Sony prepared some literal big guns for the launch of PlayStation 4 with Killzone: Shadow Fall, the sixth game in PlayStation's go-to sci-fi shooter franchise.
For an early PS4 title — and a console exclusive — one might expect Shadow Fall to demonstrate the potential of the new device. The game certainly looks fantastic, but it offers little else new beyond that surface flash.
If you've never played a Killzone game before, the single-player campaign will set you up nicely. In reparation for years of brutal war, the Vektans (usually presented as "good" humans) have given half of their planet to the displaced Helghast (they wear scary masks and have British accents, so they're coded as the "bad" humans). Each side hates the other, so the reasons for this ludicrous diplomatic outreach are probably too stupid for the game to detail.
The result is a new escalation of conflict between the two peoples, to no one's surprise. As a soldier adopted by the Vektan war machine, you are thrown into the battle, where you see both halves of the coin. The Vektans aren't as sympathetic as you thought, and the Helghast perhaps not as evil.
The most interesting development is the impersonal robot drone that accompanies you throughout the missions. The drone can attack enemies, hack computer consoles or just act as a distraction while you sneak around to flank a knot of soldiers. It says something about the plot that the bit you will remember most is essentially a flying machine gun.
The story jumps from action-movie bombast to quiet "we need to find a better way" clichés, but it is entertaining enough when viewed as a scenery slide show for the PlayStation 4's power. You will explore abandoned spaceships, grimy Helghast slums and fluorescent shopping malls of the privileged Vektans.
With multiple difficulty options, any gamer should have a reasonably fun time shooting through the rubber-stamped story line. A flying-squirrel-suit sequence near the end almost ruins the entire single-player experience, but you'll manage.
Of course, it's the online multi-player that will keep you coming back to Shadow Fall. It rarely disappoints, but it rarely amazes. The bullet points of modern shooters are all hit: plenty of game modes, lots of maps/weapons and a complicated system of challenges and unlocks. Aside from some fun special abilities earned over time, Shadow Fall doesn't do much new. You shoot, you score.