In it for the money.
With the launch of the PlayStation Vita handheld console, shooter fans cried with joy at the prospect of being able to play their favorite genre whilst on the move. The Vita, with its twin sticks, seemed to be created with the shooter genre in mind.
However, as time passed, shooter fans waited. Resistance: Burning Skies and Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified both turned up on the Vita scene and were discarded quickly as neither of them really hit that “home console on the move” shooter experience that gamers were waiting for. Things were looking grim. But then the release of a mobile spin off from a popular PS3 franchise made an appearance and things started to look rosy again, albeit covered in blood…
Killzone Mercenary could well be the game that shooter fans have been so long waiting for. As far as story lines go, things are a bit lacking, but what would you expect? Taking on the role of a mercenary, the player will find themselves dancing with both the ISA and the Helghast in this game, which is a nice little twist on the previous Killzone games, with Mercenary being based after the first game in the series.
As I already mentioned, the story is not the deepest, and the fact that it only runs to four or five hours may leave players somewhat shortchanged. Being able to replay missions certainly adds some value to the game, with the revisited missions offering different objectives to keep things fresh. And then there is the hugely entertaining multiplayer, but more on that in a minute.
When it comes to the shooty stuff, Killzone Mercenary performs very well. The game feels and handles like a grown-up shooter, albeit with the occasional need to get touchy and feely with the screen. Just because the Vita has a touchscreen, doesn’t mean that the game has to use it. Mercenary thankfully keeps these interactions to a relevant minimum with things like the occasional hacking game, melee moves or using some of the very cool new equipment. It doesn’t get in the way as much as some other Vita titles, and feels more natural rather than just being there for the sake of it.
The real joy in Mercenary is that the player is given a choice as to how they approach missions. Players earn money for kills and completing missions, and thus can mix up their load out at the Black Market crates that can be found throughout the game. Hand over your money and walk away with a nice selection of different weaponry and equipment. This gives the player the chance to tailor their load out to how they want to approach the given mission, stealthy or guns blazing. The most impressive new toys available to the player are the VAN-Guard systems and include such delights as an orbital laser and a remote controlled attack drone.
The stealthy approach is available for almost all of the missions, with the enemy being unaware of the players presence. But the stealth angle is not forced onto the player, being entirely optional, so the more gung ho player can run around with bullets flying should they wish. Of course, a combination of stealth and all-out action is where most players will find themselves, and the ability to change a load out means that the player need never be caught short when switching between the two.
The single player campaign is an enjoyable romp, but does run a bit short. But the real thing missing from handheld shooter experiences, something which fans will be hoping is provided here, is a proper multiplayer game. And Killzone Mercenary does not disappoint.
The multiplayer may only pack in three different modes, but when they are this good, we don’t need any more. Mercenary Warfare and Guerilla Warfare take the place of deathmatch and team deathmatch, providing a staple multiplayer experience. Then there is the much more involving Warzone mode which sets objectives for the players to accomplish amongst all of the chaos. It is thrilling fun, made even more impressive by the fact that it is mobile.
Which is what it all comes down to in the end. Killzone Mercenary looks stunning, for a handheld game. Killzone Mercenary plays really well, for a handheld game. Killzone Mercenary has impressive multiplayer, for a handheld game. Had Mercenary arrived on the PS3, it could be called an average but capable shooter. On the Vita however, it really is so much more.
Killzone Mercenary is quite possibly the best shooter that we can hope for on the PlayStation Vita. It is not perfect, but the flaws are overlooked because it has been squeezed into a portable gaming system. I would not rush out and buy a Vita just to play this game, but if you already own a Vita and have a passing interest in shooters, then Killzone Mercenary is an essential purchase.