Killzone Mercenary: review

 


Ever since Sony announced the PlayStation Vita with its twin stick configuration, gamers have been excited about the possibility of being able to play first person shooters while on the move on the console. Unfortunately there hasn’t been a great FPS on the Vita, with the last Call of Duty and Resistance games being poor imitations of their home console iterations. Can Guerilla Cambridge buck the trend and finally deliver a great FPS to help fill the emaciated release schedule of Sony’s latest handheld?

Killzone Mercenary is a stunning looking game.

The first thing that you notice when playing Killzone Mercenary is the graphics, which are absolutely stunning on the Vita’s 5″ OLED screen. There are lots of nice lighting effects, detailed textures, and some quite stunning background scenery that stretches well into the distance. Killzone Mercenary is without doubt the best looking game on the Vita, and finally shows just what the handheld is capable of. The single player campaign takes place over nine levels, and you are put in the boots of a hardened mercenary called Arran Danner. Danner is a former UCA soldier who takes on contracts from both the ISA and the Helghast, and is fighting purely for money. When a routine mission to evacuate a Vektan Ambassador and his family goes badly wrong, Danner discovers that the outcome of the war could rest on the shoulders of the Ambassador’s son, and as both sides get increasingly desperate to capture the boy, Danner wonders whether the paycheck is worth it.

Within each mission contract you have various objectives to carry out. The Primary objective is the main story mission, with a story that is entertaining with plenty of plot twists and turns. The Precision objectives are about completing the mission within a time limit, using a set number of headshots, and rescuing hostages that are found within the level. The Covert objectives are to do with remaining undetected, and task you with destroying security cameras and using stealth to avoid detection. Demolition objectives include things like destroying all the generators on a level and racking up a set number of explosive kills. These extra objectives add a lot of replayability to the non-linear levels, and make exploring them worthwhile. Killzone Mercenary is quite a short game with our total recorded play time being just over five hours, although it probably took around nine hours or so when you add on the extra time replaying sections.

The good old Glasgow kiss is just one of the brutal melee kills that you have at your disposal.

Along with the story objectives, each level also contains six pieces of intel to collect, which are locked away behind time-restricted touchscreen puzzles. These are simplistic, but entertaining and can be quite challenging when up against the clock. If you collect all the intel on the level you are given valour cards, which you can collect to complete valour decks. As you rack up points your character also ranks up, similar to the online multiplayer of Battlefield and Call of Duty. Dotted throughout each level there are weapons caches from a weapons dealer called Blackjack who has a wide range of weapons to buy; equipment like grenades and armour, and VAN-Guard systems which are James Bond style gadgets. You earn money by taking down enemies and completing objectives, with the money racking up if you perform headshots or chain kills together.

There are some memorable levels in the game with a section involving infiltrating a base by flying in using wingsuits and another one where you fly through a Helghan outpost in a dropship. These set pieces help break up the shooting sections, which themselves are action packed with some quite impressive destructibility in the levels. The twin sticks on the Vita are perfect for moving and aiming with the controls feeling fast and fluid, and the touch controls are intuitive and don’t feel tacked on for the sake of it. The AI is perhaps not as advanced as it was in the PS3 Killzone games, but enemy troops do duck for cover and try and flank you, which makes shootouts a lot more interesting than the turkey shoot that some games are guilty of.

Some of the set pieces are stunning to behold on the Vita’s OLED screen.

Killzone Mercenary also has an online multiplayer with three game modes. These are Mercenary Warfare, which is free-for-all deathmatch; Guerrilla Warfare which is basically team deathmatch; and Warzone, which sees two teams going through five phases of play. Body Count has players trying to rack up kills, Interrogator which is about extracting info from enemies, Bounty Hunter, which sees you collecting valour cards from fallen enemies, Hacker has teams battling to capture VAN-Guard capsules, and then back to Body Count for the final round. The multiplayer takes place on six maps which are based on the single player campaign. All your experience and weapons earned in the single player game is carried into the multiplayer, and vice-versa. Each day you are awarded a valour card depending on how you played, the higher the valour card the more cash you earn. You can pick these up from fallen enemies, and when you complete ‘hands’ you earn big cash rewards. The servers are quite quiet at the moment, but from what we have played so far Mercenary does a superb job of distilling the home console online experience down to portable size.

While the game is fantastic on most levels, there are a couple of small niggles. It boasts three difficulty levels, although we failed to notice much difference between them. We could also complain that the campaign is perhaps a tad short, but then it is a handheld game, so we can forgive that one. Also disappointing was the final boss battle which reminded us of the final fight against Lazarevic in Uncharted 2, and seems to go on far too long. But as a single player FPS experience on a handheld it’s as close as you’ll get to the home console experience. Everything has been polished to perfection, and there are enough alternative objectives to keep you returning to the contracts to complete them again. With the added extra of online multiplayer there is a lot of content to keep players engaged for many months. Killzone Mercenary is perhaps the most important AAA game on the Vita release schedule this year, and should hopefully help to drive sales of the neglected handheld. Old red eyes is back with a bang!
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Written by Kevin M

I've been addicted to gaming since my parents bought an Atari console way back in the 70's. I progressed to the iconic Speccy, Amiga, and all the Playstation platforms. Having seen games evolve from single pixel bat and ball, to HD constructed environments, gaming has changed much from my early years. Having defeated the rock hard R-Type on the Speccy, the biggest challenge I've faced so far is putting up with the hordes of American teens spouting abuse in the current generation of consoles, noob indeed!

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