Getting to a hotel, away from the hubbub of Gamescom, was more than a welcome change. It had only been one day since Sony revealed the street date for the PS4, so it was rather exciting to get to try out one of its high profile exclusives so soon. It was time to see how it felt to kick some Helghast butt on the next-gen.
Before I got my hands on the new Dualshock 4 controller though, game director Steven Ter Heide from Guerrilla Games explained some of the background and the motives behind the multiplayer. According to him, the Dutch studio has aimed to create a multiplayer experience that one can just jump into at any time without hours of grinding for new levels or weapons options. This basically means that all the weapons and skills will be available from the very beginning.
XP has been thrown out the window, and instead of the usual levelling, progress is tied to a variety of challenges. Every gun, character class and game mode has its own, and put together there are over 1500 of them. Completing the challenges is rewarded with cosmetic stuff like new skins for the guns and characters alike, but there are also some more useful prizes like different ammo types and add-ons for the weapons. The game's director wanted to emphasize though, that players won't be able to gain the upper hand based simply on those, but that in the end it'll be individual skill that decides the winner.
The character classes in Killzone: Shadow Fall also speak of a certain amount of streamlining. The multiplayer has three to choose from: the Scout who strikes from the shadows, the Assault who serves as the spearhead, and the Support who takes care of the heavy weapons. All of the classes have their own special skills, which emphasise their strengths. Guerrilla promised that all the classes will support a variety of playstyles.
Multiplayer combat is fought on Warzone-playlists. Shadow Fall does of course have a host of game modes ready, but it is quite effortless to modify the presets to suit you and your friends. These can be also shared with the community, and the best and the most popular will get featured. This isn't the sort of massive editor that you'll find in Halo Forge, but you can set your mode and objectives effortlessly in under a minute.
I personally got to try out two different Warzones. The first one was a minimalistic variant on capture the flag, where a probe had to be delivered from the middle of the map to the enemy base. There were no special skills to be had, and Friendly Fire had been turned off as well. After this obviously beginner-orientated exercise I got to try out something a little meatier. The second Warzone was split into different phases. In the first, we had to dominate three control points, which was quickly followed by a section where we attacked and then defended some generators. At the end the scores were all tallied up. The latter Warzone required a lot of teamplay, and it proved that the multiplayer has a lot of potential variety in it.
We only got this short taste of the action, but Ter Heider promised that they will be releasing a lot of new info about the game during the autumn. The final product will feature, among other things, bots for both on and offline bouts, new downloadable maps, as well as clan-support, which is meant to take advantage of the PS4's Share features. On release, Killzone: Shadow Fall will feature 10 maps, and the later additions will be released free of charge. It should be remembered of course, that on the PS4, online multiplayer requires a paid account, so no one is going to be the online Killzone king for free.
Killzone: Shadow Fall showcases the PS4's potential nicely. The game looked and sounded very good, but it didn't really inspire any religious experiences with its audiovisual offerings. The multiplayer flowed smoothly on the screen even during the more hectic bulletstorms. There were also no compromises in the amount of effects, and the rich details were evident even in the midst of the battle.
Playing the game felt very enjoyable, which is something that the new Dualshock 4 definitely plays a part in. The changes from the PS3-version may seem small on paper, but in practice the controller feels vastly improved. All in all, I was positively surprised by Shadow Fall. It has no doubt been rushed a bit, so it can hit the PS4 launch in November, but it still seems promising. Of course, a great deal depends on the quality of the single-player campaign, but as far as I'm concerned, Killzone-fans have no reason to feel worried.
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