Almost half of Shadow Fall's levels, though, feel too constricting, especially after stepping foot in the larger environments. With limited space to maneuver and just the occasional alternative route, the ECHO becomes largely useless outside of finding nearby items. Some of these levels--such as a mega creepy spaceship full of mysteriously dead, charred bodies--make effective use of atmosphere, placing a larger emphasis on intrigue than on strategic opportunities, but others feel painfully generic, especially in the story's final stretch.
Next-gen audio diaries
You've no doubt heard the playback of hundreds of audio diaries by now--we all have. But when I picked one up in Shadow Fall, one thing I did not expect was it to playback through the speaker built into the controller. It freaked me out the first time it happened, but I grew to really enjoy it. The audio came through loud and clear, and it's a surprisingly different experience (in a good way!) to listen to an audiolog from a sound source separate from your TV.
Speaking of the g-word, Kellan's evolution as a character is marked by flimsy radio exchanges with his equally boring mentor. Both have fleeting moments of greatness, but these are drowned out by apathetic conversations about which conflicting superpower--the Vektans or Helghast--is in the right. More convincing are collectible audiologs and the aforementioned vignettes you'll encounter throughout the eight-hour campaign, both of which do an unexpectedly great job of world building.
Shadow Fall's multiplayer offering will keep you entertained after its 25-minute credits marathon comes to a close, though it's unlikely to permanently rip you away from genre mainstays. All the standard modes--team deathmatch, free for all, capture the flag--are present, though Shadow Fall's Warzone mode, which randomly rotates objective-based goals, is the main attraction. As ever, this mode will keep you on your toes as it transitions from Search & Destroy to Capture & Hold, among others, and each of the maps provided an interesting mix of routes to prevent bottlenecks.
Custom Warzones are a new highlight to Shadow Fall, allowing players to create and play their own shareable rulesets, providing a nice alternative to the official modes. In multiplayer, I played a custom mode called "Paranoia in the Park," where every player had a sniper rifle, an invisibility cloak, and a single life. It was a drastically different, tense competitive mode compared to the rotating objective Warzone mentioned above.
Still, when I attempted to make my own custom Warzone, I was a bit bummed that it didn't include more granular tweaks. For example, I really wanted to make a mode in which one player with a pistol had to face an entire team of players with knives, but couldn't adjust how many players each team was allowed to have--only the weapons and abilities each had access to, in addition to other modifiers including health pools, regeneration, and number of lives. A few more modifiable variables would've gone a long way toward opening the floodgates to a mass of interesting, player-made modes.
Killzone: Shadow Fall is an excellent way to kick off the eighth console generation. Sure, its characters may not be all that convincing, and its multiplayer is more a well-crafted distraction than a long-term destination, but the game as a whole contains plenty of unexpected surprises that make it worth your time. The open-ended missions, though not as plentiful as you might like, are made even better thanks to the awesome tools at your disposal, and its story has some powerful moments that are sure to catch you off guard. And even when it hits lulls, you'll still have a great time shooting to your heart's content.