It’s only eight months since the PlayStation 4 launch, and you may have forgotten about Killzone Shadow Fall already, what with its unremarkable campaign and bland-but-enjoyable multiplayer. You wouldn’t be blamed if it hadn’t been in your PS4 for some time. Guerilla Games wants to change this.
Intercept adds a four-player horde mode to Shadow Fall, and it’s a wonder why it wasn’t included at launch – it is by far the best mode the game has. At the start of each match, you pick one of four classes – Assault, Medic, Marksman or Tactician – with only one of each allowed on a team. It creates a fragile balance, and you really have to play the strengths of your class for things to work out: the Medic healing and resupplying, the Tactician deploying turrets or the Marksman laying down covering fire.
As you may have guessed – this is horde mode after all – your objective is to defend three uplink points from waves of enemies until you’ve amassed enough points to satisfy the score: 1,500 is a short game, 3,000 a regular and 10,000 a long match. Points come from dispatching enemies, and must be banked to be added to the total score, a la The Weakest Link. Again, it strikes a delicate balance: do you bank a good haul but lose your multipliers, or hold out for the multipliers at the risk of losing your score if you die.
Because in Intercept, death is a punishment. If you’re incapacitated, your unbanked points haul is immediately halved, and if the Medic cannot revive you then you lose them all, as well as being charged 50 points to revive from the total score. It can feel unfair at first, but it really reinforces the class system, demanding teamwork for you to succeed.
And you will die because the enemy are relentless. There is no wave counter and no set respite between waves; they come when they are ready, and from multiple angles at the same time. As a Marksman you’ll find that much of your time is spent looking for the next attack, even as your teammates finish off the stragglers from the previous wave.
The enemy are clever as well, flanking you and making the most of cover. Alongside standard Helghast, there are also cloaked troopers, snipers and armoured drones to contend with, the combination of which make for thrilling fights. Special figures from the single player campaign also spawn – Echo for example, with their own notification on the HUD showing you their health, taking them down netting a few more precious points.
You’re aided in all of this with bonuses. Every few hundred banked points will spawn a capacitor somewhere on the map. Return it to your bases and you can unlock a power for your team, equipping everyone with jetpacks or calling down a mortar strike on the uplink points. It breaks up the standard shooting a little and can turn the tide of a battle if used correctly. You can also permanently unlock new weapons for each class by completing challenges such as getting 10 headshots or five melee kills, etc. It’s a nice addition, but nothing revolutionary.
There are four maps to sink your teeth into, each set in a different location from the single-player campaign – the Outpost level is essentially the first “beyond the wall” mission from the campaign re-tailored for a horde mode. All of them have multiple entrances for waves to approach from, as well as a central building that contains the bank, and while none of them stand above the others, neither are any of them avoided in the voting. They all look fantastic as well, as you would expect from Shadow Fall.
I’ve only one major quibble about Intercept: if you don’t play as a team it can get hard. One early game I had, where everyone was finding their feet, was a short game that took 30 minutes. For perspective (your most recent time, best time and the world record are displayed after a match) the record at the time of writing is just over five minutes. Those 30 minutes were not fun, a cycle of death and spawning with everyone doing their own thing.
My concern is that even only a few days after launch, I was struggling to get a game with four people in it. The number of players in-game hovers around 150 for each game mode whenever I’ve been online, and that kind of audience won’t last long.
VERDICT: It’s a massive shame that so few people are playing Intercept so soon after release – and that the number is only going to go down – because Intercept is excellent, a diamond finally cut from the rough potential of Killzone Shadow Fall. Fragile systems that must be balanced during relentless assaults, clever enemies and perfectly built maps combine to make it the best mode in the game.
SUPERB. This is the mark of greatness, only awarded to games that engage us from start to finish. Titles that score 9/10 will have very few problems or negative issues, and will deliver high quality and value for money across all aspects of their design.
Review code provided by publisher.