Graphics, audio, multiplayer and final thoughts
There is no doubt that "Killzone: Shadow Fall" is a beautiful game. Only gamers with a high-end PC and a graphics card that costs the same as a console have seen graphics like these; most players will have moments of true awe while playing. There is a strange shine to the game, however, that after the initial "woah, pretty," makes the whole world of Vekta feel artificial. It seems at times that everything in the world of "Shadow Fall" is reflective, with nothing simply absorbing light.
The bright colors and open-air environments of the early levels pleasantly depart from the drab decorum that dominates the first-person shooter genre, though some later missions are so full of the dark Helghast red-and-gray that you forget that earlier beauty existed. That seems intentional, another guiding element to the story, but it's nevertheless disappointing for the first major exclusive for a new console: this game should be the showcase of what the PlayStation 4 can do out of the gate, and only was some of the time, not all of the time. Still, you can absolutely tell this game is on a generation beyond what you've been playing for the last seven or so years.
Sony's Linear PCM optimized digital audio returns to the PlayStation 4 after delivering some of the best sound of the last generation on the PS3. The world of Vekta, with its two distinct sides, offers up plenty of ambient noises. Gunfire, shattering glass, and deafening alarms fill a surround sound setup, and audio cues can alarm you to the presence of enemies before your echolocation device can spot them. There are a couple of distracting lip-sync issues early on in the game that completely derailed the narrative immersion in what was supposed to be a strong personal moment. If your surround setup is not properly optimized the mix can be a bit off, causing you to miss an important briefing note due to the sounds of alarms or a skirmish ahead – that may be intentional, but from a gameplay standpoint just doesn't quite work. The newly added speaker in the Dualshock 4 is used primarily by "Shadow Fall" to deliver the collectible audio logs. It's a neat trick that gives a little nod to the new functionality. Necessary? Probably not, but it does add a bit to the immersion of the experience.
The multiplayer modes for "Killzone: Shadow Fall" were demoed at a Sony event in advance of the game's release. While it overall felt like standard shooter fare, the fast pace and large maps did lend a sense of urgency to the experience. A team deathmatch with no respawning was particularly fun, and incredibly gratifying if you happen to be the last man standing (also high-pressure from your teammates when going for that final kill). The now-standard multiple classes and loadouts from previous "Killzone" games are present, though in our time with the game it didn't seem those classes meant much. Overall, "Shadow Fall" has fun, capable multiplayer, and playing it for a distraction, or for trophies, won't get boring — but it also probably won't pull you away from your current first-person shooter franchise of choice.
As a new console generation dawns, "Killzone: Shadow Fall" does a lot to introduce the new control schemes and shinier (literally, unfortunately) look to the first-person shooter genre. For better or worse, aside from the OWL, it is still just that: a first-person shooter. If you love the genre, you'll find plenty to enjoy in "Shadow Fall," and some exciting new concepts that sufficiently alter the gameplay to take you through the 8-to-10-hour campaign, maybe even a couple times to try for the collectibles. If you're not a first-person shooter fan, "Shadow Fall" isn’t likely to change that. There are definitely games that transcend genres and deliver a positive experience, even for people who don't normally play that type of game. This is not one of them.
The next-gen controls and graphics are there: now let’s figure out some next-gen concepts to go along with them. "Killzone: Shadow Fall" is a capable and mostly fun first exclusive for the PlayStation 4, but it is not the "killer app" you’re looking for.
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Release Date: 15 Nov. 2013
Platforms: PlayStation 4
Originally published on Newsarama, a sister site to Tom's Guide.
Lucas Siegel is the Site Editor of Tom's Guide sister site Newsarama.com, the oldest and largest comic book-focused website on the Internet. Follow him on Twitter @LucasSiegel. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.