Killzone: Shadowfall E3 2013 Preview

The Killzone series seems to be suffering a bit from the Star Trek “even/odd” curse, of odd numbered titles being not as strong as even numbered titles. The original Killzone, unfortunately dubbed a “Halo-killer,” was anything but. Killzone 2 fared better, acting as a graphics whore ambassador for the PS3, with weighty shooting and a surprisingly good multi-player component. Killzone 3 dropped the ball, with some tweaked shooting mechanics and a story that more or less went off the rails.

Now Sony is trumpeting Killzone: Shadowfall (But really, it’s Killzone 4) and at this early juncture, the gameplay is looking to change up a great many of the things people expect in a Killzone game. The game was playable to a select few at E3, and CGM was one of the lucky outlets to give it a spin.The Killzone series seems to be suffering a bit from the Star Trek “even/odd” curse

The first thing that needs to be addressed is the graphics. Yes, this is a flagship PS4 launch game, and as such looks very impressive. It’s doubtful that it’s running on all cylinders at this early point in the PS4’s life, but what’s on show, at 1080p and 30 frames per second, is already quite a step up for keen observers. The lighting is complex and beautiful, the textures are sharp and crisp, there’s a lot happening on screen and the frame rate holds steady despite how hectic it gets.

The portion of the game that Guerilla had playable for the press was a large, wooded area with a single objective that could be executed in multiple ways. It was also immediately apparent that this wasn’t the Killzone as people had been familiar with. The claustrophobic trenches, corridors or even jungles of the past games were pushed to the side in favor of a much larger battlefield that let players actually do some exploring and experimentation. The goal for the demo was to take out a Helghast installation that was built in the woods, but there were many options for how to go about this.

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The most unoriginal was, of course, the typical run n’ gun that most FPS games are known for. And while it was a viable option, it also meant that players were missing out on exploring what else the level had to offer, as well as the new tools for espionage and a more tactical kind of combat than simply moving and shooting. It’s in these new modes of play that Killzone: Shadowfall shows off its two obvious influences; the Halo and the Resistance series. From Halo, Guerilla has learned to craft larger areas with more options for battle, allowing flanking, ambushing and even stealth strategies if the player is so inclined. The larger areas also mean multiple objectives or mini-objectives that provide much more efficient strategy. For example, while running and gunning will yield fast results with a massive shooting battle, there are also sentry posts that can be disabled via hacking espionage. For the explorer, however, there is a full on surveillance outpost through which all sentry posts are networked, and hacking that outpost will disable all alerts in the area, thus preventing reinforcements from showing up no matter where you go or what you do. It’s obvious that while Guerilla has set out make a shooter that gratifies with the “bang-bang” they also reward smart players for making tactically effective choices.The Killzone series seems to be suffering a bit from the Star Trek “even/odd” curse.

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The Resistance influence comes in when players start toying with the new accessories that are standard issue to a Shadow Marshal, the Killzone equivalent of a covert ops specialist. The OWL is a floating droid that performs many functions via the use of the new touch pad on the Dualshock 4 controller. Swipe in one direction and OWL becomes a Batman-style grapple gun allowing players to zip line to other locations. Swipe in another direction and OWL acts as a floating auto-turret, shooting at enemies either as a distraction or useful assistant to pick off stragglers. Another swipe and the OWL hacks terminals making it a necessary tool for players that want to go the espionage route. Finally, the OWL can also generate a shield to protect against gunfire, but only for a limited time. Even the rifle provided in the game transformed from a semi-auto weapon to a single shot, powerful sniper rifle on command.

Mechanically, Killzone: Shadowfall looks to be changing things up significantly from the past games. The big questions that still remain are what the multi-player component is going to be like, and whether Guerilla Games can salvage the story from its baffling, shock-for-shock’s sake conclusion at the end of Killzone 3.