WITH THE NEXT GENERATION console battle now in full swing, Japanese games giant Sony has come out guns blazing, hitting Microsoft where it hurts by adding mainstream offline and secondhand games support, two key areas where many gamers thought Microsoft blew it when it unveiled the biggest competition for the Playstation 4 (PS4), the Xbox One.
However, clearly aware gamers care more about games than whether their console can make a Skype call, Sony has also announced a slew of PS4 exclusive launch titles. Top of the agenda in this gaming armada is Killzone: Shadow Fall.
The game continues the plot of the first three Killzone titles, chronicling the ongoing feud between the people of Vekta and their quasi-fascist neighbours, the Helghast - who you can tell are evil because they're bald and wear big black rubber looking suits. Shadow Fall's story jumps a few years on from Killzone 3 to a time where, thanks to the two peoples' never-ending war, the Helghast have been forced to take refuge on the Vekta's planet.
Not happy to share the planet with their more liberal Vekta cohabitants, the Helghast, nice folk that they are, erected a Berlin-like wall and began plotting all sorts of nefarious schemes to wipe out the Vekta. Unwilling to simply lay down and die, the Vekta of course reacted, sending in their own elite soldiers to sabotage the Helghast's efforts.
During our hands-on with Killzone: Shadow Fall for the PS4, we got to play one of the early levels of the game and found that the altered setting radically changes the nature of Killzone's gameplay. During the level we found that Killzone's open warzones, which showcased dystopian ruined cities and trench infested wastelands, have been replaced with dazzling open forests and Bladerunner-like cities.
Jumping into this sci-fi world, we have to say that the Sony team has done an amazing job with Killzone: Shadow Fall's graphics. The game is visually stunning and is a great indicator of what developers can do with the PS4's upgraded AMD x86 based eight-core CPU and an enhanced GPU with 8GB of GDDR5 RAM. The level we saw featured full bump mapping, beautifully detailed textures and blisteringly fast frame rates. To be blunt, from what we've seen making someone's head explode has never looked so good.
The Killzone: Shadow Fall team has also altered the mission formula, replacing old games' simple get from one end of the map to the other gameplay with an open world dynamic that offers multiple ways to accomplish each mission goal. For example the section we played saw us dropped behind enemy lines and tasked to sabotage an enemy weapon. The level offered us various subtasks that informed how the mission played out. For example, shut off the enemy comms tower and a team of soldiers will move to investigate, opening a path to our second goal; ignore the sub-mission and go in guns blazing and the enemy will call for reinforcements, turning the level into a straight-up firefight.
The emphasis on shooting has also been radically altered, with the section we played requiring stealth more than run-and-gun shooting. During our hands-on we found that simply running in guns blazing ended up in death 99 percent of the time and it was far smarter and easier to sneak around enemies.
To help you out with this the game arms you with a few nifty gadgets that would make James Bond green with envy. The most interesting and useful of these is the owl. The owl is a small drone device that can be used for a multitude of purposes. The exact mode used is selected using the newly added touchpad on the PS4's controller. During the level we played it could be used to erect an energy barricade to hide behind, stun enemy soldiers and hack computer terminals.
You also enter the mission with a super powerful futuristic carbine that can be used as a basic machine gun or switched to become a sniper rifle/cannon capable of shooting through multiple enemies. While you can also scavenge other weapons from fallen enemies in the field, during our playthrough we found that the carbine was the most powerful weapon and never really felt a need to change.
Another nifty gadget is your built-in radar. The radar is activated by holding down on the D-Pad for a few seconds and highlights any nearby enemies with an orange silhouette. The tool became invaluable during the level we played, showing us enemy locations through walls and foliage and letting us alter our path to avoid detection when sneaking to our main goal.
Summing up, our opening experience of Killzone: Shadow Fall was very positive. From what we've seen the game does a decent job breaking the slightly tired run and gun gameplay of its predecessors while simultaneously showing off just how good the PS4's technology is and how developers can use it and its upgraded controls to create new and improved gaming experiences.
Here's hoping that our opening impressions will ring true when we do our full PS4 and Killzone: Shadow Fall review later this year. µ