Back in 2006 Guerilla Games released a top-down, isometric shooter on the PSP called Killzone: Liberation. The game received middling reviews, but proved the series had potential on handheld platforms. Now Guerilla Cambridge is developing Killzone: Mercenary for the PlayStation Vita, a full-fledged FPS that feels more like a true Killzone experience. During a pre-E3 event this week in Santa Monica, California, I got my hands on the game’s single- and multiplayer modes.
Mercenary follows a gun-for-hire that pledges no allegiance to the valorous ISA or insidious Helghast. Players fight along both sides throughout the game’s campaign. The mission I took part in had me battling Helghast forces on an outpost nestled in a huge canyon. The scenario begins with the player creeping through a cave towards an opening. A Helghast soldier holds a good guy at gunpoint, who pleads for his life. I choose to unload a couple precise shots to the red-eyed soldier’s head. He drops. I continue to explore the narrow, suspended walkways while either stealth killing or blasting enemies.
Gunplay is faithful to the Killzone series. The Vita hardware does a good job conveying the series’ sense of weight. Aiming with the thumbsticks feels precise, but lining up shots takes an extra second or two at the default settings. The visuals are also among the best I’ve seen in my time with the Vita. The lighting, detailed character models, and expansive canyon setting are impressive for a portable device. Swiping the touchscreen to melee foes took a couple trials to master, but eventually the controls felt natural.
After getting a feel for how the game plays, I chose to test my mettle in multiplayer. Players can compete online in Warzone– a series standby featuring team-based matches with rotating objectives. One moment you have to sprint to an airdropped package, and the next you have to kill anything that moves. I experienced no latency when playing multiplayer, and the maps had plenty spots to take cover when things get heated. I found the Vita’s small screen limiting during some of Mercenary’s more frantic moments. I regularly tripped up on a waist-high barrier or accidently walked off a ledge.
Killzone: Mercenary is shaping up to be one of the more faithful portable iterations I’ve seen of an FPS franchise. Guerilla Cambridge appears to have had to make very few concessions given the hardware’s limitations, but it’s yet to be seen whether the final product, releasing September 17, nails the series’ large-scale campaign battles.
Check out a developer diary for Killzone: Mercenary here.