Killzone Shadow Fall has beauty and brains but runs out of heart
PS4 launch titles review: Killzone Shadow Fall, Resogun, Contrast, Knack
Killzone: Shadow Fall
IF nothing else, the Killzone franchise has created one of the most evocative baddies in gaming history. The Helghast soldiers, with their burning orange eyes, overt Nazi overtones and barking rhetoric, still send a chill down the spine.
In Shadow Fall – AKA Killzone 4 – this iconography gets lost in a typically incoherent cast and storyline even as the PS4 pumps out the crispest, most arresting visuals ever seen on console.
But no matter, this is a sci-fi shooter, right? Plot schmot, you might reasonably say. And for the most part Shadow Fall gets it right from the start, kicking off with a wide-open level full of strategic possibilities and seriously challenging difficulty.
The key here is learning to use your new pet drone to distract, attack or flank enemies. Via its built-in zipline, you can propel yourself up and down Shadow Fall’s cleverly vertical levels.
This intoxicating mixture gives way to an interesting diversion into zero-gravity space but never really recaptures that hearty early glory. As the campaign hots up, the scenery settles into a familiar parade of corridors and linear assaults, never looking less than gorgeous but somehow less compelling.
If single-player runs out of steam a little, there’s always the tasty multiplayer, an incendiary collection of arenas best defined by warzone, in which the objectives shift every few minutes. But for now there’s just not enough modes until the community can develop the newly customisable warzones.
Still PS4’s standout blockbuster exclusive by a long chalk, Shadow Fall nonetheless won’t be the game that sells millions of consoles.
SONY now plays Microsoft at the subscription game, ensuring that the most useful PS4 features (primarily multiplayer) hide behind a paywall. But Resogun is probably the game that should unlock your wallet to pony up the €50 annual fee for the PS Plus subscription.
Though it’s a €15 download, you get it free (along with Contrast) as part of your subscription for this month only. Readers of a certain vintage will instantly recognise it as a clone of 1979’s Defender, in which you slalom side to side in 2D space zapping enemies and collecting prisoners.
While Resogun adds a certain next-gen sheen (the explosions are just gorgeous to behold and the levels appear to revolve around a 3D cylinder), its old-school gameplay represents just a subtle update. It’s not complex (though poorly explained, nonetheless) but somehow becomes mesmerising, like an experimental offshoot of that modern classic Super Stardust.
At the great price of free, you won’t complain too much about its short lifespan.
ANOTHER interesting freebie for PS Plus subscribers, Contrast belongs to a long line of beautifully arty games that play with light and shadow. It’s blessed with an intriguing backstory: Didi is a girl with an otherworldly friend only she can see – you play as the ghostly friend to help reunite her dysfunctional family.
Set in a glorious vaudeville approximation of Parisian night-time –neon lights creating pools of shadows on lonely streets – the twist is that Didi’s helper can traverse the landscapes created by the shape of the shadows.
But while you’ll applaud the ingenuity of the visual set-up and the sparse jazzy soundscapes, the puzzles don’t consistently live up to the same standard. Some are too fussy, others too simple.
To cap it all, Contrast has the fit and finish of a game rushed to meet a deadline, with more than a few glitches blotting its copybook further.
Note that Contrast is also available on other platforms, where it costs approximately €15.
IT’S not hard to see why Knack exists – it was created by the PS4’s lead architect Mark Cerny and it ticks a few boxes (family-friendly platformer, echoes of the popular Ratchet & Clank, etc) for the launch of a Sony console.
But in the lean PS4 line-up it can’t handle the weight of expectation generated by a powerful new computing platform.
Knack could have attracted an appreciative audience early in the life of the PS3 but it really does nothing on PS4 the last generation couldn’t surpass. Visually, its cartoonish look is pleasant but unimpressive. Gameplay-wise, the shape-shifting title character has potential but his abilities are underplayed and rarely stray beyond repetitive bashing and jumping.
Knack at least offers plenty of levels to conquer but whether you’ll have the patience to wade through the tedium to the end is another matter.