Posted on November 20, 2013, Phil Owen Killzone: Shadow Fall Review — Killing In the Name Of
It’s a new age for PlayStation, and with it Sony chose to have Guerrilla Games introduce a new age for Killzone as well. Killzone: Shadow Fall not only brings us into a new era in the conflict between Helghan and Vekta, but it serves as a complete reinvention of the series from a gameplay perspective as well. All with prettier textures than in Killzone 2’s target render trailer that wowed then disappointed everybody when they game couldn’t match it.
Thirty years have passed since Sev (you, at the time) dropped a petrusite bomb on Helghan, committing genocide against those pesky Helghast at the end of Killzone 3. Sadly, you didn’t manage to murder all of them, and the bleeding hearts among the Vektans and ISA decided they’d carve out a ghetto on their planet for the surviving Helghast to move into. By “carve out a ghetto” I really mean “give them a chunk of the city that already exists and displace a bunch of locals,” but considering the ISA had just murdered like a billion of the Helghast, that’s not the worst trade ever.
Except once the Helghast get in their ghetto, instead of just tossing the Vektans out, they start shooting some of them. Again, a billion Helghast were murdered, so this is still not the worst trade ever. But the ensuing thirty years of cold war, in which tensions rise exponentially while Vekta develops biological weapons and Helghan plans large scale attacks into Vektan territory (with only the latter deemed “terrorism”), on the other hand, is pretty rough.
Killzone: Shadow Fall
Platform: Playstation 4 (Reviewed)
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Release Date: Nov. 15, 2013
The in-universe history of Killzone is a relativistic one, and it always added some flavor around the edges of what had been military shooters that were not overtly subversive. But if you knew that history — specifically how the Helghast came to be on Helghan and develop into their own race over a few generations — then the PS3 Killzones probably struck you as weirdly uncomfortable. Yes, the Helghast are nasty, but the Vektans did this to them. They ground them into the dirt and expected them to stay there.
Now that the Helghast get to live on Earth-like Vekta, their circumstances haven’t changed. They’re still all poor as hell; there are reports of cannibalism in the Helghan locale Container City (best you not know what kind of place that is until you can see it for yourself). And they still hate the Vektans, both for what they did in the past, as well as the sanctions they’ve put on the Helghan ghetto — the implication is that what resources the Helghan do have go straight into the military and industry simply to prevent Vekta from absorbing them over time.
Vektan versus Helghast has become an eternal conflict, and in Shadow Fall it’s coming to a head because both sides are pretty much ready to wipe the other out — that’s the relativity that had been on the fringe of the series coming to the forefront.
To match the story going all-out grey, Shadow Fall essentially abandons the series’ gameplay formula for something that feels inspired by Crysis, while still managing to be its own animal. Shadow Fall is not a point-and-shoot affair, but rather one about sneaking and flanking and using your gadgets, like the hovering bot you can send in to fight your foes with you. The bot is not super great at killing, but it is wonderful at getting everyone’s attention, freeing you up to skulk. You are, after all, a Shadow Marshall.
The point is that this isn’t straight up warfighting the way the previous Killzone games were. Yeah, there will be shooting, but the environments are often more open than they used to be, and getting into a direct confrontation is usually a bad idea because you aren’t fighting alongside a squad of bros this time. It’s just Shadow 1-8 (and his bot or a secret overwatch ally I won’t spoil) against the world, and the result is a completely new sort of creature in the campaign.