The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 13
Since the Vita launched two years ago, players have been dying for a handheld shooter. Uncharted: Golden Abyss was close, and I use every waking moment to forget Resistance: Burning Skies and Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified.
Killzone Mercenary does almost everything right. It caters to both gamers who want a decently long game with a strong sense of console quality, and that made up "We only want 3 minute long missions" minority Sony made up. In reality, it's like a downsized version of Killzone 3, in more ways than just the fact that it's a portable.
Killzone: Mercenary puts you in the hands of Arran Danner, gun for hire caught in the midst of the ISA and Helghast war. It's worth it to note that you are a mercenary here; so obviously you have no ties to either side. Don't expect to be loyal to any cause throughout this game. You will see just as many ISA in your sights as you will Helghast. This story is exclusive to this game, and has no ties to Sev and the others in the console titles. I felt the story to be the weakest part of the game, not only because of the fact that Danner doesn't speak, (Or is ever shown on screen for that matter, unlike Sev from 2 and 3) but that the main campaign is only five hours long. That's not such a bad thing for some games, but the story feels like it gets along too quickly, and ends a bit abruptly.
Introduced into Mercenary are the Contracts mode. The idea is that you can replay any campaign mission in either a stealth, skill, or explosive based run. With each contract you choose, you are given special tasks, such as assault rifle kills, destroy all of *insert objective*, or get through a certain area undetected. These are fun diversions after you complete the campaign, and will help you reach that ever illusive million dollar trophy.
On the gameplay side of the single player, everything runs smoothly. Shooting feels precise (Even more so with the gyroscope activated), and the controls work well. Since there are no secondary triggers or click-able analogues on the PS Vita, melee and sprinting have been remapped to the front and rear touchpad/screen. To sprint, you double tap the touchpad. (Or use the circle button, but that gets in the way of crouching, so it's best to turn it off if you don't want any accidental sliding into a guard.) To throw grenades, melee, switch weapons, and use the new Vanguard system (More on that later), you'll find the corresponding prompts on the screen.
Many of the weapons are identical to Killzone 3. With the assault rifle, shotguns, snipers, and rockets from both factions all present. There is a new suppressed sub machine gun, but it's completely terrible. It fires too fast and does too little damage to be worth using in anything but campaign, but there are other stealthy alternatives that render the weapon useless. Brutal Melee was introduced in Killzone 3, but that only required one button push. Mercenary takes this one step further by slowing down the combat, prompting you to swipe across the screen in a certain manner to complete the melee kill. Movement feels quite different from other shooters, in that you are slower and a little more weighted down. It feels more realistic in this sense, but it may be a bit difficult for newcomers.
One of the biggest additions to Killzone Mercenary is the Vanguard system. You can buy them from the BlackJack store littered throughout the game. The best way to describe them is like the killstreaks from the Call of Duty series. With one tap of the screen, the Vanguard activates, and (depending on which one you choose) you switch screens to whatever you chose. There are many types of Vanguards. One works like a personal bodyguard, that will attack enemies that near you. There is a air support type, where you can call in missile strikes with a tap of the touchscreen. Quite a few more are in store for you to discover, those of which I won't spoil.
Level design is much more open than that of it's console brethren. Each mission is open and has many different paths. Stealth is also a viable option, and one that is better used than killing everything in sight. You can run straight down a hall way, brutally murder everything in your path, but in turn have reinforcements to deal with. Or, you can search around, climb atop the building and drop in at the other end, without so much as a peep. This level design is much welcome in a shooter series, especially one on handheld.
Oh, and there's the graphics. We all know the Vita is a powerful machine, and that Mercenary uses Killzone 3's engine, but I did not expect it to look this good. The characters, environment, and lighting is of a quality that is unheard of on a handheld, and really pushes the Vita to it's limits. And what's more, there's barely a stutter in gameplay or framerate. The Vita takes this demanding game in stride, and really shows what developers can do with the system.
On the multiplayer front, things are a little bit different. Player count caps out at 4v4, but thankfully the maps fit to keep things from getting boring. Still, though, things feel a bit empty. In Killzone 3, multiplayer felt intense and realistic, showing you the craziness of war. Mercenary feels more like a firefight than a war, but it's understandable since the game is already being pushed to it's limits There are three game modes, Team Deathmatch, Free For All, and the classic WarZones mode. The first two are self explanatory, but WarZones is a bit different. Like Killzone 3, WarZones tasks teams with completing randomized objectives. Things such as capturing certain territories on the map, hacking terminals, and straight up killing each other. The team with the most points at the end of the round wins. This creates a diversity not seen in multiplayer shooters very often, and that's what sets this series apart from other shooters. It's also good to note that any weapons or equipment you purchase in the campaign carries over into multiplayer, and vice versa; which is a great addition for on the go players.
Overall, Killzone: Merecenary is an impressive package. With the fun and replayable campaign, Contracts, and Multiplayer, you are getting your money's worth. All that, combined with the best graphics I've seen on a handheld, and you've got yourself a strong title for the PlayStation Vita.
Thanks for reading my review. Have anything to add to it? Of course not, nobody owns a Vita. But if you are one of the five who do, tell me what you think of the system. I'd love to hear what any of you have to say.