Following the official reveal of the PlayStation 4, Sony showcased their next-generation tech with an epic in-game presentation of Killzone: Shadow Fall. The title once again follows the battle between humanity and the Helghast but swaps out bro-shooter protagonists Rico Velasquez and Tomas Sevchenko in favor of a more personal storyline – a storyline that also happens to provide reason for new combat mechanics and expanded gameplay approaches.
In Shadow Fall, players take control of a “special” character known as a Shadow Marshal: a highly-trained operative tasked with keeping the tenuous piece between Vektans and the Helghast. When Helghan forces lay siege to Vekta City the Shadow Marshal must fight to restore order and seek-out the militants responsible for the attack.
We had a chance to go hands-on with the Shadow Fall single-player demo at E3 2013, testing out new gameplay features and speaking with Guerrilla Games design leads regarding the challenges of developing a next-generation Killzone chapter for Sony’s PS4 console.
In our demo preview, we asked the team about the decision to jump ahead in time – stepping away from the established characters and storyline in favor of a fresh phase in the ISA/Helghan conflict and an all new protagonist. According to Guerrilla, the choice was motivated by design – specifically the excitement of introducing new gameplay mechanics that would make the player feel “special” instead of simply a member in the larger war machine.
One new feature that was a major factor in our hands-on demo was the Shadow Marshal’s “Owl” unit – a mobile (flying) sentry bot that hangs back until called upon by the player. The Owl can be directed toward enemies or points of interest – for a variety of desired effects. As players enter a new area, they can instruct the Owl to scan the environment, targeting enemies and objective points – or outright sending the bot into a crowd of Helghan soldiers for an electrifying stun attack. The Owl can also be used defensively: providing instantaneous cover (i.e. a drop down holo shield) and as a quick means of getaway (via a line gun) for traversal across chasms or down from elevated points. Players can even perform instant melee attacks when sliding down the cable – should an unsuspecting enemy be waiting near the end of the line.
Many of the Owl’s commands are managed by the PS4’s new DualShock 4 touchpad – with quick directional swipes to equip different functions. Unlike some next-generation features, the touch implementation doesn’t come across as tacked-on and is surprisingly intuitive.
You can check out new Killzone: Shadow Fall gameplay (featuring the demo environment and Owl gameplay) in the latest trailer below:
Whereas prior Killzone games have emphasized choice through weapon preferences, Shadow Fall‘s massive environments allow for gamers to test-out multiple methods to any combat encounter – making stealth takedowns just as effective as jumping in guns blazing. The level featured in the E3 demo encouraged exploration – where gamers could choose which of several objectives to tackle first as well as how to approach any resistance along the way.
Most Killzone titles rely on open but relatively linear environments where vertical traversal was handled primarily through stairways or ramping pathways. In addition to the Owl line gun mechanic, Guerrilla Games has also included a new climbing ability and other mobility enhancements, making traversal much less complicated, especially considering a significant portion of Shadow Fall will take place outside in expansive environments.
Of course, the Shadow Marshal also informs the direction of the story, since he’s at the center of the conflict (instead of a trigger-happy soldier), presenting a much deeper exploration of the rich freedom/revolution themes that have been introduced throughout the series.
Aiding in the goal of a rich character journey, set in an immersive sci-fi future, are next-generation visuals that help provide a rich backdrop (along with improved character animations) for the story – not to mention an encouraging jumping off point for early PS4 adopters. Prior trailers for the title offer a good idea of what to expect from Shadow Fall‘s graphics and action moments but interested Sony gamers can rest assured that our time with the game made it apparent the project looks just as good running in real-time on the show floor.
Guerrilla Games promised further details on the single player story in the coming weeks but made sure to emphasize that they’ll also be revealing major overhauls and refinements to the series’ multiplayer offering as well. So, stay tuned to Game Rant for further details.
Killzone: Shadow Fall is currently in development. Scheduled as a PS4 launch title.
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