PlayStation devotees know exactly what Killzone is – a solid if unspectacular first-person shooter franchise – right? Not any more. Shadow Fall ups the ante so effectively that, at last, a Killzone game can be described as spectacular, and it does so by ripping out everything from its previous blueprint bar the red-eyed Helghast.
Most notably, the previous cover-shooting mechanic: Shadow Fall is a proper tactical shooter that forces you to think your way around. You play Lucas Kellan, a member of the distinctly human-like Vektan race; the Vektans are engaged in a slow-burning civil war with the Helghast, who occupy half of Vekta. Lucas is a Shadow Marshal, so he gets some nifty pieces of kit. Such as the OWL, a drone controlled by swiping in different directions across the touch-pad, which can attack enemies (although two or more will take it out), provide zip-lines, send out an EMP blast, construct a shield, hack alarms and traps and heal you, as long as you have a spare adrenalin pack to hand.
Given that Shadow Fall has plenty of open-world segments (although it varies its gameplay, so there are sequences of corridor-shooting, space-shooting, unexpectedly thrilling free-fall and even painting targets so an ally can snipe them), you need to use all the OWL’s abilities to prosper. Especially since the Helghast’s AI is generally rather fierce. And it’s vital to get a battlefield view using your echo-sounder, otherwise much dying will ensue.
Taking full advantage of the PS4's horsepower, Shadow Fall looks absolutely majestic: textures and geographical features look real, and the level design is spectacular, with an incredible sense of vertical elevation – it’s a joy just to behold. The only sub-standard aspect is annoyingly wooden dialogue in the cut-scenes, allied to a dodgy narrative that often seems merely a vehicle for varying the gameplay. Factor in really fresh-feeling, addictive multiplayer, which encourages you to experiment, gives you a set of changing missions and eschews XP in favour of a bewildering number of challenges, and the end result is a first-person shooter that feels adventurous, out-of-the ordinary and a million miles from its generic predecessors. A must-buy for all PS4 early adopters.
Reviewed by Steve Boxer