Killzone: Shadow Fall isn’t, at least at the moment, Killzone 4. It’s being branded like Mercenary – a side plate to the already established three course meal that we’d normally associate with mainline console releases for the series. An odd choice, perhaps, or just a way for Guerrilla to subvert expectation a little and change the angle.
That angle, it seems, is one of further nuances between the Vectans and the Helghast, separated by what appears to be a Berlin Wall-esque physical and political barrier. Things have obviously changed by 2381, but then the developers have acquired a habit of pulling the rug from under us.
The live demonstration appeared to illustrate one thing: that Shadow Fall would adhere to the common Killzone specsheet of funnelled pockets of gameplay interspersed with momentary cut-scenes designed to punctuate the action and progress the story, the pacing controlled by the writers.
That’s a core element of the games of course, and nobody expects Guerrilla to craft a huge open world ripe for gentle exploration; rather, by ramping up the visuals and adding in a few new tricks (the slow-motion worked beautifully) Sony are showing that they know what works with the brand and don’t want to mess around for the sake of it.
And the graphics are rightly change enough. Rich, deep primary colours bathe the level shown and shimmering reflections, drifting leaves and a skybox to die for are a marked difference from Killzone 2’s gunmetal grey and the sequel’s muddy brown. It looked beautiful, and as Vecta City stretched miles into the distance it was evident Guerrilla had already mastered the platform.
It’s the lighting, the smoke, the still wonderful animation and the incidentals and the background noise. There’s little in the way of level-of-detail shifts as the dropship first approaches, a staggering achievement.
But when the explosion came and the switcheroo tricked the audience, the game really started to flex its muscles. The instant change to a desperately broken version of the environment you were in is startling, the debris and dust almost choking. And although it’s tricky to tell when someone else is playing, it looks like the AI has had a little boost, something we’d hope to see a lot of this next generation.
The gunplay bore a closer resemblance to Killzone 2, too. That rifle (loved the sniper scope section) was decisive and swift, the player unencumbered and agile, but there was something about the way the sequence played out that reminded me of the first time we saw the PS3’s initial outing – the enemy looked alive, and with a real purpose, rather than just sitting ducks.
We’re always going to see a game in its best played by someone familiar with every aspect of it, but that’s true of all on-stage demos. It’s clear that Guerrilla are bringing back the on-rails elements (possibly the weakest part of the showing) but it’s in these portions where, with control of the camera and the movement, the developers can show us the visuals at their best.
And, so, as the presentation ends and the gameplay is effortlessly pushed online via the PS4’s Share button (and presented below in its entirety) PlayStation fans know exactly what they’ll be getting with the game. No massive diversions despite the name (at least not yet) and it ticks the checkbox labeled “first person shooter for launch” – job done.