In 2004 Guerrilla Games released the first installment of their first person shooter series, Killzone. Since debuting on the PlayStation 2 the franchise has graced the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable, with an upcoming entry set for the PlayStation Vita known as Killzone Mercenary. However fans of the Killzone universe are awaiting Guerrillas first foray into next generation development, when they release Killzone: Shadow Fall alongside the PlayStation 4’s launch.
The series is almost a decade old and has become synonymous with the PlayStation brand, however it has never fully reached the “killer app” status. In previous titles Guerrilla has showcased glimpses of brilliance within the series, but we are still waiting to see this expansive universe reach its true potential. However Guerrilla need not look far from their original trilogy to find ways to improve on the Killzone brand, and in a sense looking back is the strongest way to improve the future.
The original Killzone trilogy showed brilliance, yet it also showed blemishes that held the franchise back. Today I am going to look at 5 ways Killzone: Shadow Fall can improve by re-visiting past titles, improving on strong mechanics and throwing away the problems it has delivered in the past.
Keep the gimmicks to a minimum
Being a Sony exclusive franchise it makes sense Killzone would showcase some of the unique capabilities of their systems. This was apparent in Killzone 2 and Killzone 3 which featured many Six-Axis enabled mechanics, which would require the player to attach C4 to various objects and engage these explosives using the unique motion control. We have already seen Killzone Mercenary will utilize the Vita’s front-touch screen to perform deadly melee kills, and it was revealed Shadow Fall will use the DualShock 4’s new touch-pad to control their OWL.
Your OWL will accompany you throughout the games campaign, taking out or distracting enemies and allowing you to traverse the environment using its handy zip line ability. Six-Axis never proved to be successful, it’s mainly a throwaway gimmick that most gamers want to avoid. It seems the touch-pad features in Shadow Fall will have a greater emphasis than previous gimmicks. Of course there is no way to tell how the OWL touch features will handle, but in-case these new PlayStation 4 features are not up to scratch; an alternative method of utilizing these abilities would be appreciated.
Being a launch title Shadow Fall will be one of the first titles to rely on the touch-pad, meaning they are also the first to incorporate new ideas into the feature. As we have seen in the past (Kinect, Move, Six-Axis) new control methods takes a while before they come into their prime, Guerrilla are a talented studio and hopefully they can utilize these new features straight out of the gate.
The feeling of entering a war
I have never been in a war, but I feel games like Call of Duty seem to depict these situations as close to an action hero perspective as possible. They don’t portray the gritty desperation to survive each battle, this is where Killzone excels. Killzone 2 especially made me feel like I was inside a real warzone, the desperate runs between cover as I struggled to survive, the constant death handed my way if I didn’t shoot at the opportune moment, creating risky manoeuvres just to survive one last battle. All of these aspects made the combat within Killzone feature a unique intensity that many shooter seem to lack.
Set 30 years after the events of Killzone 3, we see the Helghasts and Vektans separated by a large security wall; one very reminiscent of the Berlin Wall. Our first images of Shadow Fall showcased the Helghast attacking a densely populated area, turning the beautiful landscape into a burning pile of rubble as the dead piled up around it. Watching as we see beautiful futuristic cities fall to the brutality of war, could give the experience more meaning. Instead of being introduced to a foreign world as you seek to destroy your enemy, the enemy has come and attacked your own home; giving you a greater reason to fight with every bullet in your arsenal.
The feeling of desperation seems evident within this footage, and one would assume the carnage and destruction will continue throughout the game. If Shadow Fall can truly capitalise on making each battle feel like a constant struggle to survive, even more so than the original trilogy. We could really have an experience that mirrors the gritty realism of war, albeit one where we are fighting alien soldiers.
Guerrilla has showcased they are able to create some memorable villains, these foes have made for satisfying targets throughout the series. From Colonel Radec who infiltrates the ISA cruiser killing Colonel Templar and many others, Visari who was able to deliver some memorable speeches that defined his character, to Chairman Stahl who’s psychotic obsession with leading the Helghan civilisation ultimately costs them the war against the ISA. The character development of these 3 villains themselves was excellent, their intentions were made clear, their ruthlessness was showcased and their voice acting spectacular.
Shadow Fall would not only benefit from a villain on the same level as previous enemies, but it would set a strong target urging the player towards the games conclusion; where ultimately they end the villains tirade. The question is, could we possibly see Stahl return? At the end of Killzone 3 it was strongly suggested he had survived his crashed ship, but the fact Shadow Fall is set 30 years after Killzone 3 could throw this theory out the window. But with Guerrillas previous talents at making an evil-doer you absolutely despise, I have no doubt they can create a new baddie eclipsing what we have previously encountered.
Even though I have established Killzone has an amazing knack for creating memorable villains, it also has a lacklustre ability of creating unmemorable heroes. Killzone 1 gave us 4 generic characters, the tech-savvy individual, the brash and arrogant soldier, the stealth specialist and the Captain America boy scout, almost each generic archetype was available. Killzone 2 introduced us to Sevchenko, Shawn Natko, Dante Garza and brought back the return of Rico Velasquez. Though these characters were certainly a marginal step up from the original, no one really grabbed your attention and Rico was back to his unlikable brash ways.
Killzone 3 established Sevchenko as a truly likeable hero, while bringing back Rico again and introducing Captain Jason Narville. Once again we dealt with Rico who continued with his brash manoeuvres making it hard to find his character likeable, alongside Narville who was so by-the-book it cost many other characters their lives. Almost all these characters felt completely one dimensional, even when we saw glimpses of character development it was either too late or too far gone to make them someone you truly felt connected too.
It’s been revealed Shadow Fall will put your behind the wheel of a brand new character, Shadow Marshal Lucas Kellan. Who from all gameplay footage we have seen so far, hasn’t had his personality showcased whatsoever. The fact we have been given an OWL companion throughout the campaign, makes me wonder if we will have many allied missions as we have in previous games. These allowed interactions between characters, which gave an attempt to establish them in the series If this is the case however, possibly Kellan won’t have many opportunities to showcase personality or any sort of character progression. Though it can be argued a silent protagonist (Link, Master Chief) can be relatable, bringing forth a fresh playable character with a personality players enjoy; could certainly be an aspect the series has lacked over its 9 years on PlayStation.
The Killzone universe has many stories left to tell, how did this entire war start? Different battles that were on-going during the original trilogy and much more. However with the series jumping to next generation hardware, I think it is time to flesh these stories out with greater detail. Previous Killzone tales have set you after a main objective and whatever happens along the way, sort of just happens. There isn’t a narrative that you could sit down and explain to a new player, that would intrigue them enough to jump into the series. This is one of the franchises main problems; great gameplay with little substance.
Being set 30 years in the future we have a brilliant chance to expand the universe, with new environments, new characters and hopefully a story that will ascend the franchise to one of Sony’s key system sellers. More of the same old Killzone won’t be enough anymore, it needs to innovate and truly sell the PlayStation 4 as one of the main console exclusive launch titles. There is no better way to do this then providing gamers with great gameplay and an intriguing narrative to accompany it. The Last of Us has proved great narrative are successful and it’s Killzone‘s best chance to invigorate the series with a fleshed out narrative.
Killzone: Shadow Fall seems to be trying some new things, which is something the series could definitely benefit from. Yet there are plenty of positives and negatives from the original series that Guerrilla Games could definitely look upon in order to improve their PlayStation 4 title. As a fan of the series I hope they can take the franchise to new heights, and truly showcase what next generation gaming can accomplish.