So, earlier this month I got a PS4 Pro for my birthday so now I'm playing through some games that I had missed this generation. One of the first games I got for it was Killzone: Shadowfall because I really enjoyed the PS3 generation Killzone games, especially Killzone 2, and I was really looking forward to this one.
So, I beat it yesterday and the game friggin' sucks. I mean, it's an okay game but considering the expectations it's an utter disaster and it just feels like a generic AA action game, not a groundbreaking new entry in a flagship franchise. Honestly, it feels like the developers were just tired of the series but Sony requested another title to promote their new console, so the devs reluctantly made it just wanting to get it over with. It's literally how I already felt when I fired up the game for the first time - the main menu just appears. No intro, not even company logos, no nothing. You're suddenly in the eye-cancerous main menu. The heck? Anyway....
Content-wise the game is so bland that it hurts. The series was always known for its iconic enemies and Killzone 2 took it a step further with their iconic home world. Killzone 3 also provided quite a few breathtaking vistas. Shadowfall just takes place in utterly bland Halo meets Mass Effect sterile bases with some blue skies and a few green patches here and there excluding a few sections in the Helghan district which is all slums and is a far cry from the mindblowing industrial gothic Helghan in Killzone 2. It's just so utterly meh. I stopped a few times to look around, hoping that I'll find some impressive places hidden under this blandness but no, it's just brutally uninspired and boring. It hurts even more because the mostly sterlie setting just utterly fails to convey the possibilities of this new hardware generation. Generally, Shadowfall is just an utter failure as a game trying to promote a big technological leap in gaming. The same problems basically apply to other stuff like character models, animations and whatnot.
Another strong suit of the Killzone games were its characters. Badass but likeable heroes and charismatic villains. There's just none of that here. The protagonist has no personality at all, throughout most of the game the only other actual character is some commander dude who is just as bland. After a while you finally meet some Helghan half-breed sidekick woman who is an okay character but underdeveloped and not enough to carry the game. Then there's a ridiculous psychopathic villain who seems like a wannabe Vaas but who is neither menacing nor interesting. Then there's the Helghast chancellor, who could have been interesting but only appears for a few seconds in one or two cutscenes. And finally the brilliant villain from Killzone 3, Jorhan Stahl, makes a return but appears only for a few seconds. It's just pathetic compared to what the series provided at least since Killzone 2 and to some degree even Killzone 1 in the character department.
Oh yeah, and the plot is also quite stupid, starting with the fact that the basis of all the tensions is the good guys' guilt for destroying Helghan in the previous game. Everyone who played it knows that the guilt was actually all Stahl's and it takes serious mental gymnastics to blame the Vektans. Also, the format through which the story is told is quite lame. They clearly tried to speed things up and make them more intense by introducing big sudden leaps in time, you're suddenly moved from one place and time to the next. The result is just that I don't care much about what's going on. The plots in the previous games were (even) simpler but the fact that the games provided long connected journeys made you really live it. Here it's just scene after scene and then it abruptly and unsatisfyingly ends. Really not good. Neither helps the fact that there's almost no dialogue in the game, it's just mediocre characters talking down to the mostly silent protagonist.
Finally there's the gameplay, by far the game's biggest problem. Honestly, it feels like one of those early 2000's AA shooters. It's linear with only slight fake openness and it's this clumsy mix of FPS action and stealth, especially the latter being too underdeveloped to be fun or interesting. The biggest problem, however, is an utter lack of interesting enemies, combat situations or dramatic scenes. Whereas Killzone 2 and 3 were like Call of Duty on steroids, with epic dramatic battles, tough enemies who require cunning to be defeated and even some impressive bossfights plus some fun vehicle sections here it's just going from room to room, effortlessly killing the same enemies over and over with lame objectives in-between. Almost all enemies in the game are your basic footsoldiers who actually appear to be a lot weaker than in the previous games (and this just hurts considering how menacing the Helghast are supposed to be and actually were before). Eliminating a whole bunch of them just requires you to spray a few bullets in their direction and they go down in a second, nothing like in Killzone 2 where even at the start of the game you had to work rather tactically to get ahead. And even by the end of the game the only extra Helghast are some shielded guys and some heavy gunners who pose almost no threat at all, especially since the game usually provides guns at these points that make eliminating them a walk in the park. It's just utterly ridiculous compared (especially but not only) to the juggernaut-type enemies in Killzone 2 who were extremely hard to defeat, lethal and required you to hit certain body parts to eliminate them. A few times you encounter some big unmanned machines but that's where the drone comes in...
Just like those early 2000's AA shooters I mentioned this game also comes with that one "original" feature supposed to serve as a selling point: in this case a drone. As you largely control it via the Dualshock 4's touchpad I can imagine that it was forced just to promote the new gamepad - it's quite a weak attempt, though, as the game only uses the touchpad as a second d-pad. And the drone itself doesn't really contribute much to the game, as a matter of fact it only makes the already far too easy combat even more easy, which is why I mostly didn't use it. It can attack but the attack is so weak that it mostly works a diversion, allowing you to mow down the disoriented enemies. It can put up a shield but again, the combat is already easy enough as it is, not once did I feel the need to use the shield since traditional cover did the job just fine and didn't require me to stay in one place. The only sensible combat option is the stun which is able to disable even those massive attack bots, eliminating almost any need to actually combat them and it also disables the shields of the shielded Helghast, practically rendering them standard enemies (and stunning them in the process, making them perfectly harmless). Finally there's some hook / zip line / whatever option that allows you to get past gaps or reach high places and stuff. There's no reason to use it tactically during combat and the level design does not support any interesting use for it. There are a few moments where you have to use it to get past a gap but in other moments where you think it could allow you to get to out-of-reach places it usually just says "invalid angle" or "too large distance" or something.
The only rather good section was the ruined homeworld of the Helghast but, kinda fittingly, it's just a shadow of its former glory.
Bottom line: it's a painfully mediocre, unexciting and uninspired game. If it had been some debut title by a smaller studio I would probably end up defending it to some degree but as the next title in Sony's flagship franchise it's just a disaster and it also absolutely wastes the pretty cool Killzone lore. Bad boy, Guerrilla Games, bad boy!
The good news is that their next game, Horizon: Zero Dawn, so far seems to be a pretty awesome game and I'm looking forward to finishing that one.