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Welcome friends, companions, acquaintances (whatever you prefer to be called: insert title here), to a brave new generation of gaming. And I use the term 'brave' not in as much tribute to Huxley as I simply do its literal meaning...after all, it must take some form of courage to spend $400-$500 on a piece of technology that none of us have actually used yet (or perhaps it may be sheer stupidity...WILLFUL stupidity, at that). Regardless however, my dear reader, as I write this review with a well-worn pen containing a surprisingly substantial amoun of ink, on a piece of shriveled up paper struggling to remain attached to an equally well-worn notebook, sitting alone inside of a perversely well-worn kitchen full of leftover meals and empty cereal boxes, I sip out of my half-full Batman coffee-mug and ask of you one (and ONLY one) thing: to join me not as some stuffy, self-important snob who delights in critiquing video-games as his own personally twisted form of "avant garde", but as a gamer - and one who greatly enjoys their passion. With that now out the way, let us dive into Killzone: Shadow Fall.
Like over one million others, I eagerly waited in line to pick-up my PlayStation 4 on the day of November 15th, and with it, reserved copies of Battlefield 4 and Killzone: Shadow Fall. Having never owned a PS3, I always thought that the platform-exclusive series looked like a lot of fun to play, and upon my arrival home, it was the first disc that was popped into my console. As far as the reaches of time go, however, nearly every system launch has had an over-the-top, first party title that looks as though it was developed solely to show off the raw power and technical capabilities of the new hardware. Granted, there is a certain bliss about being able to bask in the awesome abilities of next-gen, but stunning feats of modern computer science aside, flat gameplay can lead to a flat game. Simple as that. That is why I was pleasantly surprised by Killzone: Shadow Fall's enriching gameplay features. The game's story goes something like this: thirty years after the "explosive" events of Killzone 3, the planet of Vekta has been walled off and divided into two halves: one for the Helghast refugees and one for the Vektans to continue living on. During the course of these thirty years, though, the two sides have remained locked in a Cold War-like frame of mind, each running covert missions on the opposite faction to keep each other in check. You play as Shadow Marshal Lucas Kellan, an elite Spec Ops soldier in the Vektan Army with a knack for staying behind enemy lines, and being very sneaky about it. The Helghast soon decide enough is enough, however, and the planet erupts into a beautifully rendered, all-out civil war. Now we have our game. Clocking in at a good 8-10 hours in length (much longer than the average 5-6 hour long campaign mode featured in most shooters today), there were very many parts of Killzone's single-player component that I thoroughly enjoyed. Mostly its bravado. True, much of the game can be classified as standard shooter fare, but it is executed well enough (and given just the right amount of tweaks to the formula) that it remains fresh. It plays out like a horror movie predictable as all hell, but that still manages to scare the living crap out of you. The biggest tweak in the gameplay comes in the form of the OWL Combat Drone, which ingeniously takes advantage of the DualShock 4's touch-pad. For the majority of the game, this drone will follow you around, hacking alarms and locked security doors, and is always set to one of four unique modes. Swiping up on the touch-pad will set it into attack mode, reigning machine-gun fire on your enemies at the push of a button. Swiping down will cause it to place a Nano Shield wherever you authorize, which becomes extremely helpful in intense firefight situations. Swiping left will allow it to stun enemies with an EMP blast (this is very effective in the latter portions of the game), and - my personal favorite - swiping right will allow it to deploy zipline anywhere that is within range, giving you numerous ways to attack enemies and save a LOT of time running around. The level design also remains very open, giving you plenty of space to play the game however you please. You can take a stealthy approach, go in guns blazing, pick enemies off from afar - it is all up to you. All of the levels look fantastic, as well. Countless skyscrapers, with windows displaying fluidly moving reflections, populate the bright blue skyline of Vekta City, while ominously glowing reds and intimidatingly darkened streets bring New Helghan to life, all with absolutely amazing attention to detail placed on the guns, character models, environments...there is so much beauty in this game that a name like "KILLZONE" almost sounds like a disservice. As far as visuals in first-person shooters go, this is hands down the most beautiful game I have ever played. Period. All of this is pulled out without a hitch thanks to the PS4's greatly improved hardware, as well..The only thing that occasionally dumbs down the experience is the game's flippantly dim-witted AI. While sometimes they do work well against you, I recall quite a few moments where an enemy would just be blankly staring at a wall while I was shooting at him no more than three feet away. The game can still be a fun challenge given the sheer numbers of Helghast bad-guys we are given to lay waste to, but it is crucial things like this that can draw you out of an otherwise unparalleled experience. (As far as the game's score goes, everything is in place and passable with the exception of some occasionally spotty voice-acting). The true "meat and potatoes" (if you will) of the Killzone experience, however, lies not in its solid single-player action, but in the relentlessly addictive online multiplayer. In a plausible attempt to separate itself from the often crowded genre of online multiplayer first-person shooters, Killzone: Shadow Fall ditches the standard shooter progression system (usually consisting of earning 'x' amount of experience points to reach the next level and unlock new items) in favor of presenting you with a whopping 1,595 challenges to complete. You are given every weapon and special ability in the game right from the get-go, but it is entirely up to you to progress those weapons and abilities by using them in combat and completing certain challenges with them. "Want an ACOG scope on that assault rifle? Get 25 kills zoomed in with a Holo-scope first, then we'll talk." "Oh, no Holo-scope? Hope you don't mind using iron sights for a bit." This kind of progression pushes you to try your hand with each individual weapon and see what suits you best. There are three unique classes (Scout, Assault, and Support) with four customizable loadouts for each one, giving you plenty of room for experimentation. The special abilities are also well-varied and fun to use, ranging from spawn beacons and deployable nano-shields to personalized attack drones and defense turrets. Aside from having a unique progression system and over 1,500 challenges, the returning hook for Killzone's multiplayer is the 'Warzone' feature. Warzones are essentially custom servers that anyone can create. The host/creator can select what maps and game-modes will be played, as well as edit gameplay settings such as player health, ammunition, amount of spawns, etc. It is very interesting and a lot of fun to create your own and see what the community can come up with - some of the more fun Warzone's I have encountered include every player being armed with only a sniper rifle, knife, invisibility cloak and one life to all 24 players having miniguns with high ammo and fast health regeneration...frantic, to say the least. Another great feature is that if multiple game-modes have been selected, instead of starting a new match for each individual mode, the game-modes will rotate on timed intervals within each match, making for a seamlessly every changing battlefield that continuously keeps you on your toes. (The game modes range from standard Team Deathmatch game-types to Search and Destroy, and many Domination-esque/Capture the Flag variants). Visually stunning with a lengthy and fun single-player campaign and a highly addictive multiplayer mode makes Killzone: Shadow Fall a good to start to Sony's line of PS4 games. Looking back on the hours spent honing my skills online, the clumsy AI, relatively cheesy plot and sometime evens more cheesy voice-acting all seem forgivable. Add on the fact that there is a wealth of planned DLC down the road (including a co-op mode and free multiplayer maps), and I think that Killzone: Shadow Fall would make a nice addition to any shooter fan's collection, and a great starting point for the PS4. Final Score: 8.25/10(Worth buying at full price...with a friend) Author's Note: If you have made it this far, I thank you for giving me your time and for reading my first review. I plan on doing more of these with each game I complete, and would appreciate whatever feedback you may have. I have also noticed that there seems to be a lot of diversity in the gaming community's feelings towards the Killzone series, and was wondering: how do you feel about the Killzone games? Do you love them, do you hate them? Have you played them? Which one is your favorite? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below, and for the year of 2013: Happy Thanksgiving! PS: Photo credits go to:- wikipedia.org- allgamesbeta.com- news.softpedia.com- gaminrealm.com- akihabarablues.com - state_of_shock