In a closed-door presentation, Guerilla Games’ PS4 launch title Killzone: Shadow Fall was shown off in depth, presented by Game Director Steven Ter Heide and Managing Director Hermen Hulst. Set 30 years after Killzone 3, the game evokes a Cold War-era mentality with the opposing Helghast and Vektan races uncomfortably sharing a giant, walled city. Playing as a Shadow Marshall, you’re in a black ops role, undertaking covert missions to prevent tensions from escalating into another full-blown interplanetary conflict.
Although the fourth main game in the series, Hulst and Heide stressed that prior knowledge wasn’t necessary – this is a new chapter in the series and while returning fans will get more from knowing the history, newcomers will feel still like they’re in on the ground floor. We can believe that too – on aesthetics alone, the verdant alien world Shadow Fall is set on is a significant departure from the rubble-strewn battlefields of the original trilogy.
While not quite an open world shooter, your objectives in a mission can be completed in any order, with each step giving you different advantages and influencing your progression. How you get to each target is up to you too – though a custom zipline to nip between areas will be the favoured and most fun method for most.
In addition to typically advanced futuristic weaponry – notably a morphing main weapon that switched modes from sub-machine gun to sniper rifle and so forth – you’re aided by the OWL, a personal attack drone that can be guided where you need it to attack or stun enemy soldiers, create distractions or scout areas. Proper usage adds a strategic element, allowing you to sneak up on enemies as they’re occupied by the OWL, enhancing the black ops feel. It’s no stealth game though, and while intelligent play is rewarded, it remains an action game and you are directed to enemy encounters. For the record, OWL doesn’t stand for anything yet – Hulst said they just liked the name. We suggested “Offensive War Laser” – you heard it here first.
Shadow Fall is also one of the most impressive looking titles we’ve seen on PS4 so far. Despite ‘only’ running in 1080p at 30fps, it looks smooth and beautiful, with astounding draw distances. It appears to be making good use of the new controller too, allowing you to swipe the central touchpad to enable abilities quickly and seamlessly share your best gameplay with a tap of the share button. The colour of the light bar also changes to indicate health, though that’s perhaps a bit gimmicky given the light faces away from you.
No info on remote play functions or, more importantly, multiplayer was given but it was hinted we’d learn more at Gamescom in August. Killzone: Shadow Fall is shaping up to be at the very least a satisfying shooter with some brains about it, and a great launch showcase for the PS4’s various new abilities. If the game’s story can also do something interesting with its Cold War metaphors, it could be elevated to something very impressive.