Killzone 4: Shadow Fall - first impressions from E3 2013
Is Killzone 4 the killer title that the PS4 needs at launch? Well, based on its showing at E3, it certainly won't hurt the console's chances. Like the previous titles in the series, it's a gritty sci-fi shooter charting the continuing conflict between the people of Vekta and their brutal, quasi-fascist neighbours, the Helghast.
Killzone 4: Shadow Fall trailer
This includes the Owl, a small drone device, which works in three different modes. Sweep right on the DualShock 4 touchpad and it hovers to give you a portable airline - perfect for traversing the game's larger environments. Sweep up, and it becomes your comrade in combat, defending you against the Helghast troops or sweeping the area for hostiles should you direct it to. It can also be asked to call up a handy shield. You can shoot out, but the Helghast can't shoot in.
Your weapons prove equally versatile. You can still scavenge a wide range of guns from the battlefield, but your default arm, a sort of futuristic carbine, can also be set to work as a sniper rifle, its barrel extending and a scope appearing for firing at range. In this mode it's much more powerful, but shots need to be charged up before you can fire, making it less ideal when confronting several targets a little closer up.
The forest is dotted with ruined buildings, Helghast guard towers and encampments, and we we're free to wander where we chose. We're promised that many of the game's levels will have a choice of objectives that can be completed in any order, and while the director made it plain that Killzone wasn't going open world, the team did want to give the player more freedom.
To make this work, Guerilla has ramped up the Helghast AI, making the little orange-goggled devils more aggressive and more inquisitive. They certainly pose a challenge in numbers, and you're encouraged to take a stealthier approach than in earlier Killzones, using tools like a handy sonar locator to spot your enemies and gain the advantage.
At this point we should probably mention the graphics, which are… astonishing. If ridiculously detailed, natural looking rocks, realistic rushing water and gorgeous mist and light effects are the benchmark of next-gen excellence, then Killzone 4: Shadow Fall might be the current leader of the pack. It's a truly stunning looking game. The Helghast have never looked so mean or menacing, or died in so many impressively unpleasant ways.
Overall, though, this is a powerful statement of intent from Sony and Guerilla, that intent being to build a sci-fi shooter capable of standing up with the best of the genre, and showing them how it's done on next-gen hardware. We can't wait to see more.