Killzone Shadow Fall: An E3 Demo Come to Life

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 4 min read

Killzone Shadow Fall was not an amazing game. I’ve been leaning this channel more towards games that I have undying love for, but Shadow Fall doesn’t really fall in that category for me, so why am I talking about it?

Well, Killzone Shadow Fall was a launch title for the PlayStation 4, and by most accounts it was the premiere launch title for the system. Exclusive launch titles for new consoles exist largely to prove the value of new hardware. New game consoles are expensive, and they tend to come out when the previous generation of hardware has hit its groove so many people don’t see the need for something new just yet. Launch games like Killzone are meant to show people that experiences that were completely impossible on the old hardware are now possible. Sometimes we get classics like Breath of the Wild or Mario 64, but more often than not we get short, shallow games that don’t stand the test of time.

I think Killzone Shadow Fall lands closer to the forgettable side, but I’m talking about it today because it absolutely kills it in terms of showing off the PS4’s capabilities. Hell, I’m playing this on a PS4 Pro in 2019, 6 years and 1 hardware iteration after this game came out and it’s still astounding me today!

The best way I can describe this game is to ask you to think about what you’re used to seeing at E3 game reveals. You know, the ones that happen years before the game is released. These demos have tons of effects and little animation flourishes that make the game look more immersive than basically anything else out there. Then the game is released and those extra flourishes are typically removed in the interest of creating a more consistent game. Maybe we don’t need so many dust particles in those super dramatic light beams, or maybe the character doesn’t need to bounce around so much because the game will be easier to play if they move a little more smoothly.

Killzone Shadow Fall feels like you’re playing an E3 demo from start to finish. It’s full of overly-agressive animations and visual effects that likely would have been sanded down in other games, but not here. Killzone feels like an adventure in excess, and it’s kind of awesome.

  • Guns have elaborate and excellent reload animations.
  • Environments are vast, and often let you see way off into the distance to make the world feel huge.
  • Your character has very weighty movements that make the game feel very grounded in reality.
  • Character models have super high polygon counts and the cinematics make sure you notice them by putting the camera right up in their faces.
  • Lighting effects are turned all the way up to make the world look incredibly dynamic.

Even things like load times are kept to an extreme minimum. It’s a little thing, but I was super impressed with how quickly the game itself launches. Check out how long it takes to get from the PS4 home screen to the game’s menu:

Check out the video above.

When I compare this to every other game that comes out which has a long title card and a half dozen unskippable company logos that appear on game launch, this is super refreshing. Mark Cerney is out there right now talking about how fast games will load on the upcoming PlayStation 5, but Guerrilla Games did this on the PS4 6 years ago and it’s worth recognizing.

But let’s move past the visual flourishes and talk about the game itself. On the one hand, Killzone Shadow Fall has satisfying gunplay with a surprising amount of mission variety, all packed into a game that’s a pretty perfect length. On the other hand, the controls are a little imprecise, the game feels a bit old school, and the story is not very engaging.

Basically, it feels to me like every good thing I can say about this game comes with a “yeah, but” attached to it. For example, I think the guns feel really good and they all feel distinct, buuuuut the game doesn’t effectively communicate how effective you are when shooting at the enemy. Are you hitting them? Are they dead? The game doesn’t tell you very clearly either way. Each mission has a different gameplay loop, whether it be playing as a child, snaking through an enemy stronghold, navigating zero-gravity space stations, teaming up with a partner to snipe enemies in an industrial zone, or slowly picking off small groups of soldiers in an open-ended jungle environment, buuuut imprecise controls make some of these sections more challenging than they should be.

I think that you can boil this all down and legitimately say that Killzone Shadow Fall is a mediocre game that is propped up by an impressive visual presentation. I completely get that position, but I think Shadow Fall deserves more than that. It is absolutely a flawed game, but I think much like a summer blockbuster movie, the presentation could be worth the price of admission alone. Add onto that a game that I think has surprisingly good pacing, more mission variety than most contemporary shooters, and guns that feel all sorts of satisfying, and you get a package that I personally find to be a fun revisit every couple years or so. It’s not one of the greatest games of all time, nor is it even one of the best games on the PS4, but I think that it’s a fun enough game with enough moments that make you go “whoa” to warrant a play through.

At the time of recording in 2019, Shadow Fall has settled down to $19.99 and goes on sale relatively often. If you enjoy shooters and are looking for something fun with visuals you can drool over, I think Killzone Shadow Fall is worth the cost of admission.