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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Killzone: Shadow Fall.

TranscriptEdit

I want to fix a few things in the backs of our minds going forward, I want to be clear but I don't want to keep repeating myself. So in future, if I review a game on the XBone or the PisS4, every time I say something in the slightest bit positive, I want you to mentally append the phrase, "But it doesn't justify forcing us to buy a clunky new console with no backwards compatability." I've banged that drum with my raging hate stiffy so many times I figure it can go without saying. So let's practise:

  • Dead Rising 3 was kind of fun in parts, "But it doesn't justify forcing us to buy a clunky new console with no backwards compatability."
  • Knack looked pretty spectacular after I fired it out of my clay pigeon launching machine, "But it doesn't justify forcing us to buy a clunky new console with no backwards compatability."
  • Thank you for these lovely corn flakes, mother, "But it doesn't justify forcing us to-" etc., etc.

​Easy, isn't it? Now let's try again, but this time I won't say it and you can just add it on in your head. Ready? I was slightly pleasantly surprised by Killzone: Shadow Fall... ...There you go.

Now as I've said before, the thing with the Killzone series is that the Helghast seemed to have nothing but legitimate grievances but are assigned the role of bad guys solely because they wear Nazi hats. At the end of Killzone 3 for example, the heroic Vektans blow up the entire Helghast planet for looking at them funny, which leaves the situation in this game where the Vektans have given over half their planet for the surviving Helghans to live on. The story opens with our hero, Lucas Kellan, and his dad who were living on the half that became Helghan territory and have to sneak over to the Vektan side as Helghan troops purge Vektan stragglers. So hang on; Vekta agrees to let Helghasts have half the planet but don't evacuate their citizens first? How did that slip their minds? "I can't be arsed. Just sort it out, Mr. Helghast. In a not evil way if possible! I know you're still pissed at us for blowing up your planet and everyone you've ever loved and all that, but be fair! They were all wearing Nazi hats!" 

Having said all that, one of the things I liked about Shadow Fall is that it's a bit fairer on the Helghast's choice of headwear and things are a bit morally greyer. The Vektans develop a biological weapon that can specifically target one race or the other, purely for defence purposes of course. Yeah, good one, Vektans. The same way I have a bottle of maple syrup purely for defence against pancakes. But when the Helghast nick it for their own nefarious defence, the Cold War threatens to boil over. Meanwhile, Lucas Kellan's fate is entwined with that of a half-breed girl named Echo who shows him that both sides have a lot of innocent civilians who would much rather just stop being murdered by each other's militaries if that's alright.

I do have an issue here that Lucas and Echo seemed to be placed as the emotional core of the narrative, but the game seems to have forgotten to characterize either of them. Lucas is the protagonist of a first-person shooter so of course he's just a big blank slab of roast pork in chunky boots, and I only know Echo's name was Echo because a mission objective told me; she just shows up like little snipy Tinker Bell now and again to jumpstart the plot whenever it stalls. Sometimes they take it in turns to point out things for the other one to shoot, and that's about all the chemistry they ever get. "Rawr, your guys are bad!" "Rawr, your guys are bad!" "We have a lot in common." "Yes." "Give us a snog." "No." Ah, but who needs chemistry? We've got the only chemistry that matters: Sulfur potassium nitrate! BAM!

The shooting is what the game's circulatory system runs on and it has a free form of quality that I quite enjoyed. Many of the combat environments are large and open-ended, allowing a variety of approaches. Will you find a vantage point and plan ahead, stay where you are and snipe everyone silly, or just burst into the enemy compound with one gun strapped to your meat and one to your two veg?

I quite liked the zipline mechanic. If such a thing was in, say, Call of Duty, you'd only be able to use it at a predetermined point indicated to your dumb ass by a little phantom zipline like the spirit of dead gameplay opportunities, but in Shadow Fall, you can zipline anywhere, providing a fast way from getting to a high point to a low point to keep the pace up. It would be nice if there were faster ways to get back up to high points, but sadly once you're in the fray, it's back to the usual waddling around in your armoured big boy trousers, trying to make snap judgement on how much of yourself can fit behind a wastepaper basket. And it can often be hard to predict what can be ziplined to and what can't. Of course, you can't zipline anywhere because this would be a sandbox game and you'd have more than the regulation amount of fun.

The zipline is one of the functions of a little flying robot friend who is the manifestation of their "use the new hardware or be fucking shot at dawn" part of the launch title remit, because you change its function with the new... "thing" on the PS4 controller. Not quite a button, not quite a track pad; I don't know what to call it, but I was using it for M&M storage. Your robot pal has four functions and you switch between them by wiping a bogey off on the whatever-it-is, so in this context, it's basically just another D-pad. But I found I rarely used its more exotic functions just because reaching over to the - well, I suppose I have to call it something - the controller's giant rectangular clitoris didn't feel natural with all my fingers engaged with the other more traditional buttons, and it seems like the robot's controls could have been worked into them without too much difficulty. I'm not sold frankly. It needs a game that can find an actual use for it. It's ideally situated for some kind of tongue control, but then again it would have to buy me dinner first.

But I digress. There's been a problem with AAA shooters for many years wherein the game is just dull linear shootouts in ugly little arenas with insanely spectacular skyboxes where all the actual effort seems to have gone. Well, Killzone: Shadow Fall has some very spectacular skyboxes indeed and more than a few dull grimy levels that drag on too long, but there's also plenty of places where the line between pretty skybox and gameplay arena becomes, like the face of an ugly barfly after a few more pints, appealingly blurry. It's certainly a far more certainly impressive display of hardware graphics than Knack was, (if that matters to you, Brian fucking Sewell.) But... ...Yes, well done, we remember how that sentence goes, don't we?

And I found myself distinctly ungrabbed by the story. Maybe that's because there's absolutely no character in the entire plot I felt that I could root for, and it ends anticlimactically. It just sort of apologetically peters out like a fart in a sauna. Without wishing to spoil, it gets us all worked up about averting a war between Vektan and Helghast, but then it just sort of gives up on the idea. I guess 'cos there'd be no game otherwise. What are they supposed to do in the sequel, argue over who finished off the milk?

Addenda: Edit

Should have called it Killbone Wahey am I right fellas: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw

You have now received your regulation amount of fun; continue about your business citizen

And after the milk comes the passive-aggressive notes

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5

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