Killzone Mercenary Hands-On Preview

By Andrew McDanell on August 6, 2013, 4:14PM EDT

At launch of the PS Vita, it was boasted as being the first handheld console to feature dual analog sticks, thus allowing it to usher in the true FPS experience to the handheld. After Nihilistic Software brought us both Resistance: Burning Skies and Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified, nobody was convinced; people began to doubt if the PS Vita can secure that true FPS title to win the hearts of gamers. In comes Guerilla Cambridge to break the mold and deliver what the gamers have wanted all this time.

In Killzone: Mercenary, you play the role of a man-of-hire, taking on any job that will bring the highest bid. With a war scaling across the universe, there's plenty of opportunity at hand if a mercenary is willing to risk it all. Due to the extreme pressure the Helghast have put on, the ISA has been forced to turn to mercenaries. These jobs are extremely important, have very little rules placed on them, and their goal is to ultimately fill pockets and get the job done by any means necessary.

From the beginning, you will be issued a Valor Card from the Phantom Talon Corp. This is a symbol of your ability to earn cash compared to other mercenaries. The goal becomes simple enough, earn as much money as you can and prove your efficiency over other mercenaries.

Earning cash can be done in multiple ways as doing missions via the Campaign mode or Online will grant you objective cash. During those missions you can also gain cash by killing targets, interrogating captains for intel, picking up extra ammunition, or even executing special kills like combos and headshots.

The controls in Killzone: Mercenary are very solid. While not heavy like the original Killzone titles, it feels natural and intuitive even for the PS Vita's small analog sticks. At first, it's a bit difficult to get used to. However in no time at all you'll be firing head shots left and right. Don't take this for granted though, as enemies have smart AI, leading to some very frantic and tactical shootouts. They will take cover, they will rush you, they will flank you, and they aren't afraid of getting up and close with deadly melee. This is even more apparent in higher difficulties as melee from an enemy can mean instant death.

The settings allow for a fully customizable experience. Aiming can be adjusted for inverse, sensitivity, and even toggleable motion aiming if you prefer. Using motion aiming is only active when looking down the scope and works alongside normal analog stick aiming. Touch for the most part doesn't feel forced either. All but four scenarios are optional as the triangle does the same work. Touch is forced when swiping to execute an enemy, doing hacking puzzles, swiping a switch in elevators, and when using homing missiles. While its use in homing missile targeting is it's only awkward situation, it's not as cumbersome as most games and never feels gimmicky.

Riddled throughout battlefields are supply boxes planted by the arms dealer known as Blackjack. Opening these boxes will give you access to restocking as well as many upgrades to fit your specific desires. As you can only carry a primary and secondary weapon, you can pay one time fees to unlock weapons and then switch between them for a minor fee. Weapons range from assault rifles, sniper rifles, pulse rifles, machine guns, shotguns, and anything else you would expect.

Outside of weapons, you can also upgrade and change body armor, grenades, and Van-Guard. Each suit is geared for different needs. Mercenary Armor gives double cash earned, while Supply Armor gives more ammo capacity. Then there's suits to give increased stealth, speed, and protection. Grenades range from explosive, proximity, gas, flash, and remote types. Finally the Van-Guard is a special device that can range in uses, mostly remote robotics and missiles. Some examples are a remote robot that flies in covertly for kills, a shoulder mounted homing missile, an incapacitating device, a stealth cloak, a radar enhancer, an EMP, and a protective shield.

The HUD in which you play through is intuitive enough and shines in certain aspects. For one, the radar is a very detailed and easy to read. It's a slightly slanted circle radius around your unit and gives you locations of enemies and even their status (aggressive, alert, or patrolling). On the right you have access to equip grenades and toggle between weapons. Alternatively these two can be access via the D-pad. On the left is access to your Van-Guard, current funds, and rank. Everything is clear, easily accessible, and never hinder your view of the action.

The environments are wide and remove the feel of a typical corridor shooter. This means they leave plenty of room for cover and tactical maneuvers. There's even quite a few alternative paths that can lead to multiple ways to taking down a situation, such as climbing to a roof and shooting into a glass ceiling. Enemy movements are also fluent and have plenty of varied attack positions, giving you choice in how to take on an encounter. This is all enhanced by Killzone: Mercenary being one of the most visually appealing games on the Vita console.

The Playstation Vita is excelling in many genres, however many believe that it still needs that killer FPS title. Killzone: Mercenary is shaping up to fill that hole and bring a fantastic FPS experience to the console. With fantastic visuals, smooth gameplay, intuitive controls, replay value, and addictive gameplay-make no mistake that this game is shaping up to be the go-to for any FPS fan looking for a shooter in portable format.

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