Review: Killzone Mercenary

This is it, the game you have been waiting for, the PlayStation Vita’s killer app.

At least, that is what I would be saying if I believed in the concept of a killer app. For me, no one game is worth the price of a console – certainly exclusive titles are vitally important but they should never be the sole factor behind a purchase decision. However, if you have always liked the concept of the Vita but have been holding out for just the right title, whether it be a good first-person shooter or a good multiplayer experience on a handheld, then Killzone Mercenary may just be the straw to break the camel’s resolve.

Developer: Guerrilla Cambridge
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Reviewed on: PlayStation Vita
Release Date: Available Now

BRB-Score-5

Thankfully, the single player section of Killzone Mercenary is not the after-thought you might expect, given the track record of previous Vita first-person shooters. The campaign sees you take control of Aaron Danner, a mercenary plying his trade during the Vektan-Helgan war last seen in Killzone 3. Unlike the previous iterations of the series, instead of fighting for one side of the conflict, you are a part of a third-party operation, selling your skills to the highest bidder.

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As you are not a front-line soldier, your missions are also far more diverse, ranging from covert operations to escort missions to all-out assaults. Spread across nine different missions, the entire campaign can be completed in about five hours on a regular difficulty. While this may initially sound short, the new Contracts mode helps to add to the replayability of the experience. There are three additional game-play forms, Precision, Covert and Demolition – as each title suggests, these require you to meet certain criteria in order to complete the contracts. Time-limits, restrictions of weapons that can be used and numbers of kills to be achieved are some of the goals you must complete in order to earn the cash.

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As the name may suggest, Killzone Mercenary is all about money. Everything you do in the game either earns or loses you currency. Weapons caches are dotted throughout the environment, all run by the enigmatic Blackjack. Trading with him, allows you to buy the best gear and weapons. The options are vast and customisability of your load-out is impressive. Some of the more impressive purchases available are the VAN-Guards – these are rechargeable items that can help to swing an encounter in your favour. Aerial drones, satellite-powered lasers and mobile force-fields can all be purchased to aid in your campaign.

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All of these options and game modes add lots of reasons to come back to the game, but the primary reward for coming back is the visuals. Killzone Mercenary is quite simply the most impressive looking handheld title I have ever seen. Running at the Vita’s native resolution, the frame-rate is solid, the environments are colourful and brimming with atmosphere and the game’s movement maintains the signature heft the series is known for.

Moving to the Vita, Guerrilla Cambridge have also seen fit to include some of the console’s more unique control features – this ends up being both a blessing and a curse. Unfortunately, the mandatory screen swipes used during melee attacks in Uncharted: Golden Abyss return. This time, the swipes are simplified to one movement and the resulting deaths are inventive and rarely get repetitive. Best of all, the gyroscopic controls used to tweak down-the-sight aiming return and they again add hugely to the gaming experience.

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The area of the game most people will be interested in is multiplayer. Those people will be happy to learn that Killzone Mercenary maintains the high standards of the series. There are three main modes in multiplayer:

  • Mercenary Warfare is a free-for-all deathmatch with a time limit. The winner of the chaotic battle is whoever earns the most money during the bout.
  • Guerrilla Warfare pits two factions against each other in a team-based deathmatch. The team with the most kills win. Simples.
  • Warzone involves five different missions – each with its own rules and objectives. The results of each task are tallied at the end.

There are six multiplayer maps, and like the main campaign, they are varied and well-designed. Each one has its own choke points and kill zones (eh?!). One of the regular complaints I have with multiplayer modes is the balance of the game-play can overly favour regular players. Killzone Mercenary avoids this by allowing you to spend cash you earn from the single player campaign on gear for multiplayer.

This is the best looking Vita game ever created
The multiplayer is diverse and fun
The Contracts Mode adds a large amount of replayability to the single player
The primary single player campaign is short

Killzone Mercenary is quite simply the best first-person shooter available on Vita. While this is not currently a huge endorsement, it does create a lofty yardstick for the upcoming Borderlands 2 port to be measured against. To put it simply, if you own a Vita, you owe it to yourself to buy this game – if you don’t, it certainly adds to the argument for why you should.

The review copy of this title was purchased by the author.
Official Game Site

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Comments

  1. I have yet to play any Killzone games!! This one looks good though!

  2. ThaJM

    Played the multiplayer beta, and it was pretty impressive! The game looked fantastic, and the multiplayer was pretty lag-free. However, the controls were lackluster in my opinion. The game had a tendency of forcing my view forward whenever the reload animation played, in addition to the fact that the crouch, slide and run functions were all mapped to the same button. Ultimately though, it’s still the best portable fps i’ve ever played.

  3. I want this SOOOOOO badly.

  4. rh0gii

    @PMPB, buy the Vita and get it already! LOL

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