Fast, vicious, brutal, and visually stunning, Killzone: Mercenary is a big reason to own a PS Vita.
It’s been a road of highs and lows for Sony’s Portable Platform, the PlayStation Vita. “Vita”, a word defined as “ life”, has found only part of it. Price, software, and the competitive attributes of its competition has led to solid but limited success. Perhaps the area of most struggle has been the struggle to create a competitive first-person shooter that could hold its line against consoles. There was Resistance: Burning Skies, an unpolished but solid effort. There was Call of Duty: Black Ops II Declassified, an absolute disaster. Now, there is Killzone: Mercenary, the example that Vita owners have been searching for. Like its big console brothers before it, Mercenary dazzles its portable gamer with stunning visuals and excellent audio effects. As a game, it is a shooter that constantly rewards you on the go, features the many big staples of the franchise, and provides a whole new experience in the Killzone universe. If you’re a Killzone veteran like myself, this experience gets even better.
You are not part of the ISA. You are not part of The Helghast. You are a Mercenary, part of a special organization of former soldiers and special ops. You fight not for honor, pride, or servitude to country, but for money. Through 8 campaign missions, players are thrust into a conflict within a conflict: Playing both sides to get the top dollar. You’ll do whatever is necessary, and use unique weaponry, to get the job done. The story isn’t anything dynamic but it’s very interesting and it lends itself very well to the Killzone Universe. You see familiar landmarks and moments from the previous games as you play. From the nuclear explosion in Killzone 2 to the Helghan Invasion of the first game the areas visited are varied and interesting. You’ll also retrieve various intel pieces with special information on familiar parts of the game. For example, I interrogated one enemy colonel and came across a broadcast of Jan Templar’s heroic sacrifice aboard the ISA flagship, the New Sun. The game opens up the world of Killzone beyond the traditional conflict and the characters we’ve come to know. You see more of the universe here, which is great and a bit disappointing as you want to see more of it. The campaign missions all provide a lot of addicting, FPS carnage and can be replayed in different ways. Each way is a different mission structure, ranging from all loud action to stealth.
The game is focused around the fact that as a mercenary, you are literally reward for almost every little thing you do. Taking ammo off dead enemies, brutal melees, mercy kills, multi-kills, everything you do earns you credits. Those credits can buy you new weapons and equipment from pyro grenades to an armor piercing auto-shotgun. Some of these weapons are familiar to Killzone vets but are wholly unique on their own levels as well. Most unique to the mercenary is the VAN-Guard a digital display on your characters’ left wrist that allows you to access special weapons. These special weapons provide a much needed advantage over overwhelming enemy forces. From the porcupine multi- rocket launcher to an over shield and a mantis engine, these weapons are expensive but awesome to use in stiff combat. Multiplayer also returns. While the number is reduced, it is just as exciting and addictive as their older console brothers, and features its own specific twists.
This all wraps together with solid controls. The controls do take a slight bit of getting used to naturally, but they are incredibly accessible. You always have the options to use physical controls or the touchscreen. The triangle button can allow you to use brutal melee kills or scavenge for ammo but you can also use the touchscreen. Some tasks require touchscreen such as unlocking puzzle-based doors or setting a D-charge. But they actually help enhance the experience as you character will raise his left arm and access the VAN Guard, opening up you, the players’ action prompts. Shoulder buttons work great too along with the Dual analog sticks. It feels like a shooter on the go.
Presentation wise, the best way to describe this game is as if Guerilla Games literally took a pizza slice of the Killzone games and placed it into the game. It’s sharp, fast, and very polished. Shooting feels spot-on and everything is easy to navigate. If you remember that moment of awe when you played Killzone 2 for the first time in 2009, it’s the same here. My only drawback with the game is that the campaign could have been significantly longer to explore the Killzone universe on different lines. You’re a mercenary after all and the rules of traditional war do not apply. I’m sure there is more to the Extra-Solar War then just the ISA versus The Helghast. Perhaps, we will see DLC sometime down the line. Also, using an EXO-suit or a flight sequence would’ve been neat. I’ll speculate that as this game hits its stride on the Vita, perhaps there is a chance that the game will grow and become something instrumental with the upcoming Killzone: Shadow Fall on the PlayStation 4.
Killzone: Mercenary is a memorable , rock-and roll shooter. The mechanics work great, controls are responsive, and the game play keeps you coming back. There is plenty to do after the main campaign is finished so it’s a keeper. For the Vita, it’s the game it needed and it proves that shooters can work on the handheld. I see a bright future for the game and the developer. If you have a PS Vita, pick this up. If not, this is a big reason to own one.