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Killzone: Shadow Fall Review (PS4)

Killzone: Shadow Fall Review (PS4)

Killzone: Shadow Fall has a lot of responsibility on its shoulders. It’s the biggest title in the small window of launch exclusives, and it’s also been given the job of demonstrating the power of the Playstation 4. It could arguably be the most impressive console game on the market, but is it simply a pretty face or is it a showcase for the future of first-person shooters? The plot picks up 30 years after the events of Killzone 3, with the Vektan ISA rendering the home planet of the Helghast uninhabitable. As a means to make up for their planet’s destruction, the Helghast are invited to settle in one of Vetka’s biggest cities. The war may be over but the tensions remain, and the Helghast have not forgiven–and sure enough, tensions begin to boil over and thus begins the events of Shadow Fall. Shadow Fall sets its tone early on in the game, making it quite clear that the large-scale battlefields of previous Killzone titles have been replaced by something on a much smaller scale. In regards to plot, Shadow Fall may feel like a convenient way to almost reboot the franchise. After all, Killzone 3 ended with sequel-bait that suggested the war was far from over. The truth is Shadow Fall plays and feels like a reboot, and hence the new plot focus makes sense. There feels like a great amount of potential for Shadow Fall to draw upon real-world events and politics when it comes to former enemies being forced together as a result of a war crime.But instead of exploring the tensions between the people of each faction and the politics surrounding the game’s world, Shadow Fall chooses to go into a linear story of saving the world, one bullet at a time. The frustrating thing about Shadow Fall’s story is it does display some genuinely interesting elements at times. There are a few sections sprinkled through the six-hour campaign that put into question who in fact the good guys and the bad guys are in the grand scheme of things. At times, Shadow Fall flirts with the idea of the player and his people being the villain of the piece, but this is often lost in what is ultimately a generic story. Things are not helped, either, by a rather one-dimensional cast of characters who all seem to be devoid of many, if not any, human-like motivations, and instead feel purely like devices designed to push the plot forward. This unfortunately leads to the plot feeling rather lifeless and pointless as each character is seemingly only interested in killing and destroying. By the time the credits roll, there is no love for either the Helghast or the people of Vekta, leaving the game’s conclusion rather underwhelming and a tad silly.   Outside of the story, Shadow Fall plays slightly differently to past entries in franchise. Given the game’s departure from the grunt on the front line to the more elite operative, the game plays without the sense of weight the franchise was once known for. The gameplay plays more like a modern first-person shooter while still keeping holding onto various Killzone staples, such as the cover popping and more realistic movement. At its heart, Shadow Fall is a pretty simple case of shooting everything in sight with the traditional large and loud weapons the series has always featured. The core gameplay is generic, but undoubtedly solid, allowing the game to flow nicely. The addition of the Owl, a small drone that follows the player throughout the game, does add an extra tactical touch to each firefight but fails to make the combat feel particularly fresh. The Owl is mostly a support tool that will open fire on enemies to either kill or stun them, or drop a shield for the player to take cover behind. In the later stages of the game, the Owl becomes something of an unnecessary tool as the levels became increasingly smaller and linear, but to their credit, Guerilla Games almost compensates by making good use of the Dual Shock 4′s touch screen by mapping the Owls abilities to simple swipes of the finger. It feels natural and carries a decent novelty to the whole mechanic of the features. One other element of gameplay Shadow Fall attempts is stealth. There are a number of levels that give the player the option to try and sneak into certain areas via various paths in a level. While this gives the option to break up the rather one-note firefights, the stealth doesn’t work all that well. Enemies will randomly spot the player from improbable angles and distances, thus ending the chance of taking a more stealthily path to a objective. The whole mechanic feels more like an afterthought that was simply thrown into the game in an attempt to break up the almost constant exchange of gunfire. One of the main criticisms aimed at Killzone as a franchise is its lack of variety when it came to environments. Desecrated battlefields and crumbling bombed-out cities were a dime a dozen throughout all three previous games. Shadow Fall, however, is the complete opposite. There’s an impressive range of environments that look and feel distinctively different from each other, which makes the game feel almost like a tour through the creative minds of those at Guerrilla Games. Each environment has a strong identity and theme, often accompanied by some exemplary imagery, allowing the player to feel like they aren’t just going around in circles. The Vekta cities showcase what exactly the society and lifestyle of a Vektan is, while on the flip side, the Helghast slums provide a polar opposite whilst retaining beauty of their own. There’s something to admire in each environment; they truly do feel like works of art thanks to creative minds and the power of the PS4.   Even with their strengths, the only complaints hanging over the environments come towards the latter stages of the game. Some areas feel rather needlessly padded out with corridors leading to nowhere and areas feeling tacked on. The only other real issue comes in the shape of some areas being a bit too narrow, making the Owl almost utterly useless. These are only minor issues but they do create a certain sense of frustration, even more so during combat. Killzone: Shadow Fall‘s strongest point is undoubtedly its visuals. The game looks utterly stunning, displaying a good example of what the PS4 can do. The world looks beautiful, with various parts of the game making sure the players takes note of the visuals on display; the lighting system breathes life into each and every area through its natural look; character models look fantastic, with special mention going to the faces of some of the main cast, the Helghan look utterly menacing as their signature red lights bounce off the world around them; and there’s a sense of beauty to almost every frame of the game, with various moments forcing the player to just stand and soak up the world surrounding them. Set pieces may be overused in modern videogames but Shadow Fall gets away with them purely for how stunning they look.     Stepping into online territory, Shadow Fall‘s multiplayer is a steady mix of quality and non-stop action. In terms of the maps, they can feel a little cluttered, often resulting in the player walking into things, resulting in cheap deaths. But while there’s nothing really at the heart of the game, it still remains fun. The class set-ups, however, are better. They offer players various ways to approach the tasks at hand and kit themselves out for the game mode ahead. Each class comes with abilities that can often turn the tide of battle, such as the likes of reviving downed players, spawning support drones, and deploying turrets. They’re all present across the three different core classes. The likes of Warzone, a Killzone favourite, provide the best experiences thanks to the ever-changing objectives. For the most part, Shadow Fall‘s multiplayer is a well-crafted–if a little safe–experience that is a great way to burn some time after the campaign. Its main fault is the lack of game modes on offer, but this has been an issue that Guerilla Games has already promised to remedy via free DLC to be released in the future. Killzone: Shadow Fall may look the part of a next-generation first-person shooter, but its gameplay is stuck firmly in the realms of traditional FPS titles. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it may disappoint those looking for a next-generation experience. The plot fails to build upon the potential it had and falls into cliches far too often. That being said, however, the campaign is decent, albeit far from anything new. Multiplayer is great fun but, much like the singleplayer, is very safe and doesn’t try anything new. Shadow Fall is a good game, just not a great one. But it will certainly be appreciated by those looking for a simple, and gorgeous, videogame experience....

Need For Speed Rivals Made A Fan Out Of Me

Need For Speed Rivals Made A Fan Out Of Me

The fast speeds, the crazy crashes and special gadgets that you’d see in a future-based cop movie. Need For Speed Rivals is a wonderful installment in the Need For Speed series and it made me a faithful fan that will eagerly await the next installment into the series. I’ll be honest with you, before Rivals the Need For Speed series was never on my radar. I’ve never been a big fan of the whole racing genre and NFS was just another fish in the pond.  I had been told that Rivals was a solid game, but again I usually stay away from racing games of any sort. It almost seemed like fate. I didn’t go into GameStop looking to buy the game, hell, I didn’t go in to GameStop to buy any games at all. I was simply looking to just trade in my Xbox 360. Once I traded it in and was rung up the cashier tells me I would get around $150, but if I were to buy something, or put money down on something, I would get just about $211. I racked my brain thinking of what to buy. I was handed a list of PlayStations 4 games and having most of them, I was scanning it to find a glimmer of hope. I eventually got to NFS Rivals and decided since it was worth the “free” price tag. I brought the game home, popped it in my PS4 and started my career as a cop. From that moment on I have been a huge fan of everything that Need For Speed Rivals has had to offer. First off there’s the cars. As a cop, once you level up, you get a new car. These range anywhere from Lamborghinis to Ferraris . Once you get into the higher levels you really start to feel like a bad ass cop, busting criminals at insanely high speeds. That brings me to my next point, the high speeds. This is something that has my hooked and keeps me coming back to NFS Rivals. Seeing the scenery whiz past me and the speedometer rise provides a rush that very few video games can do. The controls are also a highlight of Rivals. This is the sort of game that would be destroyed by sloppy handling and yet the folks behind it nailed the controls. Every little shift of the analog sticks feels like you are moving the steering wheel just the same way and doing so makes drifting and 180 degree turns an easy task. The overall fun factor of this game is just high. There isn’t a whole lot of substance in terms of story, but this isn’t the sort of game that needs to be story driven. The real fun that is to be had in Rivals is when you’re just driving around and something randomly happens. Whether it be a Racer speeding by and starting a pursuit, or another human driving by and challenging you, the fun is really found in the game play. So I encourage you to give Need For Speed Rivals a chance. If you’re in the same boat I was I really think you won’t be disappointed. This game is well worth the $60 price tag and since there is a lack on next-gen titles on the market right now, why not pick up Rivals if you have the money?...

A History of Call of Duty: Achievement, Progress, & Decline

A History of Call of Duty: Achievement, Progress, & Decline

Call of Duty is one of the more curious franchises in today’s videogame landscape. The series itself was the product of a stagnated and dried out series of games that left a number of developers frustrated and bored. When Call of Duty first hit the masses, its set pieces and intense action were met with praise and admiration. Even then it took heavy influences from popular TV and films, much like it continues to do now, but back then it was more than welcomed. But when did people become tired of the CoD staples? Did people really have enough of a good thing? Or are people just being too critical? The first entry into the Call of Duty franchise was nothing short of brilliant. Its high production value and intense set pieces created some truly wonderful gaming experiences. There was nothing else on the market that matched Call of Duty‘s intensity and well-crafted singleplayer campaign. Infinity Ward raised the bar–and they expanded on it even further with the sublime expansion pack United Offensive. Vehicles, new redefined multiplayer, truly stunning set pieces, a fantastic singleplayer, a truly great expansion, which was also the last ever expansion that would come out for a Call of Duty title. With all that being said, however, there is still a problem: most of the modern Call of Duty fans never played the first game or the expansion due to it being a PC-only title.   Call of Duty‘s transitions to consoles was a bit of mixed bag with the likes of Finest Hour and Big Red One being rather average. The big step forward came in the shape of Call of Duty 2, a title that sold a number of people on the 360 when it launched alongside the system back in 2005. While it didn’t do anything new compared to the PC versions, it did deliver the first true Call of Duty experience on consoles. Its quality brought in a huge new audience to the franchise and signaled the beginning of Call of Duty‘s rise to power. Unfortunately, it was also the start of the yearly release rota. The new yearly Call of Duty format led to the franchise being outsourced for the first time (excluding spin-offs) with Treyarch creating Call of Duty 3. The game was met with a positive reaction thanks to its solid singleplayer and decent multiplayer offerings. One of the more refreshing elements of the game, though, was the returns of vehicles and the addition of playing as the Polish and Canadian military. Things like this made sure there was a noticeable difference in how the game felt, but it was hardly a bad thing. Treyarch proved they could create a more than decent Call of Duty title, but remained in Infinity Ward’s shadow at the time.   The biggest entry, and arguably the best, was Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Departing from the World War 2 setting (which. by 2007, had become heavily overused), the game was set in the present day, along with the biggest enemy of said setting: terrorism. To put it simply, Call of Duty 4 redefined the FPS genre in ways that are still felt to this day. Its campaign was brilliant and even more cinematic than anything that came before it. Also, Modern Warfare‘s multiplayer became the jewel in Call of Duty‘s crown, setting the standard for all entries that would come after it. The class set-ups, the fast-paced nature of the gameplay, the perks, the kill streaks, all elements that have since become almost standard in the industry. Call of Duty 4 brought in the masses in a spectacular way and catapulted the franchise into becoming a pop culture icon. But it also proved to be the last big step forward the franchise, and also the last Call of Duty game to be loved by almost everyone. World at War‘s release in 2008 was when things started to get a bit dicey in terms of people becoming sick of the franchise and its success in general. While the game was decent, it felt too similar to what had already been experienced in past series entries. The competitive multiplayer felt more like a mod rather than a new game due to it sticking a bit too close to the core values of Modern Warfare‘s multiplayer; vehicles did return but felt considerably more forced; and kill streaks started to creep outside of the lines of acceptable balance. However, Treyarch managed to provide a fresh experience in the shape of Nazi zombies. A limited mode that was both small and well rounded in equal measure, it tasked players with holding up in a bunker against waves of zombies. The mode would become eventually Treyarch’s signature, and would be expanded on in great depth in their later works.     World of War may have had some critics, but for the most part, it entertained people and was seen as rather harmless. The next entry, Modern Warfare 2, however, hailed the start of Call of Duty becoming the poster boy for genericism. Released back in 2010, Modern Warfare 2 heralded the start of the detractors started to grow in numbers and make their voices heard–and it was deserved. Its singleplayer may have been solid but its straight-laced, by-the-book nature began to wear heavy on people. Go here, blow this up, kill these guys, repeat. Things became extremely limited and uninspired. Also, the set pieces were overused and took away from any sense of awe or spectacle. In fact, its set pieces became something of a joke–a joke that would continue to run and run. And outside of the campaign, the multiplayer didn’t fare much better. It may have been popular but its sporadic and unbalanced nature turned off a lot of former fans. The Kill streaks became ridiculous, with a number of them supporting camping and various other annoying play styles. It felt like the multiplayer was crafted for those with short attention spans and not much else. 2011 then saw the release of Treyarch’s Call of Duty Black Ops. The supremely set piece-heavy singleplayer did nothing to suggest the franchise was heading towards any progression any time soon. It may have been decently made on a technical level, but at its core it was merely just another Call of Duty experience we had already become overly familiar with. Though the story was at least trying to depart from the generic modernity of the franchise, with Treyarch going for a flashback-heavy story that allowed Treyarch to explore various areas of the Cold War, albeit with slight science fiction undertones. Multiplayer, on the other hand, was slightly more controlled compared to its predecessor but still suffered from too much emphasis on overpowered kill streaks. Black Ops‘ biggest positive, on the online side, was Zombies, a mode that continued to grow in depth and character as it went on, even beyond Black Ops. And on that note, Black Ops 2 released in 2013 but did little to progress the storyline. It, again, was flashback-heavy with sci-fi tones, and the mulitplayer was pretty much the same. Zombies also continued to get bigger and bigger, though whether that was as good a thing as it may sound is open for debate. The game was, at its core, overly similar to Black Ops, and thus not entirely worth focusing on in detail.   And in the game of Ping Pong known as Call of Duty, we move back to Infinity Ward. Released back in 2011, Modern Warfare 3 is is often perceived to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was the very essence of the typical Call of Duty experience: set pieces at every turn; levels that felt uninspired; little to no improvements; plenty of repawning enemies; and so much more. It was all there to hate. Modern Warfare 3 felt lazy, forced, and lacking any creativity whatsoever. In essence, it was just a full-price expansion pack. As for the multiplayer, it had a few tweaks which ultimately did nothing to really improve or change the established formula. The series has always had decent sales figures, especially so at the time, so perhaps the term ”if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” was applied to almost every part of Modern Warfare 3. The general opinion of videogame fans was changed by Modern Warfare 3; people were becoming entirely fed up of same old, same old. This brings us to the latest entry, Call of Duty: Ghosts. Its release last month was the first time a Call of Duty game was not met with such a hungry audience. The release was very low key compared to past entries. It was slightly hushed, with no appearances on any TV news shows (which happened with the release of MW2 and Black Ops); instead, there was a lot of internet advertising and short TV adverts. Ghosts just went by on its own, with the only real discussion of the game being found on CoD fan boards or people condemning the franchise across various forums. People just did not seem to care about Ghosts in the slightest. As for the game itself, it’s still packed with the same overused set pieces, plot twists, and environments. It’s nothing new or even all that interesting. The production values are still high, but what does that matter when it’s the exact same game people have been playing since 2010? Ghosts produced low sales figures that would be respectable for other franchises but not for the behemoth of Call of Duty, which suggests that perhaps the age of the series is nearing its end. Perhaps it’s fitting that a game called Ghosts is the beginning of the end for the franchise. The future of Call of Duty will heavily depend on how the games use the PS4/Xbox One/PC systems going forward. Can the next entries really afford to be exactly the same as past titles? Will the franchise ever experience another leap in progress like it did with Call of Duty 4? The next few years could be interesting for both Call of Duty fans and its detractors....

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