Killzone: Mercenary Review

By Spencer Pressly on September 5, 2013

We've had a few attempts at a strong FPS game on the Vita so far, from some rather prominent franchises, but while those ended up being rather poor examples of the Vita's capabilities. Killzone: Mercenary however, is being developed by Guerrilla Cambridge. They are known for creating MediEvil and ended up doing the supposedly impossible task of making a great FPS on the Vita.

Killzone: Mercenary takes place after the events of the original Killzone, but there are also parts that take place during Killzone 2 and Killzone 3.Sadly if anyone was expecting everything to cross over in any major way, then they will be sorely disappointed. There are a few core moments that appear, but aside from that, it's a pretty separate affair. That being said, the story Mercenary has to tell is a very simple one that keeps you going throughout 9 missions set on both Vekta and Helghan.

You play as Arran Danner, a Mercenary from Vekta. Danner's journey is an interesting one, even if it is a little predictable. When Mercenary was first announced it showed Danner taking missions for both sides of the war and this would be a very interesting aspect to tell Killzone's story. While the Helghast have always seemed like the bad guys, at first both sides are equally wrong for their actions during and before this war.

Sadly Mercenary has you fighting for the ISA for about 70 percent of the game, but when you do get to fight for the other side it is very interesting seeing how the soldiers you were slaughtering just a few hours ago react to being your ally. Still the majority of Mercenary's story is completely throw away in terms memorable story elements or even character, but does a great job at offering a fun new take to the world of Killzone.

The gameplay in Mercenary is what will keep you coming back and if you loved playing Killzone on console then you will feel right at home with the Vita version. The controls will instantly seem familiar and the use of touch controls is optional for everything except two sections of the combat. Once you start up a melee attack, you have to swipe your finger in a direction the game tells you to pull off a brutal attack. Lastly, to hack a terminal you have to tap matching symbols to match up with what the machine has.

Similar to many other titles on the Vita that offer the option for touch or button input, the touch-only sections really stand out as annoyances. While they are simple to execute, they really take you out of the gameplay.

After getting past the forced touch control sections, Mercenary nails almost every other feeling of a first-person shooter. The aiming feels tight with both analog sticks and even brings the feature to fine tune your aiming with the system's accelerometer. Almost any way you like to play FPS's can work with Mercenary, besides clicking the left stick to sprint and/or clicking the right stick the look down your iron sights. While pressing L looks down the sights, you have two options for running. You can double tap the rear touch pad, but that ended up feeling very awkward as you had to hold it to keep running. The better choice is just tapping circle and while this is tied to the crouch button, it never messed up when I was getting in and out of cover.Speaking of cover, the innovative first person cover makes a showing in Mercenary and works well if you automatically crouching behind cover. Guerrilla Cambridge should be extremely proud of making an almost perfect control set up for FPSs on the Vita. The combat is Mercenary always feel fun, responsive, and never out of your control. So when you make a mistake and die you know it was solely your fault (unless you failed a melee QTE).

All of the great gameplay praise Mercenary gets is doubled solely off of its multiplayer. At first a 4v4 multiplayer match seems really small, but after getting into the game you see how perfectly that number fits the game. The maps are the perfect size for the 8 player matches and even on the most basic of connections offers a lag free match.

Multiplayer offers three modes to choose from with your basic Team/Deathmatch modes, but the stand out remains Warzone. This mode was introduced in Killzone 2 and works rather well on the Vita as both teams compete to try and achieve multiple objectives. It doesn't solely rely on just killing, but more kills certainly wouldn't hurt your team's chances.

The loadouts you choose in single player are linked your multiplayer ones and this means during the story missions you can earn money and buy guns, vanguards, armour, and more for your multiplayer character to use and vice versa. This is used in the new Valor card system which ranks your character with one of many playing cards. All the guns and other items you use in gameplay are acquired from a new black market feature that actually fits nicely. It does remove the option to picking up guns from downed enemies, but that's not such a bad thing.

Having shared accounts is great and has many benefits, but I it does feel as though something's missing. After all, there's now no classes to choose from. In past Killzone games, players could have a variety of roles to choose from; you weren't just a guy who kills in a multiplayer game. While you can understand the hardware can't compare on every level and the new system is fun, this does seem like a bit of an oversight.

Mercenary performs rather well in the presentation department. The game is running on the same engine as Killzone 3 and it really shows. It also does a great job of not using the same drab looking levels from Helghan. You will get to explore the capital cities in Vekta, power generators on Helghan and even a Helghan shanty town where you see what life is like for Helghan's not fighting in the war.

The game in action looks much better than standing still, but unless you're mining for low polygonal textures you won't ever notice them. For some reason all of the cutscenes that open and end missions are all laid out in very bland mission briefing styled cutscenes. In fact the amount of in game cutscenes are so few that it may seem like they don't even exist in the game, but like stated earlier the game is all about the tight gameplay.

Killzone has always had long legs in terms of multiplayer and hopefully this will continue with Mercenary. The game's multiplayer is easily the best on Vita and truly offers a console-like experience on the go. The nine single player missions also come with many different levels of difficulty along with different objectives to revisit levels and tackle things in a new way.

Final Thoughts

It's still rather sad that it has taken over a year for the Vita to gain a truly worth first-person shooter, but at least we now have Killzone: Mercenary. Small issues like touch controls and lack of classes are minor gripes, because Mercenary offers an impressive single player and addictive multiplayer experience that brings a wealth of content to Vita owners.

Addictive Multiplayer
Controls Great
Forced Touch Controls
Bland Cutscenes
Forgettable Story
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