Killzone: Shadow Fall gives us the impression that the power under the PS4’s hood is being harnessed to good effect

After several years of complaining and fictional what-if scenarios, Sony fanboys finally get what they want: a Killzone game which is a launch title for a Playstation console. While the argument for Killzone 2 as a game that should have ideally accompanied the PS3 at launch way back when it was more than simply valid, the argument itself is more reflective of Resistance: Fall of Man filling the shoes of both tech demo and impression piece — or rather, its inability to do either. Granted, its scale was impressive, but at no point could it even be placed in the same ballpark as some of the competition’s exclusives (Halo, for instance). Killzone was always going to be the ‘killer’ app, or more specifically, the ‘Halo killer’. Let me be the first to leap out in defence of Killzone: Shadow Fall, which despite mixed reviews, is a game which plays the role of launch title and tech demo for the PS4 almost to perfection, despite some minor hiccups along the way.

Killzone: Shadow Fall isn’t pretending to be something it’s not. It’s a corridor shooter most of the time, its plot is driven forward by the noblest of motives: vengeance, and it looks as spectacular as a supermodel while doing the most mundane things (like showing you a loading screen, for example). Sure, there are attempts made to break the corridor shooter-shaped mould with more open levels, a move that often leaves an impression, while occasionally backfiring. However, the environmental and physics based puzzles are woeful to say the least. While the gameplay design is often unimaginative, the same cannot be said of the gorgeous levels themselves. One can’t ask for better settings to shoot up Killzone’s eternal baddies, the Helghast.

Sometimes it’s enough if a game is only visually appealing, and if you’re one of those who attaches significant importance to a game’s graphics, Killzone: Shadow Fall will not let you down. The game runs at 1080p while sporting frame-rates in excess of 30fps in the single player campaign — completely acceptable given the scale and scope of much of the game’s setting, expansive environments and complexity of its physics, lighting and (unsurprisingly) dynamic shadows. The multiplayer hovers around the smooth-as-silk frame rate of 60fps. Yes, its effects are impressive, but I found the sharpness and cleanness of the visual style combined with the refined colour palette to be the most striking aspect of Killzone: Shadow Fall. This begs the question: is there too much detail?

On occasion, it is impossible to distinguish between friend and foe (in the game’s multiplayer), or simply spot an enemy hiding in the visual splendour of Vekta City’s central railway station. I expect we’re going to see more games with comparable levels of detail going forward, and it’s only a matter of time before our gaming brains wrap themselves around the idea of such insane levels of visual information. But one thing’s for certain: Shadow Fall is the first game that gives the player the impression that all that power under the PS4’s hood is being harnessed to good effect.

Facial animation tech has come a long way since Killzone 3 as well. Shadow Fall Features the likeness and voice of British actor David Harewood, who is known for his portrayal of another David on screen — David Estes from Homeland. He will be instantly familiar to anyone who is a fan of the TV show, a feat achieved by carefully treading the blurred lines between photorealism, animation and the uncanny valley.

Killzone: Shadow Fall features generic, but role-specific multiplayer gameplay with good maps based on locations in the single player campaign. The ‘Warzone’ mode proves the differentiator once again, with dynamic, objective-based gameplay which requires several roles to play and shoes to fill. The larger player limit as well as the gameplay scenarios makes the role of the support (who can revive downed allies and plant respawn beacons) more important than ever. The game features a preposterous 64 player Warzone mode as well.

While Killzone: Shadow Fall can often feel like a broken mess, giving the impression that the development team had deadlines to meet, it still manages to look incredible in the process. It is a game that showcases the PS4 as a force to be reckoned with, delivering an experience which is possible only on Sony’s console. In the end, the game’s lack of imagination in terms of gameplay is simply (pardon the pun) overshadowed by the barrage of interesting, complex visual information, and fun multiplayer.