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Killzone Shadow Fall review

Seth Barton
19 Dec 2013
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
48
inc VAT

Technically brilliant, but this solid shooter doesn't fully achieve its huge potential

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Specifications

Killzone has long been Sony's leading sci-fi shooter, yet it's never gained the same level of presence, or sales, as arch-rival Halo. That game smashed genre conceptions when it launched alongside the Xbox, rapidly turning the console (and it's successor, the Xbox 360) to the system of choice for such games, in part thanks to their controllers' superior analogue sticks.

Killzone Shadow Fall then has a huge opportunity to turn around FPS gamers preference for the Xbox brand. It too has launched alongside a new console, the PS4, and it too benefits from a new and much improved controller, the DualShock 4, but that alone may not be enough to bring the series the success that has eluded it to date.

SHOCK ME

The DualShock 4 has certainly been given a chance to shine here. Guerilla's confidence in the much-improved analogue sticks is such that it has removed aim assist from the game entirely. This is practically unheard of for a console FPS, with the likes of Call of Duty and Halo both having a certain stickiness when you pass the cursor over an enemy.

Killzone Shadow Fall

Another close miss, though we can't blame the DualShock 4

At first we pined for some assistance, and eventually we had to dial down our sensitivity a little to get the accuracy we needed. This then makes rapid turns harder and so encourages a slower, more tactical approach. Get outflanked in this game and there's little chance of recovering unscathed.

The touchpad also comes into use, though only as an additional four-way controller. By swiping across it you can get your OWL, a personal robotic combat drone, to attack or stun enemies, hack alarm systems, put up an energy shield, or set-up a zipline to allow for quick downwards moves. These open up your tactical options immensely and provide numerous ways to approach each situation. Try playing without using the OWL and you'll find it tough going indeed.

TEAR DOWN THIS WALL

Thankfully though you're one tough hombre, a Shadow Marshal carying out deniable missions for the ISA special forces. Your home planet Vekta has been split in two, with the augmented-human Helghast race settling the other half. Though the Helghast have always been portrayed as something close to space nazis, the series' moral compass has always been far more ambiguous - as in the excellent Killzone Mercenary on the PS Vita.

Killzone Shadow Fall

Amazingly, given the appearance of the Helghast, they aren't clear cut bad guys

The current Vektans only settled the planet after the the original settlers rebelled against earth and were pushed off the planet to the far-harsher Helghan - becoming the Helghast in the process. They did then invade Vekta, but it was the Vektans who then destroyed Helghan, forcing the resettlement of their enemy onto their own planet. The resulting scenario has strong parallels with modern day Israel, with no one having a clear moral upper hand.

Your more personal story starts with you as a refugee and quickly provides you with both the motivation to hate the Helghast, and a dubious father figure egging you on. The missions are varied, for an FPS at least, with the game quickly taking-in fantastic detailed-packed urban landscapes, lush forests and rocky cliffs, plus chilling zero-g in a spaceship turned tomb.

GENERATION GAME

All these environments are rendered in exquisite detail by what is undoubtedly the best-looking next-gen launch game. Rays of light pour through the fronds of gently swaying trees, diffuse through smoke and dust, and get chopped by rotating ventilation fans. It's gloriously over the top at the times, but it's still glorious.

Killzone Shadow Fall

The lighting effects will impress time-and-time again

Textures are highly-detailed and the geometry of even rockfaces is convincing complex. Plastics take on just the right sheen under strong lighting, while skin has a slight translucent depth which makes it far more believable. The environments are at times mind-blowing, with the camera spinning away from one highly-detailed location and then out over a high-rise futuristic city, all without dropping a frame. It runs at 30fps trouble-free in single-player and looks close to 60fps in multiplayer.

Killzone Shadow Fall

And the materials effects are very impressive too

The audio is equally impressive with accurately modelled sound that reflects off nearby surfaces. The PS4 outputs all this as uncompressed PCM audio, so the whole thing sounds as good as a Blu-ray movie.

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