If, like me as a child, played British Bulldogs, you’ll know that rising feeling of both dread and elation as your team squares up to a line of mouth-breathing, neanderthal skulled miscreants. The adrenaline kicks in and the battle-cries fill the air as you rush headlong into the unknown, waiting for a lucky break or to be more honest, hoping not to break anything.
This is the feeling you get when you wait for the spawn timer to count down at the beginning of a Killzone multiplayer match. It’s one big race to reach the objective on the map, set up tactical resources and try your hardest to survive while a tidal wave of randoms pour over your squad and try to jockey for position.
Maybe describing the online portion of KZ:SF as British Bulldogs is slightly off, as the amount of tactical planning and teamwork needed is a little off the mark of single minded brutal violence. It’s just that you get the same stirrings.
What you will notice before you even start a match, is the lack of squad and clan options that many are used to in multiplayer gaming scenarios. If you’re playing with friends, you need to set up your squad through the PS4’s XMB party chat. That only allows 8 of your clan to join up together and communicate, which was a little disappointing. It works well though and the actual com quality is perfect, giving you clean audio to bark orders out and cry for a medic when you need to.
Before you begin, you can access information about your stats and customisation options to set up classes. This is a must before you even set foot on Vektan soil, as a variation of classes can be extremely helpful in given situations. There’s three classes in all including Scout, Assault and Support. That might sound like a small selection, but when you root around in the class options, you’ll see that there’s a good few variations that all play dramatically different roles.
For instance, if you choose to support your team, there’s a number of choices from weaponry, special equipment and with the added class skill. Support offers you, at base level, a medic with a choice of light to heavy weaponry. Keeping your gun light means you can get around faster, dropping supplies and healing without having to wait for lengthy reloads. Taking the heavy option, you can set yourself up as a defender, choosing the turret or air support drone and laying cover fire down for others to sweep up the remains of anything left standing.
You can also make a ton of points by clever use of a spawn beacon. If you find a spot on the map that allows team-mates to teleport directly to a mission objective or tactical defence point, giving them an advantage over the opposition, you can rack up a top score easily. This however, depends on where you drop one. Sometimes what may seem like a good location, may turn into a spawn killing nightmare if you don’t at least try to camouflage the beacon in a corner or behind some crates at least.
Support is the choice of those who either love being part of a team and doubles as the best class to play as a lone wolf, as you’ll be much needed when your squad needs to take advantage of dire situations.
Assault Class is exactly what it says on the blood spattered tin. You charge in, lay down some fire to keep the enemy at bay and rack up a Rambo beating body-count… That is, unless you want to play for the team. Assault also gives you the option to backup your fellow players by dropping energy shields around assets or for themselves to stay alive while making a slow crawl through a corridor to breach a target. For a bit of extra backup for the rush-in-and-murder player, you can take your buddy drone along for the ride, offering some extra firepower to your one man army.
Finally, there’s the speed dash. It sounds like a bit of a cop out in terms of a special power but when you need to escape with a beacon and you have a horde of Helghast on your heels, it’s a lifesaver. It’s also handy for reaching objectives faster than the enemy or for dodging out of harms way when in a tight situation.
For the stealthy player, you have the Scout. A class built for infiltration and for general sneakiness. The weapon set allows you to build a long range sniper, a mid range support ranger or a close combat assassin. The main power for a scout is the cloaking device, which renders your soldier invisible, almost. If you run, get too close or fire a weapon, you’ll be seen. This makes for a much more balanced class than seen in Killzone 3, where you could basically morph into the opposition to get up close for easy kills. Definitely one of Killzone 3’s main issues.
The three secondary powers of a Scout are very useful however and two give great advantages to your team if used correctly. The Tactical Echo is much like the single player variant and highlights enemies in a certain radius from the player. Not only can you see them through walls, but your squad can pick them, out too, giving an advantage when you need to set up defences or avoid the enemy altogether.
Emergency teleport is for the close combat player, allowing you to teleport to a random area on the map when you get in real trouble. You have to be aware of what’s going on around you for decent use though and it’s not really helpful to anyone but yourself.
Finally, the Stun Drone lets you be an outright bastard, especially in modes where defence is key and trapping a gang of troops to be slaughtered like pigs is the best choice. Drop this baby next to a beacon or bomb and wait for unsuspecting bad dudes to run into a flash of blinding light, having your squad pick them off easily. Rinse and repeat.
With all of the classes covered thoroughly, there’s still more to the process of choosing your class. Once you have a list of all purpose soldiers, you can rank them up by using the challenge system, a devious but original way to get more oomph from your abilities. Weapons rank up individually, opening up a choice of attachments. Grenades once used to obliterate a certain amount of foes, will unlock claymores or EMP grenades. Using your chosen special abilities upgrade their power, cool-down and time that they’ll stay on the map.
By completing a combination of these challenges, you can also power up a class based set. This unlocks even more specialised goodies like missiles or game changing ordinance. It’s great new way to reach your potential other than just ranking up until you hit prestige like other games.
It never feels like a slog either, which can be a problem with other FPS games. If you play as a team, go for objectives or just rack up the kills, you’ll see the fruits of your efforts form in the debriefing with what you’ve managed to unlock. Playing as a fully functioning member of the squad will net mission points too, making you feel like you’ve actually done something other than run around trying to be the best killer on the board. I found that most players with high kill-counts were lower on the scoreboard than the ones that were actively trying to help other players.
The maps are varied too. From smaller, confined maps with tight corridors that push both teams into tug o’ war firefights to get to an objective all the way to huge, sprawling monstrosities that will feel like walking out into No Man’s Land. They all have clever layouts with shortcuts, sniping towers and choke points. There’s a decent amount too and by the use of the Warzone modes, where you play five rounds per map, it never feels stale as the action shifts from one area to another, making you explore and find vantage points to make the most of your team’s mixed purposes.
Modes on offer range from the typical Team Deathmatch and Beacon Retrieval (capture the flag) to the excellent bomb games that have you attacking of defending a couple of devices on the map. It’s a bit like Battlefield’s Rush mode without the tickets. I don’t think I’ve seen such a dizzying amount of team-play when these modes start, as support rushes to set up their turrets and spawn points while assault classes drop their shields and it becomes one big close combat war to see who will hold ground. And every time you fail, it never feels cheap.
With the already present Warzone modes, you could happily play for months without getting bored. It almost feels like Resistance: Fall of Man all over again and the excitement that came from it’s one-more-go multiplayer experience. Although, that’s not all there is to do. You can tweak a match to your own settings, fiddling with maps, modes, weapons that can be used and the stipulations, bringing some fresh ideas to the online action. Feel like a slow prowl through the forest with only a pistol and a knife at hand while trying to secure domination points? It will be tough but a totally different feel from the regular modes.
So staggering is the customisation that you could lose yourself trying to think up some devious new scenarios for you, your clan and others to take part in. Killzone: Shadow Fall gives you the chance to be dungeon master of the FPS world.
With a final look at things that are a problem, I can say that only the comms are a slight issue. As I mentioned before, you can only have 8 players chatting in a squad, leaving other friends to go it alone. With no Clan options, it’s a shame that there seems to be no room for tournament play either. Maybe this was a thoughtful choice by Guerrilla, pushing the fact that online has become a little anti-social over the past few years and the thing that Killzone does best, is make you play as a team with random players.
If you look at other FPS games, it’s quite difficult to play objective based modes if you’re not actively speaking to the team. That’s normal if you don’t know who you’re talking to for most. KZ:SF makes use of comms in a great way but try switching the headset off during the action and you’ll see that the game still flows in a co-operative way when you don’t have them on. It actually makes players aware that survival is dependent on everyone and not the individual. Just have a go if you don’t believe me.
My final note on this review is this. If you have grown to hate FPS games from the slew of yearly releases, never-changing modes and bored with the same old thing… Go and grab a copy of Killzone: Shadow Fall if you’re lucky enough to have got a PS4 in the rush up to the holidays. It really is a breath of napalm fumed air in a genre that has become stale and overdone in the past eight years. For those sitting on the fence on which console to buy, Killzone is a worthy launch title in both single player and online to keep you going in the couple of months that you have to wait for other high profile games.
If you want to read the campaign review, you can find it HERE. If you have a PS4 or are getting one for Christmas, Killzone: Shadow Fall’s multiplayer mode will be downloadable for free (PS+ subscribers only) on the weekend of the 28th-31st of December if you still can’t decide whether to grab a copy.