FPS’s have been tried before on the vita, and I can’t lie that I was apprehensive about playing Killzone: Mercenary. In the past there had been Resistance: Burning Skies which was decidedly average and Call of Duty Declassified which was decidedly awful, but I live in hope. So I strapped on my headphones and loaded it up, expecting to pass through an average shooter without paying much attention.
Boy was I wrong! – From the off Killzone: Mercenary has you on the edge of your seat, sitting up, paying attention and wanting more. The firefights are lively and towards the end of a level becoming far more challenging. The control system feels tight and well produced throughout and even the touch screen ones feel a natural part of the game.
The premise for the story is that during the war between the ISA and the Helghast you play as a merc, a gun for hire, whose sole purpose is to complete missions in order to collect the pay cheque regardless of who is paying that cheque. It’s not the most adventurous of storylines admittedly, and as it unfolds you can pretty much guess what the next mission will be, including what might happen, but that doesn’t hold you back from wanting to play more. In fact it may have made me enjoy the actual gameplay more. Whereas other games try hard to bring storylines to a shooter Killzone: Mercenary isn’t pretending to be anything other than what it is, a first person shooter full of action and brimming with weaponry and gameplay that is epic.
To begin with you are dropped in to a warzone and your instructions are clear, it’s a search and rescue. Predictably you shoot your way through to the objective, something goes awry and you have to shoot your way out of it escorting an injured person. There’s nothing special there or through the other missions, other than the way it’s delivered. It’s quick, frenetic and you have to think on your feet. You’ll earn credits for kills, and depending on how accurate you are depends on how much you earn, kill an enemy by melee and you’ll earn more. Complete a section stealthily and you’ll earn a bonus there too. You can also earn credits by scavenging ammo from fallen foes as you pass their cooling corpses and this serves two purposes. Ammo is not plentiful, other than picking it up from the dead, you have to buy it. So the more you pick up and the more accurate with headshots you are the more cash you have. The more cash you have the more weapons you can purchase. There are weapon sales points located through each level, and they’re highlighted in yellow on your map so there’s no need to hunt for them. Upon activating one you’ll be cloaked so that you’re safe while choosing what to purchase. (Yes, you can exploit this in the middle of a fight to boost energy levels!) Choices are fairly standard, primary includes automatic weapons and rifles, secondary is for shotguns, side arms and explosives such as rocket launchers. Then there’s grenades to choose and the VAN-Guard weapons. Activated by touchscreen you can purchase and then later deploy a variety of tech to gain an advantage. There are drones for scouting, drones for silent kills or disabling soldiers, as well as turrets for jamming signals. But they’re not cheap, hence the need for being accurate and stealthy from time to time. But choose carefully when you do. There’s no point in having a sniper rifle with one hit kills when you’re fighting in close proximity, and choice of weapon is all important in this game. One thing worth noting about Black Jack, who sells the weapons, is that for the vanguard systems there is a handy demo button under each one. So instead of having to spend a considerable amount of cash on one and finding it’s not what you needed, just press the screen and you’ll be walked through what it does, and how to operate it. It’s a really nice addition, not only because it’s graphically quite impressive but the vanguard weapons are seriously expensive and not to be chosen lightly.
Through the most part in the game you can get away with poor weapon choices, but this isn’t the case at the end of missions. Choose a main gun that requires reloading frequently and you can find yourself swamped by the enemy, choose a shotgun and then need to be able to take large armoured enemies out from a distance and you’ll die fairly quickly, die several times and your kitty reduces meaning you’ll have less cash to spend on future weapons. Getting through each level to be fair is a lot of fun, whether it’s stealthy or run and gun.
Throughout you’ll have to hack panels using the touch screen, it’s a fairly simple process of matching parts of patterns to parts in a hexagon but has to be done quickly, and if you’re going to play multiplayer then it’s worth learning here. At the end of a mission, rather unsurprisingly, you’ll have to either fight your way out or defend for a period of time, and sometimes both but again, these parts are so much fun to play you’ll forgive the narrative for making it obvious. The total single player game took around 8 – 10 hours to complete, and there is some replay value there if you want to try all of the vanguard weapons, however, if you’re done with the single player side of things there’s a multiplayer game too!
As you’d expect when there’s no voice chat to steal bandwidth the multiplayer aspect runs smoothly. Your choice of game is for the most part fairly par for the course. Free-for-all, team death-match style and an objective based game. Here, once again Killzone: Mercenary doesn’t do anything different, but again it just works.
Killzone: Mercenary may not be a defining chapter for first person shooters, either for gamers or for the Vita, but it most definitely places a marker down to show what is possible on the console when it’s developed well.
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