Review

Killzone: Mercenary is not the shooter Vita fans were looking for. From a very lackluster single-player experience to a stripped down and limited multiplayer game, this is a disappointment across the board.

Both Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified and Resistance: Burning Skies have been the two major attempts at bringing the first person shooter genre to Sony’s handheld. Neither were exactly what Vita owners were looking for in terms of quality. Developer Guerilla Cambridge, who in the past have created games such as the first two MediEvil titles for the Playstation, are taking a shot. Unfortunately, while decent, Killzone: Mercenary is nothing special.

In terms of the single-player campaign, you take the role of mercenary Arran Danner who works for whichever side will give him the highest paycheck which means over the course of the campaign, you will be fighting both ISA forces as well as Helghast. The story takes place sometime before the conclusion of Killzone 2 but does very little to tell a compelling tale. Chances are, you will not care about any character whatsoever. There are double-crosses and betrayals and all of them are obvious as the story progresses.

All of these lead up to a conclusion that could have had major consequences in the lore of the Killzone franchise, only to squander the impact and make this feel like a waste of everyone’s time, both yours and Danner’s. Oh, also the campaign is incredibly short. My final playtime on the normal difficulty setting was three hours and twenty-three minutes. Sure this is a portable game and each mission takes between 10-25 minutes which is a good size for playing on the go, but there is no excuse for so short of a story. This narrative had the potential to be special and if it lasted longer, who knows how good it could have been. Also start off on Veteran difficulty which is the hardest available. The normal equivalent (Trooper) is far too easy even for casual FPS players.

Oh did I mention that all melee attacks involve the touch screen? Yeah, I was trying to forget about it too.

Oh did I mention that all melee attacks involve the touch screen? Yeah, I was trying to forget about it too.

There are some other issues in the campaign from a technical perspective. The game looks great but you can tell the limitations of the hardware. There are no large open arenas with almost all locations being set within small town or industrial settings with no vehicle segments outside of a couple of turret sequences. The mission design goes from pretty good in the earlier missions and progressively becomes worse and worse. By the end, it gets to the point where missions are series of “hit switch, spawn enemies” over and over. Also many times it doesn’t make sense as you will flip a switch, enemies spawn and you take care of them. Then you go to the other side of the same room to hit another switch and enemies come out of the same doors the last ones did! It’s irritating and immersion breaking. There are also some glitches. One of the Van-Guard items, which are like special attacks (like a shield or stealth and operate on a cooldown), the Carapace, remains in some cutscenes obscuring your view. I also ran into a game breaking glitch when an NPC that was following me did not move and trigger the next section of the mission making me restart the entire mission.

However, many people won’t care too much about the campaign and come solely for the multiplayer. But before that, the most important aspect of the game needs to be discussed: gameplay. The good news is that it works well. If you have played any of the Killzone games on the PlayStation 3, this will feel familiar. The heavier motion and floaty aiming is there and it feels solid. There are some odd control layout choices due to the lack of R2, R3, L2 and L3 buttons, but they work and do not get in the way. There is a cover system which feels like it works 80% of the time and sometimes seems like nothing is there.

The shooting is satisfying and feels like playing Killzone 2 or 3.

The shooting is satisfying and feels like playing Killzone 2 or 3.

The experience system in the game is called the Valor Card system. Whether you are playing the campaign or multiplayer, experience goes toward ranks that work into the multiplayer. Every time you log into Killzone: Mercenary, you will be assigned a card which denotes your current level of skill and what your favorite weapon type is: Diamonds for sub-machine guns, Spades for sniper rifles, Clubs for assault rifles and light machine guns and Hearts for secondary weapons. It is interesting but does not feel like a satisfying system of accomplishment or notification of skill.

Multiplayer is fun, if not stripped down from its console counterparts.

Multiplayer is fun, if not stripped down from its console counterparts.

What is satisfying, however, is the multiplayer. There are three modes: Mercenary Warfare (Deathmatch), Guerrilla Warfare (Team Deathmatch) and Warzone which makes a return from Killzone’s console brethren. Multiplayer is fast paced and fun, especially in Warzone which has revolving objectives throughout the course of a match always keeping what your goal is different and fresh. It has a loadout system like many other shooters and overall the experience is a good one. However, it does feel somewhat limited with support for only eight players across six maps.

Killzone: Mercenary is somewhat of a conundrum. The gameplay itself shows that shooters have a welcome and inviting home on the Vita. Unfortunately everything surrounding the gameplay is bad. From the story, to the voice acting, both graphical and gameplay glitches, the small scale feel of each mission and the hollow feeling progression system prohibit the game from achieving greatness (not to mention that the final boss battle is terrible). While the multiplayer is good, there are only three modes which can feel limiting. Mercenary is not for Killzone fans but for the mainstream FPS audience which is a shame and even then, it should be a cautious buy. This is only recommended if you are foaming at the mouth for a competent multiplayer shooter on your Vita.

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About the Author

Ross
A recent college grad who just loves playing games. Hopefully I can help you save some money (and possibly spend more than you would like).