Platforms: PlayStation Vita.
Developer: Guerilla Cambridge. Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment.
Genre: First Person Shooter. Platform Played: PlayStation Vita.
Since before its launch in December 2011 and February 2012, many have been clamouring for a true first person shooter for the PlayStation Vita that isn’t mediocre at the very least. Last year saw Resistance Burning Skies and Call of Duty Black Ops: Declassified launch onto the system only to disappoint woefully. It’s with this in mind that Guerilla Cambridge knew it had an empty void to fill with Killzone Mercenary and the end result, though flawed, fills it and gives the Vita the first person shooter it deserves.
Killzone Mercenary isn’t a traditional Killzone game. Instead of being funnelled through a linear (though enjoyable) experience with an emphasis on action and chaos, Mercenary is more about tactics and experimentation. As you might have guessed from the title, you play as a mercenary, a mercenary named Arran Danner, a soldier of fortune fighting for a pay check. It’s a simple enough set up and the game doesn’t really have too much of a story in place as the emphasis is all about how you play the game but the game more than makes up for that.
You’re assigned contracts in Mercenary which you’ll have to complete if you want your money. And with all the weapons and equipment the game has to offer, you’ll really want to get that cash. Each kill gives you money which you can put towards buying a new gun or perhaps a flying drone or even a portable shield. It’s really your choice what you spend it on but the more you experiment the more money you get. You’ll get more money if you sneak around and pick off enemies one-by-one with a silenced sniper rifle and a knife instead of shooting up the place for example. However, the stealth has a tendency to be tricky at times since the AI are too responsive and are likely to spot you straight away which makes harder than it has to be in most cases. Killzone Mercenary plays more like Zipper Interactive’s Unit 13, the Vita’s best third person shooter in the sense that you’re given a map to traverse and enemies are in the middle so it’s up to you how you want to do it.
Killzone Mercenary is by no means a lengthy game however. My total playthrough of the game clocked in at around three and a half hours. However this isn’t to say there isn’t any replay value because there definitely is. Whilst you’re unlikely to unlock every weapon and gadget in your first playthrough of the game, there’s the incentive to go back and really try out the varied weapon roster which is far bigger and more diverse than we’ve ever seen in a Killzone game before. You’ll have a loadout to assign to Danner in Mercenary so this means you’ll get one primary weapon, a secondary plus grenades and gadgets which are probably some of the best devices for killing you’ll find in the game. Guerilla Cambridge have been really inventive with the Vanguard weapons here. For example, the Porcupine missiles will allow you to fire missiles at will simply by tapping the touchscreen targets.
In true Killzone fashion, the controls are responsive as ever but take some work in order for you to get used to it. Like Killzone 2 & 3, the game retains the franchise’s trademark “heavy” feel. You feel as if you’re controlling a person as opposed to a shopping trolley with arms and a gun attached to it. That being said, Killzone Mercenary’s controls aren’t quite as heavy as Killzone 2 as the game feels more like Killzone 3 with a lighter, quicker character.
Being a Vita game, Killzone Mercenary also comes with touchscreen controls. For the most part these work pretty well and you’ll see yourself perform melee kills by swiping the touchscreen in accordance to onscreen prompts and you’ll also have to use it to solve hacking puzzles and the like. The touch functions can be turned off if or reassigned you wish to give yourself the full console experience. This proved handy in some cases as I found the touchscreen prompt for switching your weapons to be unresponsive at times. Fortunately, pressing “right” on the D-pad can swap your weapon far more quickly and organically.
Graphically, Killzone Mercenary shines. Built on a modified version of the Killzone 3 engine, the game looks almost indistinguishable from its console counterparts. Apart from one instance, the framerate held up incredibly well throughout my playthrough which is impressive given how powerful the game is. For a game set in a pretty grimy universe, Killzone Mercenary looks beautiful. Light reflects off of surfaces, textures are crisp and the draw distances are good save for a few texture pop-ins every now and then.
However this game takes up quite a bit of memory and it’ll absolutely eat up your battery power so if you’re playing on a long journey you may want to play it in short bursts. Luckily the levels are short enough to accommodate to this so you’ll be able to play a full level and feel satisfied.
Like any first person shooter on the market, Killzone Mercenary has its multiplayer. And it’s good, provided you can get a decent connection. On the times I was able to get into a game I was kicked after a few minutes for having a poor connection. Other times I simply didn’t get in but when you do get connected to a game, there is fun to be had. The Internet connection I was using for this review is more than reliable so hopefully it’s a problem Guerilla Cambridge can iron out on their end.
What you can play however is well worth the £27.00 asking price for this title. Killzone Mercenary sports three modes for you to sink your teeth into; Team Deathmatch, Deathmatch and Warzone. If you’ve played any first person shooter in the past eight years, you’ll know what the former two are. Warzone however you may be less familiar with though some other games do have it. This mode gives players five rounds with five objectives for you to strive towards. This mode lasts around 25 minutes per match so you’ll be able to get quite a lot of playtime out of it.
The six maps issued with the game are good enough for the eight player matches they support though none of them really stand out as well as they could. What mixes up multiplayer are the randomised Vanguard gadget deployments which give whoever gets to them first some handy perks such as the previously mentioned Porcupine missiles or a UAV drone type device which allows you to blast opponents from orbit. Players can also pick a loadout for their multiplayer character.
You can also use the money earned from killing opponents to purchase new weapons, armour and gadgets similar to other shooters. It’s a welcome edition to the game as the past two Vita FPS offerings, Resistance and Call of Duty were about as bare-bones as you could ask for when it came to multiplayer. It’s not the deepest multiplayer to ever grace gaming but there’s a lot here and it’s well worth your time and money.
Killzone Mercenary, though flawed is the first person shooter the PlayStation Vita has been waiting for and that’s what you’ve come here to find out. Mercenary’s single player is almost uncomfortably short but since it’s on a handheld its length makes it ideal for commutes or mid-length journeys. Whilst the story won’t interest many, the mechanics of the singleplayer feel just like its console counterparts almost to the point of where its hard to distinguish the two. It feels the part and more importantly, it looks the part. Killzone Mercenary really takes advantage of the PlayStation Vita’s hardware and is a clear example of a game you should have in your Vita collection.
Multiplayer has its problems with connectivity but when (or if) you can get into a game, it’s rather fun and it’s surprisingly deep for a handheld’s multiplayer offering. Though there are only six maps and eight players, it runs smoothly when it works and the action gets competitive and intense very quickly. Once again, this game feels like Killzone instead of some cheap imitation which shares the name alone.
You’ll get through Killzone Mercenary pretty quickly but there’s a more than generous offering of replayability in the campaign and of course, there’s multiplayer which should really shine as soon Guerilla fix its connection problems.
- Authentic Killzone look and feel.
- Tons of weapons, gadgets and perks.
- Varied levels.
- Different approach to the series’ traditional gameplay.
- Poor multiplayer connection.
- Short campaign.
George Sinclair is the Chief News Editor for Analog Addiction, the home of the latest news, reviews and previews. You can find George on Twitter but you should be sure to follow the OFFICIAL Analog Addiction Twitter as well!