow Fall offers a new gameplay mechanic which is actually quite useful. You may think the game is playing itself but the automated robot is very useful and quite comforting to have with you on those lonely solo missions. I found two of its abilities useless except for the zip line (which is a necessity at some point during the game) and the attack mode. The attack mode is really useful and creates opportunities for you to out flank entrenched enemies. Speaking of the enemies, the AI isn’t spectacular but nor is it crap. They duck behind cover and sometimes slowly move towards you (depending of the level) but they don’t think as a unit which is a big shame. They attack as individuals which is something I was hoping that would disappear in a new generation.

Being set in a different era to Killzone 3, the weapons in Killzone: Shadow Fall have (not just changed but) evolved which keeps this game feeling fresh (a big bonus since the weapons haven’t really changed since Killzone 2). The weapons also feel varied with the same base weapon appearing but with differing attachment each time. It is a nice touch. The weapons pack a punch as well. They sound and feel extremely lethal

The multiplayer has also evolved. Like the single player mode (and past Killzone games) your character has weight to him (something I am pleased to see return) but at the same time the multiplayer feels like a totally different beast. It is everything Killzone 2 was but better. The maps are varied in size and intensity and the performance is solid. The big change is the custom mode option which means you can go all retro and have a pistol only map. It is an underrated feature that I do miss in competitive online multiplayer. Also the XP system has gone and a new challenge system takes its place which is less about getting to a certain level to unlock stuff but a more personal touch to the online experience (unlocking things by class). There are three basic types of classes to choice from (Scout, Support and Assault) which may seem limited but each class has a significant role to the warzone. I am actually having a lot of fun with the multiplayer (something I haven’t said in a long time when it comes to a FPS)

Overall this game falls short because of its story/storytelling and honestly I am not surprised. The problem is Killzone: Shadow Fall is being affect by the abysmal ending that was Killzone 3. Whipping out the Helghast home world was a monumentally bad idea. It flung this game into a situation that the developers clearly tried to fix (sadly they failed). This is a big shame as this is a visually stunning game that preforms very well both online and offline. It is still an extremely fun game to play but I must give this game a 7 out of 10 as the story/storytelling is awful and forgettable.
Ups
Multiplayer
Graphics
Performance
Downs
Story/Storytelling
Score
9.0
Graphics Stunning game. Character models and environments are top notch which is aided by a good draw distance. Finally colour has made it to Killzone
7.0
Sound Despite the guns sounding powerful I had to take some points away from the less than stellar voice acting and the set pieces sometimes feel a big quiet and awkward)
6.0
Gameplay Killzone has gone back to its roots which is very much welcome but what brings down Killzone is the story/storytelling. The setting doesn't fit with the gameplay
9.0
Fun factor Extremely fun to play. The level design is extremely well done and made me enjoy the single player despite the story being a mess
9.0
Online It is nice to see some change to the formula. Getting rid the the XP system and taking all the good things out of Killzone 2 has made this online portion a solid and worthwhile experience
7.0
Overall (out of 10 / not an average)
Aery  +   144d ago
I think this is a good review, but I really disagree with the final score and the gameplay score.
I mean, the gameplay of KZSF is pretty nice and there are some cool ideas.
The story is weak in your eyes? I don't think it relates to the gameplay.
Also, you review suffers from the same problems of a lot of other reviews out there. Killzone is not (only) about the campaign, the MP component play a strong and important role in the franchise and in ShadowFall the MP is really, really good. So, even if you think the campaign sucks, the multiplayer is so good you can't really score this game under the 8 (well, let me say I hate the "score" concept, but it's a very fast way to express an opinion!).

Also, you score the Online and fun factor with a nine, so the overall scores doesn't reflect at all the previous scores.
It's like: Hey Jeff, this game is very fun, with an awesome online, but ... meh.

You mention too many times that the story is a mess, but this game is not Bioshock, HalfLife, etc. so to give a "decent" score to a fun and enjoyable game because of the story, it's not so "fair" (for this kind of game).

Killzone, it's about spectacular action sequences, with challenging moments, an awesome MP with great maps.

So, I don't know why but it looks like a lot of gamers give too much importance to the story, for games that are not story-centered.

In the end, to score an FPS "low" because of the story/storytelling sounds pretty "strange" to me, but I must admit your review is pretty nice, better than a lot you can read "out there", so I hope you don't take my message as a "personal attack" :)
iamnsuperman  +   144d ago
That is fair. I level mark (something I on recently decided to do). A game needs to hit a certain criteria across the board to get a certain mark. I decided to do it that way to remove as much personal basis towards the score

Also I put story in game play as too me the two are too intertwined to count them as separate things. Story is a big deal now as a lot of developers are really pushing the medium in thatway. Similar thing happened to the movie industry not so long ago. Sure we like to be entertained (and the premise of a game is to be fun) but it is hard to ignore an area that is lacking when other developers are doing it justice.
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Aery  +   144d ago
I see, and of course it's your opinion and I will never try to change your mind, I just felt like expressing the idea that certain games don't really need to be very good in the story-telling department and Killzone falls in that category. I know there are a lot of "hard" choices to make when you create such a complex product like a videogame and trust me, to write a very compelling and good story it's not so easy as it may look since you need to "support" the story with a proper game play, level design etc. Products like Killzone cannot afford to have an important and well written story (maybe better dialogues where it's needed) because it's time consuming and you'd need to cut elsewhere. Bioshock Infinite for example didn't have a multiplayer and games like CoD or Battlefield should rather skip the campaign next time, so we can have a less broken MP (the real reason these games exist).

What I try to explain is you are right about the idea the game industry needs to start telling better stories, but I think you hit a bit hard on a game like Shadowfall (at least in the score!) since this game delivers the most important thing : it's fun, or at least the multiplayer it's really fun and enjoyable.

Ps I always read and enjoy your review (you are really active) and most of the time I agree with your analysis and score, that's why I spent some time to post a message on this review, because I hope to have a nice exchange of opinions! (I always try to keep away from lame/flame bait review).
NewMonday  +   143d ago
I think an arbitrary all aroun number sends the wrong message, its better to at least have sub-scores for different categories like graphics/gameplay/story/music.

the reason for the game scoring high with some low with others is because they have different priorities, those who were let down by the story/writing were disappointed those who don't pay attention to it rate it high.

the same thing happened with GOW:A, the prequel story was underwhelming and it dragged the game down.

Waking Dead won many GOTY awards for it's story telling, just think how great KZ:SF would be if it had the same level of writing or even close.

who would care for MGS if it had a bad story?

Sony need to go hands on with this they have a big movie production studio and they should get some people from the division to fill the gaps.

GG used a hollywood script writer for KZ3 but that is the wrong way to do it, the story guy needs to be embedded and with a high level of authority, that's how ND do it, it's interesting that I cant find creative director on GG game credits.

what's inexcusable is that writing is cheapest cost in development, a AAA game today needs hundreds of coders/artest but writing just needs a handful, just take a look at the credits of some games.
Derekvinyard13  +   143d ago
Good review, without spoiling anything for anyone here, I agree with your story complaint. The last good killzone story was 2. And that was good not great.
coolbeans  +   142d ago
I thought KZ2's story was rather "meh" overall so that doesn't get me too excited for 3 and Shadow Fall.
nanotech_Ninja  +   143d ago
I think you may have been a little to harsh because of the story.. The game is a launch title, and shows off the early capabilities, beautifully. (Yes the story was horrible, but I knew I was not buying it for the story, I wanted to see the tech. which it delivered on, that's just me.)

I own, and play each.

BF4 9 -Graphics, gameplay.

Killzone 8.5 -Graphics, and gameplay.

Ghosts 7.75 -party system, and gameplay

Killzone had the most rewarding style, of single player.

Ghosts had the most Cinematic & Arcady feel to single player.

Battlefield, haven't played past the 2nd chapter yet, so I can't say.
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lex-1020  +   127d ago
Let me save you the trouble. BF4 has an atrocious single player, but it gives you some special weapons like the p90 you can only get by beating the campaign
ape007  +   143d ago
good review but how can fun factor be a 9 while gameplay a 6

flawed gameplay make fun factor worse
pivotplease  +   141d ago
I think he inserted the story into the gameplay criterion because it didn't have its own section. As for his actual take on the gameplay, it seems like the 9.0 for the fun factor is the score to go by. Just my take.
theChickGamer  +   143d ago
I see your point there but I also agree that a game such as Killzone isn't primarily created or bought for the story.
I mean, when I want a good story with awesome characters I play Uncharted (I also read the books and they have the same tune and feeling).
What KZ needs to do, for me, is blowing me off and it does.
Personally I think such a game should be rated separately for the online and SP campaign. It really depends on he person though on what's important for you.

Me, I'm going to play a hundred hours online (prolly) so it certainly weights much more than the 15hours (rough number) of the campaign.

I cannot agree with the 6 on gameplay though and your other scores don't agree with it as well.
I do think an overall 7 is too low for the good things you point out.
Let's be fair and 8 would fit better, something like KZ with a very good story would be a 9-9.5, just as Uncharted, don't you think?

p.s. I don't think KZ story to have been so bad so far (not having played this last chapter yet), there isn't many shooters around that have actually built a saga spanning so many games and I think that's something pretty cool of KZ.
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plmkoh  +   142d ago
"The game justifies this action by saying they are terrorists and not the Helghan government but this is quite hard to accept this when they look exactly the same. "

Of course you thought the plot was stupid, the game couldn't even be more blatant that the black hand leader and the Helghast were one and the same with those long winded cut-scenes of them bickering when they should launch strikes on Vekta city.

If you didn't pick up on those scenes repeated over and over again, then the black hand leader reappearing as a boss battle on planet Helghan would've surely been a wake up slap on the face, I don't know what else they could do if it wasn't, I hope you enjoy rating stories for every game there after.

...no the story wasn't stupid, it was just simplistic and not fleshed out enough. Stupid is CoD: Ghost where South America somehow becomes a super power in 10 years and takes over half of the US but yet for some reason the war becomes a stalemate. Or perhaps the player's intelligence should be question?
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pivotplease  +   141d ago
I feel like Shadow Fall is getting flack across the boards for having a poor story, but to be honest, I've played them all and the none of the stories surpass what I'd call a 7.0. With this in mind , I wonder how games with equally meh (or even worse) stories such as BF, Gears, CoD, and even KZ2 can pull off 9's and 10's. What is Shadow Fall's real flaw? Because story doesn't seem like a good enough reason to dock the full game so many points. The PS3 killzones thrived on their visceral gameplay, polished graphics, and addictive multiplayer.
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NeloAnjelo  +   133d ago
I agree completely. COD and BF all have worse campaigns. KZ:SF has great multiplayer. Very diff and unique. Yet the game gets docked a lot of points for it's campaign.
coolbeans  +   131d ago
I'd contend that the first Killzone actually delivered in the story/writing regard. It actually bothered peppering in some good back-and-forth between the different playable characters, the pacing of the narrative bits between Vekta and the space station gave a legitimate sense of urgency throughout, and the writing held up rather well.

I'd recommend you look a bit more closely at reviews if you think the result of a low 70's critical average is the result of just a poor story. It's spread out across the campaign as a whole: mediocre gameplay design/mechanics and a poor story; giving the impression it's probably worse than COD, KZ2, and Gears. And if it were a review that was very picky, you'd see annoyances regarding the lack of in-game voice chat, squads, and clan support upon the time they were given a copy and began to play/review it (not sure if that's the case now).
pivotplease  +   124d ago
Yeah KZ1 had some strength in the story department. It still wasn't very good and the horrible gameplay and graphics didn't help it either lol. By the time I get this game a lot of those MP kinks will hopefully be worked out. I really hope I enjoy it. KZ2 was my favourite FPS of the generation followed CoD4 and Halo 3.

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Killzone: Shadow Fall

Average Score 7.5 Reviews(198)
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