The Killzone series has never really grabbed me, the only one I've seen through to the end is the third and it was good but not great. However when Shadow Fall was announced my curiosity was instantly aroused. The game looked stunning, the level design looked fantastic and the mix of stealth and action looked gripping.
Turns out it delivers on every promise.
Shadow Fall takes place on Vekta after the fall of Helghan, a giant, Berlin Wall esque wall divides the Vektan and Helghan halves of the planet and tensions run high. You play as a Shadow Marshall and attempt to keep the peace, travelling along and over the wall, gradually unfolding a conspiracy that could end in total war. The story isn't amazing by most games' standards but for a First Person Shooter it's pretty deep with a lot of parallels to the Cold War. The characters are largely stereotypical but are well acted and the script well written so the story is constantly engaging.
The graphics, one of the first things gamers will want to notice as it's a next-gen exclusive, are stunning. The level of detail, with the light shining in your eyes, reflecting off of surfaces and casting shadows is simply jaw dropping. Add to this the brilliant particle effects and bright, vibrant environment design and you have one of the most stunning games ever made. If a game can look this good at the start of the generation then I can't wait to see how good games can look in two to three years.
It's the gameplay though that really makes this special. The levels are vast and most areas offer multiple ways to approach them. You can take the stealth route or the all guns blazing route and can normally go in high or low, head on or from the flank. The AI is very smart and your OWL drone, which acts in a supporting role, comes in very handy. Firefights are intense and varied and sneaking up on a soldier, dropping onto him and cutting his throat is immensely satisfying. The weapons are all varied and really feel and sound like they pack a punch and mixing Helghan with Vektan weapons to find your ideal load out is really fun. Many weapons have two firing types and it's important to learn when to use which one on the numerous enemy types.
On top of this is the superb pacing, this is honestly one of the best paced FPS campaigns I've ever played. Within the opening few missions you'll hijack an enemy ship, explore an in-orbit space laboratory (which is creepy as hell), hunt terrorists in a live train station hundreds of feet from the surface and witness and fight through the ruins of a terrorist bomb attack. This is just how the game opens, it only ramps up from there. The real genius though is that unlike other FPS games it isn't full throttle from start to finish, the story has peaks and troughs and never gets stale. If this is what next-gen shooters will play like then I can't wait for more to come out.
As well as this there is of course a suite of multiplayer modes and maps. There isn't anything hugely special about any of them in terms of innovation but the maps are well designed and the game modes are all fun and engaging. One small piece of innovation is that you have access to a huge amount of weapons from the outset. Having access to such a wide variety of guns from the outset is very useful as it allows you to create a good class from the get go and means you avoid the usual tedium of the first few ranks where you have crap guns. It's a small change but it's a very welcome one.
All things told, Killzone: Shadow Fall is a fantastic introduction to the new generation and an excellent reason to buy a PS4. It's the best Killzone game yet and a really promising indication of things to come for the series.