sdoots's Killzone: Shadow Fall (PlayStation 4) review

Cool toys, no playground.

One of the reasons Far Cry 3 was so damn good was it didn't just hand you the toys and expect you to do the rest of the work for it. The island was carefully constructed to guide you towards forts, encampments, and so on, constantly giving you opportunities to play with those toys.

Killzone Shadow Fall doesn't really understand that to get the most out of a unique tool, you have to be put in a world where you can put it to use. This is the biggest problem in a campaign that shows signs of life, only to be quickly buried beneath some truly puzzling level design.

The centerpiece of the single player is made out to be the OWL, a small drone which follows you around throughout the game (with the exception of the middle section, which replaces it for their duration.).

The OWL can act as a personal zipline, retracting behind you as you ride down, or deployed as an energy projecting shield. On an offensive front, you could toss it out to either stun or gun foes. All these modes are easily swapped between by swiping in one of the cardinal directions on the touchpad.

Early on, the impression is given that you'll be able to really approach situations with some creativity thanks to the OWL. In fact, the first "real" mission encourages it. Which makes it all the more of a bummer that immediately after that, you're never going to have that kind of freeform experimentation available again.

Ziplines can only be placed on certain surfaces, and they are next to nonexistant. Level design devolves back to tight corridors and small rooms, with a few big courtyards and such for good measure. There's rarely, if any, verticality to the fights, and if there is, the zipline ability isn't going to be getting any use. It's all stun, gun, and shield, and later on the enemies will require stunning to take damage, so that kills what little experimentation there was to the combat.

Aside from that, it's Killzone. (Fans of "meaty" feeling shooter, I cannot stress enough how much this game will satisfy you.) Of all the next-gen titles I've played so far, this is the one that's left me the most impressed visually, and the audio is on par with any recent Battlefield.

The gunplay is great, as always, and the story is nowhere near as good as it could be, as always. I love the universe Guerilla has built here, and there are moments of Shadow Fall that are worth seeing if you are hungry for something to play on your new hardware, or just enjoy this series.

Multiplayer is what gives this game legs, and the dev team has already added and tweaked it in response to community feedback, if that's any indication of where things are going with it. Aside from an abysmal interface outside of the game itself, the multiplayer is the best its been since Killzone 2. There are maps that fit all the sizes I look for, aside from an obligatory massive map, but with free DLC on the way in addition to the paid content, that shouldn't be an issue for long.

I should note that all the map packs are planned to be free.

Gametypes are all standard fare, for the uninitiated however, Killzone is generally played in a mode known as Warzone, which is more like some kind of disturbed Warioware meets FPS gametype. There's a pool of objectives that would be a standalone gametype in most games, and the game pulls from the pool in a random order. So once you've won (or lost) that team deathmatch, you might have to go plant some bombs, or capture some positions.

The way they've structured the multiplayer means that right now, the players are all either in a playlist for 24 Player Warzone, Classic Warzone, or TDM. They all are still Warzone, just with the settings tweaked to fit their needs. The unfortunate thing is that neither of the straight Warzone modes feature all of the possible objectives. In fact, 24 Player Warzone is limited to just three. I'd imagine this will change, but it really kills any desire for extended play sessions as is.

Players can create their own playlists, and those get the population numbers you'd expect. That is, next to none. Still, sometimes the more interesting ideas get a surge of activity, and you'll be able to play a pistols only capture and hold game.

For all the little things like that which Guerilla does so well, having such outdated design blemish what could've been a truly triple A title is a real shame. If I ever have to haul space tubes from point to point again for an entire level, something has gone horribly wrong.

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