Killzone: Shadow Fall’s multiplayer mode was a solid if unremarkable addition to a solid, unremarkable but visually striking game, almost the very definition of bullet-point box-ticking. With the hype surrounding the PlayStation 4 launch title dying down in the wake of Infamous: Second Son, the addition of new DLC wholly focused on the multiplayer didn’t sound too inspiring. What the Intercept DLC actually does is rejuvenate interest while expanding the original multiplayer – this is no skin pack or piecemeal offering.
For anyone unfamiliar with Killzone’s multiplayer, imagine standard modes – Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and other objective-based game types – wrapped up in trademark grittiness, combatants pitted against each other in opposing teams. Nothing wholly new there then. Neither is Intercept original – it’s essentially Gears of War’s Horde mode as four players attempt to fend off waves of ever more powerful enemies. Yet, despite lifting a mode that had almost overseen its welcome in the last console generation, Intercept feels fresh and inventive thanks to a few gameplay tweaks.
Each team comprises four distinct character classes – Medic, Tactician, Assault and Marksman. The Medic can heal, drop supplies and respawn downed allies, all with the help of a handy little drone (similar to your drone in the single player campaign). The Assault class is au fait with weaponry, the Marksman is a sniping and long-range expert. If this all sounds a little Team Fortress, you’d be correct, emphasised with the Tactician class. Equipped with naught but a pistol, this class is underpowered but has the ability to build turrets about the place, instantly drawing comparisons with Team Fortress 2’s Engineer. The Tactician can also drop a temporary shield, perfectly setting up the opportunity to sprinkle turrets in prime locations and then retreat to a corner.
Of course, you can’t really do that – there are three beacons to hold, much like in Warzone, which attract the attention of the onslaught of enemies. The aim of each game is to accrue a set number of points – all in the thousands – either through kills, holding the beacons and so forth. The snag is that any points you amass will disappear if you die. A bank near the centre of each map allows you to deposit any points you’ve earned, setting up a risk-taking choice between hoarding points and choosing the right time to make sure they’re secured, like some far-flung, post-apocalyptic version of The Weakest Link.
Adding things into the mix are Petrusite Capacitors scattered around the map – grabbing these and shoving them into terminals unlocks benefits for your team. This ranges from boosts in point scoring to equipping everyone with jetpacks. It adds another wrinkle to an already strategic game, as well as another tempting reason to gamble your life and your score in order for a gain of indeterminate benefit.
The maps themselves look fantastic – as does every inch of Killzone – but lack interactivity. One map set amidst the shanties and street stalls of the Helghast city feels like walking through Blade Runner, but the addition of traps and interactive elements would have taken the gameplay up a notch and potentially extended the experience. Gears of War had barriers and such – granted, Killzone’s levels feel smaller and less inclined towards anything but the handful of turrets.
As with any escalation in enemy types you’ll have to contend with all manner of tricks; cloaked snipers, aerial combat drones and more. This is perhaps one of the weaker sides to Killzone’s Horde mode in that the enemy types might be visually different but lack defining character. Even the bosses feel rote – enjoyable to defeat, sure, but lacking that ‘oh crap!’ realisation that a Berserker or Corpser could evoke in Gears. The meagre amount of maps also disappoints – they look superb but the visual impact is dulled when you keep coming back to the same area again and again.
The final problem with Intercept is that one could argue is both Guerilla Games’ fault and a problem entirely separate from their input. As previously mentioned, the hype surrounding Killzone has evaporated and with it a lot of the players. Servers are depressingly empty – the curse of COD and Battlefield sucking regular FPS enthusiasts back to familiar territory. This could be blamed on Guerilla for not building a robust and enticing enough multiplayer mode, but that would be unfair. Better games have died online for less. Unfortunately it’s the problem with FPS games – most will have little more than a stalwart but tiny fanbase and Killzone looks to be lumped with those, instead of the franchise juggernauts that hoover up the majority.
As it is, Intercept is a welcome surprise. Tight, tense and tactical, it adds another string to Killzone’s bow. Guerilla recently put out a sounds pack, mimicking Call of Duty’s risible Snoop Dogg VO and weed decal packs, only this time adding fart sounds. It comes across as a desperate move to attract the COD audience – a futile gesture that betrays its po-faced seriousness and artistic merit. Intercept might not have the players but it’s worthy of a download, albeit only for those interested in the multiplayer. For that small group it extends the life of a game already relegated to the annals of console launch history. It might not be original but it’s polished and practical; not the most effusive of compliments, but a recommendation nonetheless.