Killzone: Mercenary – Review (Vita)

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What is it about Killzone games and showcasing a system’s graphical power? Killzone 2 and 3 showed how good the PS3 could look and Killzone Shadowfall seems to be making a case for the PS4. In amongst all this comes Killzone Mercenary for the PS Vita, Sony’s handheld machine.

Not only are Vita owners crying out for a big budget game (I love the indie stuff but we do need a batch of bigger budget titles as well) but the history of the FPS genre on Vita is chequered, to say the least. I ploughed quite a bit of time into Resistance: Burning Skies and Call Of Duty: Black Ops Declassified’s online offerings but they weren’t fantastic.

So have Guerrilla Cambridge managed to deliver on the promise of a big budget, graphical powerhouse that plays like its big brothers?

A definitive ‘yes’ is the answer.

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Killzone Mercenary gives you a big, set piece filled campaign mode, broken up into individual missions with handheld gaming in mind. The missions themselves vary in length – some were 20/25 minutes, whereas some edged towards the hour mark. I was playing on the hardest setting though, so your mileage may vary if you’re playing on lower settings.

One thing a lot of people noted in their previews was that you have a lot of choice in how to approach missions – quite often there may be two or three different ways through an area. For the main game you can play however you like and attempt to rescue a situation that has spun out of control.

However there are also three other versions of each mission: Precision (Quick), Covert (Sneaky) and Demolition (Loud!). While these add specific fail states (i.e Stealth through the lab etc.), it’s not just as simple as replaying every level the same way with a couple of different conditions – some of these objectives will take you to totally different areas of the level that you might have missed on your first playthrough.

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The game controls like the PS3 versions of Killzone, which is a good thing in my book. The weapons have a nice heft to them and they feel different enough to warrant switching them out if you need a change. To do that you’ll have to visit Blackjack. He’s the in-game black market dealer for weapons and the like. You’ll need to use in-game cash to purchase a weapon or van-guard ability before being able to use it. You can then chop and change (for a price) during missions at arms dealer crates scattered across the level.

The campaign itself was thoroughly enjoyable, this time positioning you as a merc rather than ISA grunt. So while you will still be fighting the Helghast you’ll also have missions where you’re facing off against the ISA. It certainly felt strange killing the ISA in a story driven context but it did give the game a fresh direction, which was good.

I played through the entire campaign, then went through again doing each mission on the covert settings and am now on my third playthrough as demolition. I don’t remember the last time I played a campaign more than twice? In fact, I’m not sure if I ever have since the Mega Drive days? Which tells you a lot about Mercenary but also about how much I love the Killzone universe 🙂

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Multiplayer will be the big draw for most people though and I’m pleased to say Guerrilla Cambridge have managed to squeeze an impressive online offering into the package. The action here is 4v4, with 6 maps of differing size and there is a fair bit of variety within the levels. Each of them have their own nooks and crannies, as well as lots of verticality.

This means you can get the drop on your enemies if you know the maps well enough and gives the game a lot of replayability. You level up across single and multiplayer so if you’re not within reach of a wi-fi signal playing the single player stuff offline will net you in-game cash to spend and anything unlocked via Blackjack is available both off and online.

Some people have reported trouble connecting to games in the online beta but I haven’t had any problems so far and I expect the final game to be more refined so hopefully that won’t be an issue.

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Overall, Killzone Mercenary is a fantastic offering for long suffering Vita FPS fans. There is a substantial campaign here with lots of replayability but, crucially, broken up into manageable level sizes. Online the game holds up – of course it’s not quite as big as the PS3 offerings – but there is a lot of fun to be had here. I am a huge Killzone fan but I believe even with no knowledge of the other games Mercenary is a top quality title that everyone can (and should) enjoy.

Rating: 10/10

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1 Comment

  1. […] maps are well designed and take a leaf out of Killzone Mercenary‘s book – granting you lots of different ways to get around (ladders/vents etc.), […]


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