Developer: Guerrilla Cambridge
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: September 10th, 2013
Available on: Playstation Vita
First person shooters on the Playstation Vita have been a real problem, especially when the handheld was designed with them in mind. Resistance: Burning Skies was only okayish, but Call of Duty: Black Ops – Declassified was legendarily bad. Now Sony’s biggest first person shooter IP steps in and thankfully it’s to good results.
Killzone: Mercenary’s story takes place during the events of the first two Killzone games. You play as a mercenary named Arran Danner, someone who’s mostly looking to get in and get as much money from the war as possible before getting out. A wrench is suddenly thrown into his plans when a biological weapon emerges that has a chance of killing an entire planet. The good news about the story is that by showing the game from a third perspective and not tying it to the ISA or Helgast you get to see both the good and bad from both sides. Its always been implied that the ISA were kind of dicks, but Killzone: Mercenary offers a chance of actually seeing that in action. Likewise, you get to see some Helgast civilians and others not interested in a war with the ISA. It’s a nice change of pace and helps flesh out the Killzone universe even more, though the actual story around it is pretty much not worth paying attention to.
Surprisingly, Killzone: Mercenary plays almost exactly like what you’d expect from a console shooter. There is some awkwardness with the controls to compensate for less buttons however. Switching weapons has been relegated to the touchscreen, and if you want to sprint you first need to hit circle to duck and then hold it down while moving. If you want to use a melee attack you need to hit triangle near an opponent, then swipe the touchscreen in the way the game tells you to. It has a bit of a learning curve, but once you get into it you’ll find that the game manages pretty well. The game isn’t short on fun moments either. One mission, for example, sees you navigating through an embassy with a massive Helghan heavy providing you with backup. Another has you putting some cool looking wingsuits to use. Each mission has you start with making a loadout with various weapons, armor, and special abilities. Everything costs money, and many actions in the game reward you with the money you need. You can earn bonus money for doing things like interrogating officers, saving hostages, or finding hidden documents which helps encourage some level exploration.
Not everything goes great though. The campaign is on the extremely short side, only lasting about five or so hours. There’s a couple crummy moments stuck in as well, the most notable being the last boss which adds an extreme difficulty spike for no real reason. For those looking to extend the singleplayer life of the game you may find some entertainment in taking on the extra assignments. Each level comes with three extra assignments that focus on either precision, stealth, or demolition. While it sounds interesting at first, what this basically amounts to is “replay the level with a set of new objectives.” An example would be replaying the first level with the precision assignment, which then requires you to make 25 headshots with a certain gun, rescue all hostages, complete the level in under 20 minutes, and some other assignments. Failing any objective is an instant loss. If you really enjoyed the campaign and was looking for ways to change things up you may like the assignments, but for most people it’s not worth it.
Once you’re ready you can hop into the game’s online multiplayer, something it really shines in. Killzone: Mercenary allows for eight players to compete in either team or regular deathmatches, or in Killzone’s popular warzone mode. All the money you make in singleplayer will carry over to multiplayer, which means you can get some nice guns and equipment from the start. While it doesn’t offer anything crazy unique, I still find warzone’s constantly changing objectives to be really fun. One minute you’ll be playing a team deathmatch, and the next you’re capturing objective points, before shifting over to capture the flag. There is a few neat little touches though. For example, if you shoot a player enough times in the legs you can drop them to a wounded state. Then if you melee them you can interrogate them, which will temporarily show the locations of the other players on their team on your mini-map. You can also do the same if you can manage to melee the player from behind. The game also features a weird ranking system which assigns you a card from a deck of 52, depending on how you play the game. When you kill another player you can pick up their card and try to assemble a complete deck for extra money.
When the Playstation Vita was first announced, a lot of people realized that the two analogue sticks would finally make first person shoots on mobile platforms a possibility. Now with Killzone: Mercenary we have finally seen it happen with a pretty well made game. It’s a bit on the short side, but people interested in the multiplayer should consider enlisting into this mercenary’s crew.