GAME NAME: Killzone: Mercenary
DEVELOPER(S): Guerrilla Cambridge
PUBLISHER(S): Sony Computer Entertainment
PLATFORM(S): PS Vita
RELEASE DATE(S): September 4th, 2013
Ask most PSP owners and the likelihood is that they’ll have fond memories of isometric shooter Killzone Liberation. And in that vein, another Killzone makes its way to Sony’s next portable console. Yep, that’s right, Guerilla Games have heard your call from their Amsterdam studios and what you have here is likely one of the best FPS’s on handheld yet.
In a way, Killzone Mercenary looks to right the wrongs of Black Ops Declassified by not only offering an 8-player multiplayer element, enticing enough to whap out a few rounds between meaty game sessions, but also delivering the grandeur and sparkle of its PS3 cousin’s campaign missions on the small screen. Essential to achieving this has been converting the hulking Killzone 3 engine and scaling it down to Vita’s specs. Cambridge studio (formerly of the MediEvil franchise of games) has teamed up with the Amsterdam team to make this happen, and the results are, as Plato might have said, bare mental. There’s a slight quality drop from PS3, and generally fewer enemies on screen, but it otherwise reaches near PS3-level visuals.
Speaking of which, fewer enemies makes sense, given that as a merc you’re taking contracts for both ISA and Helgast operations; zip-lining in behind enemy lines; cutting throats with a swipe of the touchscreen; and
blowing stuff up sabotaging strategic resources. There is also some occasional thought necessary as you’re required to hack the odd security point, with the use of the touchscreen. So why are you taking contracts? It’s all about the money this time, and the cash you earn from solo missions can be spent either on better gear for the next mission (or while in mid-mission), or a fierce multiplayer loadout.
Much of your time will be spent on the Arms Dealer screen (attached to your character’s wrist on-screen) that is all controlled via the PS Vita’s touch screen. You’ll get to know a chap that goes by the name of BlackJack (he fills the same role as Drebin in Metal Gear Solid 4). It’s here that you can purchase new primary and secondary weapons, equipment and armour. It’s also up to you to always keep an eye on ‘Special Offers’ whereby an item is marked down. And seeing as whatever you unlock, in terms of your weapons and equipment, can be used and enjoyed online, there is virtually no necessary grind time required before you’re an effective trooper in the multiplayer component.
And that’s a good thing as Killzone: Mercenary’s really shines online. They’ve invested a lot of time in incorporating multiplayer modes that work on-the-go and fans will be ecstatic to hear that the Killzone 3 objective-based favourite, Warzone, made the port to Vita. The other two modes come in the form of Mercenary Warfare, where it’s every man for himself, and Guerilla Warfare, where teamwork is the key to victory. Playing a multiplayer game with a decent set of analogue sticks and a very responsive touch screen makes the world of difference. Landing a headshot with a distinct ‘bleep’ sound, letting you know you’ve downed the enemy with one shot, is honestly a ‘feel good’ gaming moment. It makes for chaotic, loud and effective sessions that really do live up to it’s “almost PS3-like” sheen.
The big addition to the PS Vita outing is the inclusion of Vanguard Weapons (purchased from the Arms Dealer). The various weapons add a whole new level to any combat situation or circumstance: The Mantis Engine can stealthily scissor an enemy’s head clean off, while the Sky Fury can destroy anything via satellite by merely touching what it needs to destroy, and the cloak suit, called Ghost, well it has some very obvious advantages. Using your Vanguard Weapons correctly is the difference between winning and losing a battle in most instances, and once used, takes some time to regenerate to be used once more; kind of expected given their vast power.
Killzone: Mercenary’s only shortfall is, unquestionably, the short campaign that stretches over a mere nine missions. The developers did try to lengthen the experience with collectable intel. It’s not just a question of spotting files, at times, you’d have to sneak up to a enemy and interrogate them and smack it out of him, but it’s just not enough to warrant a thumbs-up in the campaign mode. As a package, it’s easily one of the most accessible FPS mobile games and it has a great multiplayer mode. Expectations are going to factor into whether you enjoy either its campaign or multiplayer mode. If you accept both contracts, there’s no reason you’ll walk away from this battle on the losing side.