These days, it takes a good amount of effort and a lot of luck to keep players interested in a competitive first-person shooter if your title doesn't contain Call of Duty or Battlefield. Unless your shooter already has a strong fan base or a completely off-the-wall hook that mesmerizes the population, you can expect servers to go hot for the first few months and then cool off significantly. As big as Killzone may be, it's suffering from the same fate, with an online population that's dwindling in the face of the two big shooter franchises. To help curb the decline a bit, Guerrilla Games has introduced the Intercept DLC pack, and it's a little different than expected.
Unlike most DLC packs, Intercept doesn't add anything new to the game's existing multiplayer modes. Instead, it introduces a new multiplayer mode that's co-op only. Up to four people are set up together as Vektan operatives who are charged with protecting three satellite beacons. You must fight off a seemingly never-ending wave of Helghast forces before they take all three points in their control and end your game. As expected, the forces grow stronger over time with simple grunts making way for flying drones, troops with better armor, and cloaked foes. There are also appearances from major characters like Echo, who come with their own health bar and are dastardly to fight.
To emphasize how important co-op is, you'll be split up into four different classes, each with its weaknesses and strengths. Assault is a basic class that's good for general combat due to his flying drone and few perks, like speed boosts. Marksman is the sniper class and also has the ability to lay down laser trip mines. The Tactician is fairly poor in combat because he only has a pistol, but he has a shield for his allies and the ability to lay down turrets. Finally, you have the Medic, who can use his drone to heal allies and revive them from near-death. He also acts as a supply man since he can drop crates in the field for full ammo refills.
Aside from their initial weapon loadouts and abilities, each of the four classes has the same amount of health and the same movement speeds without buffs. As you reach certain milestones, you unlock weapons for each class that boost their overall firepower to the point where they're almost indistinguishable from one another. After completing enough objectives, the Tactician can become as powerful as the Assault class. The basic abilities of each class are powerful enough that losing any one of them in a fight is very noticeable. With the game forcing everyone to choose different classes instead of sticking with one, you'll have to quickly learn the ins and outs of each one.
Part of the reason why you'll be forced to learn each class is due to the enemies you face. Most games pit you against enemies that simply act as cannon fodder, but here, enemies behave exactly as they do in the campaign, using cover and trying to perform some basic tactics against you while using the environment to their advantage. The game also foregoes any sense of waves, and it barely gives you a break between fights, making each battle a struggle even when the AI tries to clobber you with numbers.
The other reason why you'll have to learn your classes well is because of the game's scoring system, which uses several different factors. Matches are determined by point total, with quick games stopping at 1,500 points, regular games ending at 3,000 points, and long games stopping at 10,000 points. Points are earned over time as long as all three beacons are in your control, and they're also earned through every kill you make and other special actions, depending on your class.
However, none of these points are permanently added to the score unless you bank them at your base. If you fall in battle before banking those points, your total points are halved, and dying gets rid of those points altogether. Furthermore, dying and spawning back into the field takes away 50 points from your total, taking you just a few steps back from victory and bringing you closer to another lose condition if your team runs out of points altogether.
The scoring system puts a nice spin on what is otherwise a very familiar mode. The need to bank points can conflict with the fact that banking points over time can lead to point multipliers, so you must choose between the sure thing and gambling on a bonus. The threat of death stresses the importance of teamwork in ensuring no points go to waste. It also adds more tension to the situation and makes for some exciting moments in every game.
There are only two things that bring down the excitement for the mode. The first is the small number of available maps. The four maps are nicely designed, as they seem to be both open and closed since they do a good job of funneling allies and enemies into fighting hotspots. Even if you choose to play nothing but long games, it won't take very long for you to start recycling maps and getting bored of the selection. There are more maps promised for the mode, and they're all free, but there isn't a set timetable, so you can expect to be stuck with these four maps for quite some time.
The second thing is something that's out of the hands of the developer, and that's the size of the community currently playing the game. Finding a game isn't difficult, but finding a game that is always filled with four players isn't that easy, either. There is a small number of players playing the game, and a small number of those players have picked up the DLC, so you'll find matches where you're either playing with the same faces over and over again or matches where you're short a man or playing three against enemies that play as if four players are present. The situation may reverse once this is released as a stand-alone game in hopes of enticing players who weren't interested in Killzone: Shadow Fall, but if that experiment fails, expect this downward trend to continue.
The Intercept DLC pack may feel like something that should have launched with the base game, but it's a welcome addition. The forces are tough, and you can get all four classes to fairly equal ground. The only precautionary action one may need to take is to ensure that their friends also have this DLC, since the community is waning, but as long as you can get a crew of four together, you'll have fun with the Intercept DLC pack.
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