How it feels to explore the first next-gen shooter in ‘Killzone: Shadow Fall’

Killzone Shadow Fall

Killzone: Shadow Fall has the distinction of being the first first-person shooter coming to PlayStation 4. Sure, Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 are also headed to the upcoming Sony console, but those traitorous multi-platform titles don’t really count. Shadow Fall is a platform-exclusive from one of Sony’s premiere internal development studios, Guerrilla Games. If anything’s going to showcase what the PS4 hardware offers to serious shooter fans at launch, it’s this game. 

Our recent hands-on demo couldn’t possibly give a full sense of how the full Shadow Fall experience delivers, but we can tell you this much: it’s definitely a first-person shooter. Albeit a very pretty one.

Story/Concept

Some time later. Killzone: Shadow Fall picks up roughly three decades after the events of Killzone 3. The long-running war between the Interstellar Strategic Alliance (ISA) and the Helghast that played out in the previous games is largely over, with Helghast refugees having been relocated to the lush jungle world of Vekta, populated by the native Vektans. The two communities share the planet, but are separated by towering walls. Resentment runs high, however, and tensions on both sides have created a cold war that threatens to turn into open conflict. This is the state of things as players step into the combat boots of Shadow Marshal Lucas Kellen, a special forces covert operative for the ISA

Search and rescue. Our playable demo drops Kellen into a high-altitude jungle setting, with towering palm fronds and undulating green grasses running right up to the edge of cliffside ledges overlooking sheer drops. The task at hand involves rescuing a missing squad of friendlies, though getting to their behind-enemy-lines location involves taking out a series of Helghast-patrolled security posts. While not every environment in Shadow Fall is so open, this particular chunk of games gives players the opportunity to tackle a series of tasks in any order that they choose.

Gameplay

It’s a shooter. Guess what? Killzone: Shadow Fall feels like a first-person shooter. Surprise! The DualShock 4 turns out to be a great gamepad for this sort of title, much better than its PlayStation 3 predecessor. The outward curve of the L2/R2 buttons, used here for aiming down sights and firing, respectively, feels immediately familiar and natural. It may take some adjustment for those who are used to playing shooters on the PS3, but it’s worth getting the hang of. Insane Killzone purists also have the option of changing up the control scheme to put aim/shoot commands on the L1/R1 buttons instead.

kill zone shadow fall

The rest of the controls fall into the standard shooter mold. You can sprint, you can crouch, you can melee (aka facestab)… all of the usual stuff. Pressing and holding up on the D-pad brings up a little meter at the bottom of the screen that fills up slowly. Release the D-pad just before it fills completely and you send out a pulse that highlights nearby enemies through walls and other obstructions. Hold the button down for too long, however, and your pulse will be picked up, alerting the enemies you were trying to creep in on.

When all else fails, send an OWL. Kellen’s hovering OWL drone is capable of performing a number of tasks with a tap of L1. Swiping up/down/left/right on the DualShock 4’s touch-sensitive pad allows for quick switching between OWL abilities, though holding L1 down brings up a radial menu that serves the same function.

The stun command sends your little drone forward to zap your selected target with an electric charge that leaves him staggered for several seconds. In shield mode, the OWL hovers up above your head and spits out a front-facing energy shield that blocks incoming fire, though your foes are smart enough to circle around and flank. The zipline is handy for crossing short and medium distances quickly, though your target needs to be situated below you. The OWL can also perform contextual hacks to fulfill mission objectives and take command of the occasional radar station.

Presentation

Killzone---Shadow-Fall---Helghast

Sexy sci-fi. Killzone: Shadow Fall certainly looks the part of a next-gen game. The demo’s expansive environment is a wide open space brimming with movement and life. Whether it’s the trees and grasses swaying in the breeze or the heavy surf smashing into the base of the cliffs you’re skirting along, there’s an extra bit of shine to your surroundings that isn’t present in any of the console games out there right now. It’s nothing that a high-end modern-day gaming PC couldn’t handle, but then that’s exactly what these new consoles are: extremely specialized gaming PCs.

Takeaway

Killzone: Shadow Fall appears to be a promising first step for shooters on the PS4 and a welcome change of pace from Guerilla’s previous Killzone games. The hands-on demo’s open environment amounts to an enjoyable little sandbox for murdering Helghast forces, while offering a good sense of what to expect when the game launches alongside the console later this year.

Product Review

Kill a Nazi while skiing in ’Battlefield V: War Stories’

World War II is hardly a unique setting for a shooter, but Battlefield V’s War Stories has managed to liven it up. Our preview left us eager to see more of the new Battlefield’s single-player story.
Gaming

The best video games to gift this holiday season, from ‘Spider-Man’ to ‘Hitman 2’

The holidays are quickly approaching and you might be looking for ideas on what to get your favorite gamer. Here are the best games you can buy for your gaming loved ones this holiday season.
Gaming

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Gaming

These are the best Xbox One games out right now

More than four years into its lifespan, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From 'Cuphead' to 'Halo 5,' the best Xbox One games offer something for everyone.
Gaming

How you can give your PS4 a fresh start with a factory reset

Learn the many ways you can factory reset your PS4. From reverting your settings to factory to doing a full wipe and reinstalling the latest PlayStation firmware, we cover it all here, step by step.
Gaming

The Xbox app lets you access your console while away from home. Here's how

Microsoft's Xbox app can't do it all, but it does allow you to access your profile information and launch media content directly from your mobile device. Check out our quick guide on how to connect your smartphone to an Xbox One.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: A.I.-powered cat toys, wallets, food containers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Virtual Reality

Oculus Rift, HTC Vive head-to-head: Prices drop, but our favorite stays the same

The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are the two big names in the virtual-reality arena, but most people can only afford one. Our comparison tells you which is best when you pit the Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive.
Product Review

It's got game. But the Razer Phone 2 is still crippled by its camera

The Razer Phone 2 will impress with its gaming prowess and 120Hz screen. But if you care at all about taking pictures on your phone, skip it. While Razer has improved the camera, it’s still short of the competition.
Gaming

The 'Fallout 76' beta starts tomorrow! Here's when it starts and how to join

Want to get into Bethesda's Fallout 76 beta? We don't know when the program will launch, but we provide instructions on how to get ready. The game officially launches on November 14.
Gaming

This $8,000 ‘Devil May Cry 5’ edition will make the perfect plutocrat gift

We've had to wait 10 years for Devil May Cry 5, and Capcom is pulling out all the stops for the long awaited sequel. One of the limited editions, exclusive to Japan, costs $8,000 and includes a leather replica of Dante's jacket.
Gaming

Play your games whenever you want with a MicroSD card for your Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch uses cartridge-based games, but its internal storage may fill up quicker than you would think. Here's what you should consider when picking out a microSD card to expand your Switch's storage capacity.
Gaming

A blizzard of big news is coming to BlizzCon 2018! Here's how you can watch

Tickets for BlizzCon 2018 at the Anaheim Convention Center are sold out, but you can still watch the November 2-3 event at home for your all things Blizzard fix. The opening ceremony featuring all the major news is free to watch for…
News

‘Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’ players are upset over server downgrades

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 users have noticed some network issues caused by a significant drop in server send rates from the beta to the retail release. In response, Treyarch has said it will improve the performance in the coming weeks.