-Killzone Shadow Fall and the Future of FPS-

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Just as the new protagonist opened the door of his aircraft to view the city he was entering, so were we, the audience, then transported into not only a new world of Killzone but also a new world of FPS possibilities with future tech.

As you know by now I’m a HUGE fan of first person shooters, ‘FPS’, with my favourite series’ being Call of Duty, Halo and Crysis. Killzone is a series I’ve only managed to touch upon briefly, primarily because I don’t own a PS3, I completely ignored the original Killzone and I only got to play Killzone 2 because of a friend. I’d be lying if I said that i wasn’t impressed by Killzone 2 from its trailers, even when I had gotten over the fuss of getting a PS3. And seeing the game in action had truly blown me away. Not since the original Crysis on PC had I seen such a level of detail and gameplay woven cleverly together in a beautifully rendered world, the likes of which you would only see in a CGI film (like Advent Children for example). Yet here I was playing this shaky feeling control scheme, in this large scale war with graphics immersive enough for me to forget I was in the real world. Killzone 2 was REALLY influential on my outlook for FPS at the time; I believed that the FPS genre and action genre can make leaps and bounds in the presentation of games, mixing the in-your-face action and smooth controls of COD4 with the superb graphical capability of Killzone 2. Games such as F.E.A.R 2 and Modern Warfare 2 came extremely close to this, and while I enjoy those games more as complete packages, they don’t quite stand up to Killzone 2 by graphics alone, though the graphics in those games are AMAZING. For a while it had seemed that Killzone 2 was leading the pack as a slightly underrated yet phenomenal game of graphical prowess, something you’d need to own a PS3 to experience. That is until time went on and the Xbox 360’s graphical power was being fully utilized to its potential. And though while Uncharted 3 looked fantastic, and God of War 3 was stunning, along came Crysis 2 for consoles showing that console graphics can be phenomenal without needing several discs (I’m looking at you Battlefield 3…and mind you, that game isn’t even HD or 60fps on console ¬_¬). But it didn’t stop there, Halo: Reach showed that xbox has got the stuff and had some shading and lighting that easily overshadowed some of Killzone 2’s content, and from there so did Gears of War 3, Crysis 1 for consoles and now Halo 4. By the release of Black Ops 2 we all now knew that Xbox is a graphical powerhouse (and always has been) and can show off great looking games as well as great ones to play. Killzone 3 was out of course, and it looked even better than KZ2, but by now with so many comparisons it’s hard for KZ to remain king. This is all subjective of course, and I’m not citing anyone’s opinion other than my own. And while I believe KZ 2 and 3 are fantastic looking games, there’s so many games on the market that look JUST as good. Think how MGS4 looked like the best game ever back when it came out, and look at Metal Gear Rising which looks just as good, if not better. So essentially time goes on, graphics improve, and console exclusivity doesn’t mean that your game will look the best, it’s just the way of things. But just when I thought that Crysis 2 and now 3, as well as Halo Reach and 4 have beaten (or at least matched) Killzone in terms of graphics…February 20th happened.

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From the opening of the aircraft door, to the walking through of the security system, to the glancing of the inhabitants of this futuristic building complex, this new Killzone may not have looked like Killzone in the traditional sense but by god was it stunning. Now of course the general cynic, and even myself to a degree, would look at all this and think; pre-rendered cutscene. Good pre-rendered cutscene, but pre-rendered non the less. But as the dust settles from the sudden explosion, immediately your mind gets blown as the protagonist raises his gun and proceeds to walk around, and shoot, in REAL TIME within the graphics engine. The experience was eye opening even though a part of me already had a feeling it was real time. Every jump in console generation produces results like this; where we see graphics and real time gameplay so crisp and clean that it’s just too hard to believe. Now the hardcore cynic might still say: ‘pre-rendered gameplay section’, and admittedly this is a possibility as it has been done before. But from rewatches of the HD footage on the Killzone facebook page (where apparently the gameplay was directly uploaded to FROM the PS4 it was played on) I could see the on-screen commands and the general feeling that it just IS a human player interacting and shooting, of course with practise and direction but still genuine none the less. As the demo went on, more and more began to impress and my excitement kept on building right up until the climax where the protagonist is stuck on a wall between the beautiful futuristic city and a strikingly different red tinted darker city, though equally as futuristic. So while Bungie’s new project ‘Destiny’ looks ambitious and engaging, and Watch Dogs looks like it’s going to win game of the year from innovation vote alone, THIS game has me the most excited. It has me the most excited not specifically for the PS4, because truth be told I don’t know if I’ll be able to get one, but rather it gets me excited for where FPS and action games in general are going.

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Just imagine it. EVERY FPS with THAT level of graphical detail and immersion. The aim of gaming is to get lost in a world of fantasy and enjoyment and what better way to do this than further pull the player into a world of beauty and wonder, alongside all the explosions and serious plot lines that is. Obviously I can’t presume to know what Microsoft’s got on offer for the new Xbox, and realistically speaking they BETTER bring something huge to the table, because while not 100% ground breaking the PS4 showed off features that the modern gamer needs and it shows that this will be a console to get not for just good looking games alone. Social sharing, streaming, quick downloads and so on; I needn’t repeat any of this since there’s already hundreds of articles and videos covering the PS4 news. But what I expect from the new Xbox is to somehow match or far exceed the level of quality PS4 showed last night. Whether this happens or not it’s yet to be seen. However, and this is a big however, I’m confident in the possibility that they might pull it off, primarily because when Bungie talked about Destiny they mentioned ‘content exclusive to the PlayStation community’, indirectly hinting that there will be content for another platform, and I’d be incredibly shocked if that wasn’t a reference to the new Xbox. And since Bungie’s Destiny already looks fantastic in general, and it’s been announced for PS4, I can certainly expect it to be for the new Xbox. So all things considered my imagination ran wild with thoughts of new possibilities for the FPS genre. So of course KZ Shadow Fall is going to look great and probably play great, but what else will? Will we see a future Crysis title that somehow manages to top even this? Or what about a new F.E.A.R focussing on a whole new storyline, mixing the detail from both F.E.A.R 2 and 3. Or most importantly (for myself anyway) what will the new Call of Duty look like? Speculation has already suggested the possibility that the next Call of Duty title will be for next generation consoles, so this is a big opportunity for COD to not only evolve once again but to also show off next gen capabilities. After Black Ops 2’s effort it’d be a hard act to follow, but you know COD, they ALWAYS manage to outshine the previous game in one way or another. My hope is that as time goes on FPS can build upon each other’s examples and provide even better looking and better playing content with each new title, as they have been for a while now since about Halo 3. As a massive fan of the FPS genre and action games in general I believe that they should continue to disregard the hate, and do what they do best; show you a magical experience of technical marvel and gameplay excitement, doesn’t matter if it’s a roller coaster ride, linear corridor shooter with QTEs and scripted set pieces (though Black Ops 2 mixed this up somewhat). If it aint broke don’t fix it I always think, however I am a huge supporter of progress so if game companies can evolve their already superb technology and established methods then we can expect to see even more great content in the future.

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In summary, what Killzone Shadow Fall showed me wasn’t just a future for the Killzone series or a future for the PS4; it showed me the future of the level of design we will probably see for all FPS and action games, as the bar has most certainly been raised. That isn’t to say that it’ll be perfect and absolutely every game will look this good, but with an example like this to follow you’d be doing yourself a disservice to not rise to match the quality of design. I honestly can’t wait to see more of not only Killzone Shadow Fall but also of the FPS games in general. Many people have grown to hate seeing them paraded in the mass media, for a variety of reasons stretching from the general hate of the COD series to a lack of care for the gameplay of the genre itself. Suffice to say COD games, and FPS as a result, come under fire every day, with few people to defend them, if any at all. But beyond all the hate and stupidity I see a large community of enthusiasts that has persisted since the early days of Quake and the original Halo. We love these games, and despite how much many would like to put it down or treat its fans as sub-human, you cannot deny the massive popularity of these games as well as how well they do critically and money wise. That’s not a call for a general value judgement but me just explaining that like RPGs and Adventure games there’s a large market for it that actually appreciate what it has to offer. Bottom line is that many people enjoy these games and would love to see them progress both visually and gameplay wise. If a Killzone Shadow Fall level of quality can be achieved for each new FPS title then you can expect every ‘roller coaster ride’ of a game to be the ride of your life.

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