With two analog sticks on the PlayStation Vita, we were all promised to finally have good first-person-shooters in the handheld market. Then games such as Resistance: Burning Skies and Call of Duty: Declassified come out all looks to be lost. Now we get Killzone: Mercenary, although it leaves the games mentioned beforehand looking like a joke and is the most fun in the Killzone series, it isn’t without problems and repetition.
In Killzone: Mercenary you take on the role of Arran Danner, who as the title of the game suggests is a mercenary. The main story of the game takes place a long side that of the first and second Killzone games. It is unique to see the battle between the Vekta and Helghan from this third party perspective. From this point of view the ISA is also painted in a less-than-heroic light and gives a little more depth to the Helghan point of view, but as a whole it is just as forgettable as the main story of the other games.
The strength of the story is partially due to the shortness of Mercenary. The campaign is a short one that only lasts a few hours and you bounce around doing work for everyone on both sides and hardly anything mentioned about doing so. The game goes out of its way to push you through everything and give little to no context for what you are doing. Also it is far from what I believe was told to us early in development that you would be able to choose your side. If so it is something they abandoned along the way. There isn’t much depth to the missions either. It is a constant grind as you go from area to area killing baddies and then at some point being stuck in an area fighting off waves of enemies. After a short time the game play starts getting very repetitive and hardly changes things up except in a few instances.
For the PlayStation Vita Killzone: Mercenary is a great FPS, but when it comes down to it and compared to the FPS genre as a whole it is pretty standard. The controls work well, although sometimes feel a little sluggish when the action gets really intense. It also doesn’t help that unless you get headshots the enemies are bullet sponges. There is a stealth element that was introduced and works pretty good for a FPS. Once you sneak up on a bad guy or get close to them even in a gun fight you can do a melee attack on them were you swipe the screen in whatever direction that is prompted. It is an easy way to force players to use the touch screen, but as your knife digs in it does feel pretty satisfying. There are other times to use the touch screen, but most of the time it is an option to use it or press the triangle button.
As said the game feels good and so the gun play works pretty well, outside of the stated before sluggishness that happens when fighting starts to feel over whelming. However, the game gives you some gadgets to help you along the way called VAN-GUARD gear. This is a set of equipment that helps you out on the battle field and can do a number of different things depending on the play style of the person. For instance there is the Porcupine which allows the player to shoot off homing missiles at different enemy targets. There is also The Mantys, which can be used to sneak up behind enemies to take them out silently without players risking themselves to do so and there is a number of other VAN-GUARDS that all work in different way.
You purchase VAN-GUARDS with money that you receive from getting kills. You also get money every time you pick up ammo from dead baddies. Different ways of killing people gets you different amounts of money. This money can be spent at Blackjack arms dealership, which is just boxes scattered throughout each level. Here you can also use your money to buy new primary weapons, secondary weapons, armor and other supplies like grenades. Unless you have a hard time deciding which weapons and gear you want to be set on, you will find yourself making way more money than needed. There is a small amount of everything to buy and use and if you get your load out the way you want quickly you will be building up money for nothing, except buying ammo from the arms dealer.
Killzone: Mercenary of course has an online mode in it as well. There are three different online game modes to choose from to play. There is Mercenary Warfare, Guerrilla Warfare and Warzone. Basically that is deathmatch, team deathmatch and Warzone is the fan favorite were two teams do battle as the match switches between different game play types.
Although the maps are thoughtfully designed, they are small and that causes for a lot of problems trying to stay alive. More than a few time I found myself literally spawned side by side someone from the other team. Although sometimes that proved helpful to score an easy kill, more times than not it ended with me dying before moving two steps.
For a portable game there doesn’t seem to be much lag, however I did run into a few situations of seeing another player bounce around from place to place or shoot someone and have them kill me instead. Of course I was playing in my home with my wifi, so there could be more of this if gamers are playing on the go using 3G I suppose.
Killzone: Mercenary rises quickly to the top of shooters on the PlayStation Vita, but that really isn’t saying too much for it seeing every shooter on the handheld system before it had been carelessly thrown together. It has its fun at times, but the story is forgettable and the game play does get repetitive quickly. It holds up if you play it for short bursts of time, but to sit down and play it for big chucks of time it will get boring. I am not at all a fan of the Killzone franchise, but this was the only one that I found decent enough to pick back up after a few sessions. Fans of the series will be happy and anyone that wants a well put together shooter on the Vita should be happy as well.