Do anything, kill anyone. Killzone: Shadow Fall follows the current multiplayer trend of allowing you to alter content as you wish. Patrick Garratt gets shot-up in Guerrilla's Warzone.
"We really wanted a game that evolves with the community, that listens to the community, that changes over time according to what the community wants."
Killzone's multiplayer can get overlooked. It's easy to focus on the shooter's more obvious story elements, but it's silly to ignore a mature online component, especially now we're entering an era of always-on, privacy-waiving gaming. Shadow Fall, the first Killzone game for PS4, is definitely where you should start paying attention.
Eric Boltjes, lead designer, showed off Shadow Fall's multiplay in Cologne this summer, and highlighted the team's three main goals when putting the latest effort together: easy access, depth of gameplay and future content.
"Is doesn't matter if you buy it day-one or come in a year later; we want you to be able to just jump in and have fun," he said, "but we do want gameplay you can master, gameplay you can get better at."
He added: "We really wanted a game that evolves with the community, that listens to the community, that changes over time according to what the community wants."
To make Shadow Fall easy to jump into, all abilities and weapons have been unlocked from the start.
"You don't have to grind for hundreds of hours to get the weapon you want," said Boltjes. But, just in case you want to grind for hundreds of hours anyway (who doesn't?), Guerrilla's added a Challenge system instead of the more usual XP-based time system of progression. The Challenges are tailored towards the different play-styles, and there are over 1,500 at launch.
Completing Challenges does more than levelling your character; they also unlock improvements. You can specialise in various types of weapons, for example, adding new scopes and attachments. And you get visual rewards for your Player Card, such as badges for being a decent medic or sniper.
Classes play an important part in Shadow Fall, which is generally more tactical than your average console FPS.
"This time we've tailored the three different classes to very specific types of play-style," says Boltjes. "For example, the Scout is for the player that wants to strike from the shadows: short range and very long range. He has specific abilities and specific weapons tailored to that type of play-style. We also have the Assault, a run-and-gun front-line type of guy. Lastly we have the Support, who is all about team-play. He has the ability to spawn beacons, ammo boxes and so on. His weapons are medium range."
While classes have been tweaked for Shadow Fall, it's the creation of Warzones, custom games, that has the potential to make Guerrilla's latest stand out.
Warzones are extensively customisable, to a similar level of Assassin's Creed 4's GameLab: you can change pretty much everything. You can specify weapons, types of permitted kills, classes, and whatever else you like, stacking modes end-to-end with varying time constraints or score limits. With eight play modes in total, the amount of variety is stupefying. You can do anything, including making it ranked or unranked or ranking it only on specific actions, such as completing headshots. It's up to you.
As with AC4, multiplayer mode creations are shareable, allowing other players to get involved instantly.
"Guerrilla's created a whole bunch of Warzones that we like, the official Warzones, but we're really anxious to see what the community's going to do with them," said Boltjes.
Popular or interesting playlists will be featured on the game's front-page, giving more creative players some deserved recognition.
The game ships with ten levels, but "post-launch we want to release a lot more maps and content," said Boltjes. "The good thing about this is that all these post-launch maps are free. We're also going to release custom Warzone options and other types of expansion packs as well, to keep the community alive and to give the community what they want."
Clan support is coming, and there's identity customization and "much more" Boltjes doesn't have time to talk about. He wanted us to get on and play.
We took on two different Warzones against Guerrilla team members in Amsterdam. The second was more memorable, consisting of four different play-types stacked together to show how the system works in its entirety. Each team was attacking, defending and holding points in stages based on timers and other criteria. While waiting to games to start, I flicked through the amount of variables on offer: there were a lot, even within the constraints of the Warzone. You could alter all of your weapons and gear, although, again, this can be fixed should you wish. The map itself was multi-levelled and featured safe spawning areas at the back protected by forcefield curtains. You could spawn further up the map if Support class players had dropped the appropriate kit.
The match went on for some time. My team eventually lost. While it's likely there are going to be questions of the general speed of play (after CoD et al, it's probably safe to describe the pace of Shadow Fall's multiplayer as "contemplative"), it's the variety that stands out. It's a lot easier to stay interested when the mode switches from deathmatch to domination to CtF every five minutes and you're constantly swapping classes and gear.
There's so much to fiddle with here. You should take a look for the same reason Assassin's Creed 4's multiplayer shouldn't be ignored: it's huge. And, luckily, it appears to be fun. It certainly kept a group of boss-eyed journalists happy for an hour on a gruelling gamescom afternoon.
Killzone: Shadow Fall is a PlayStation 4 launch title.