Killzone: Shadow Fall
It's the dawn of a new console generation and it seems that it is the turn of Guerilla's Killzone franchise to usher in the age of the PS4 with it's unique brand of FPS action.
To that end Killzone: Shadow Fall is a technical marvel using the capabilities of the PS4 as well as could be expected from a launch title and giving us a good solid view of what we can expect from this brave new console generation.
Guerilla has drifted into edgier territory of late with their stories for the Killzone games. Killzone Mercenary, arguably one of the finest games around on the Vita views the eternal conflict between the Helghan and Vektan peoples from both sides and touches on the dangers of biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction fairly deftly for a trashy FPS and Killzone: Shadow Fall attempts to walk that same fine line.
It casts you a Vektan orphan, Lucas Kellen, rescued by an elite Shadow Marshall called Sinclair voiced by Homeland's David Harewood when the Vektans were forced to give up half of the surface of Vekta after they all-but annihilated the surface of Helghan.
The story begins with Lucas and his father trying to escape to the Vektan half of the planet as the Helghans are re-settling on Vekta. His father is killed by a Helghan patrol and Lucas is rescued and adopted by Sinclair and eventually becomes a Shadow Marshall himself.
Sinclair has risen to the head of the Shadow Marshall service and is effectively the head of Vekta's military forces. Under Sinclair's command Lucas is sent out to fight the Helghan threat, mostly under cover behind the wall.
The story weaves around the themes of weapons of mass destruction and engrained hatred between two factions but not always as deftly as Killzone Mercenary has. It entertains without pushing too many controversial buttons. There's also a wee narrative kick right at the end that is well worth playing through the storyline to experience.
Using such a story does offer up some interesting and spectacular set pieces from reviving a lost research spacecraft and flying it into the Sun to space-diving from an orbital station above Helghan to the devastated planet surface below. It also manages to offer some wonderfully colourful environments that are a far cry from the drab grays of the original Killzone PS2 title.
These moments are visual treats that prove every inch of the PS4's next-gen credentials with 1080p 60fps precision. It's unabashed eye-porn pure and simple although, in this case there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.
It's not all about visual though. The PS4's power allows for more enemy AI on the screen at once which makes the engagements in the game that bit more interesting. There's a handful of instances that really show this off especially early on when Kellan is sent in to Helghan territory to recover the crew of a crashed gunship.
Luckily as a Shadow Marshall you have a partner OWL drone which can project a shield, attack or stun enemy targets and even act as a zipline to get to those hard-to-reach platforms. It's very handy in a pinch.
On the multiplayer side of things, Guerilla has opted for detail rather than scale. While Battlefield 4 may host massive destructible engagements Killzone: Shadow Fall offers players a more tactical and detailed experience.
On this side all of the multiplayer maps in Killzone: Shadow Fall are intricate in the extreme and carefully designed to offer up-to 24 players a very real and competent experience.
I've found on regular occasions that instead of the crazy cat-and-mouse engagements that usually occur in team deathmatch fights Shadow Falls' maps cunningly guide teams to fight along battle lines looking for new and interesting routes to flank their enemies.
The detail and amount of paths available to players is staggering whether it's the ruins of Helghan or a devastated train station on Vekta. These are real-feeling environments it is quite possible to get lost in and when getting lost can mean getting killed it sets quite a refreshing tone.
The placeable spawn points available to players as a secondary tool are very useful in reinforcing this and the rather lethal and well-placed base turrets make sure that there's no spawn camping forcing players into the action.
There's not disputing that Killzone: Shadow Fall is a jaw-droppingly stunning game and it does provide a decent amount of entertainment on both single and multiplayer fronts. It's not the kind of blowaway title that we've been seeing at the tail-end of the current-gen but then again, launch titles seldom are. It's still a pretty decent beginning for the PS4 all things considered.