The PS Vita has struggled to find its own blockbuster exclusive for many months now.
After the flop that was Call of Duty: Declassified, many people feared the console was incapable of producing a quality FPS title. Even Sony’s own Resistance: Retribution failed to show the full potential of the PS Vita’s power as well.
When Killzone: Mercenary was first announced, many people got excited because it appeared to be the one game that would make the PS Vita relevant again.
Not to mention screenshots showed that the game was more than capable of producing PS3-like quality visuals.
With the game now out, does Killzone Mercenary live up to the hype?
When it comes to some handheld versions of well-known console video games, the portable versions are usually rushed and feel “cheap”. One has to only play Call of Duty: Declassified to know that it was a “cash-in” title and lacked the features of the main games in the franchise.
Thankfully, you won’t witness any corners being cut while playing Killzone: Mercenary. The game feels and plays like any of the other Killzone games I’ve played on the PS3.
The graphics are simply excellent and you’ll be hard pressed to notice the difference between this game and the Killzone games that were released on the PS3. Not to mention the game itself has lots of action and explosions like a FPS style of game should have.
Even while playing the game when lots of enemies were on the screen, the action was smooth throughout and I rarely experienced any lag or drops in framerate. A remarkable achievement considering the preview I played just months before was riddled with lag and framerate issues.
I was actually surprised how invested I got into the story of this game. When the game started, I thought it would have featured an uninteresting and predictable storyline with bland characters. Boy was my assumption for the game very wrong. The best thing I liked Arran Danner (the main character) is that he’s a mercenary and he’s also mute.
All he’s there for is to earn money and he doesn’t care if it’s an assignment for the ISA or Helghast. This made the story exciting and unpredictable because you never knew who he was loyal to. Even some of the characters that you meet also have hidden agendas as well...
The best part about Killzone: Mercenary is that it has its own flavor and is not just a “port” of the PS3 versions. This is because the game introduces many gameplay modes that are unique to this game and make the experience more fun than ever before.
The biggest addition is a new loadout system that has been included where an arms dealer named “Blackjack” has crates scattered throughout each of the levels. These loadouts become very helpful because you can use them to buy ammo, weapons, armor, grenades and also unique gadgets called “VAN-guards”. The VAN-guard gadgets are fun because they allow you to control drones that vary in usefulness.
There’s a drone that electrocutes enemies while one of my favourites is the one that is a heat seeking missile launcher. In order to earn enough money for these upgrades, you earn them by killing enemies, scrounging for ammo and completing missions.
Another great thing about the loadouts is that they are pretty much everywhere. If you need a more powerful weapon to tackle some of the boss fights near the end of the game, you can be sure to see a crate conveniently located there to make your job easier.
One of the things I like most about the Killzone games is that they are the only few FPS games out there that has some sort of a cover system. The level design is excellent because there is always some place for you to hide if you find yourself being surrounded. Not to mention the gameplay is smooth throughout and the collision detection is accurate too. There was rarely a moment where my bullets didn’t kill my enemies.
Unique to Killzone: Mercenary is the PS Vita’s unique controls. Melee attacks are smooth and very satisfying because all you need to do to initiate them is by pressing the triangle button, and then swiping on the touch screen to finish your enemy off. If you swipe in the wrong direction, the enemy will kick you off.
Needless to say, the melee attacks are brutishly enjoyable to do and are humorous to watch sometimes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a FPS game before that allows you to stab an enemy below the belt…
The other unique feature for this game is that you can use the PS Vita’s gyroscope to aim down the sights of your gun. You will need to do this at home because I doubt you could move around the PS Vita much if you’re playing the game on a train or bus. It’s a neat gimmick that works really well and is a great alternative to a Move controller.
Usually in FPS games, the A.I. is pretty dumb whether this be your allies and the enemies themselves. In Mercenary however, the A.I. is actually smart which makes the game a little bit more unpredictable. When it comes to your allies, they are actually useful and kill their own enemies.
In other games, the A.I. usually stands there doing absolutely nothing. The enemies aren’t dumb too because they constantly hide behind cover and sometimes even creep up behind you!
The first half of the single player mode of Killzone: Mercenary is quite fun because there are many sections that allow you to be “stealth”.
There aren’t too many FPS games out there that allow you to sneak up on enemies so it was a nice change of pace knowing that I could play this way. Sure, most sections of the game usually end up with firefights, but it varied the gameplay somewhat.
The same cannot be said about the latter half of the game especially with the last three stages or so of the single player campaign. This is when business starts to pick up and the game feels like any other FPS game I’ve played with lots and lots of enemies shooting at you relentlessly all of the time.
One thing that I noticed about the game is the lack of people that were playing the game online. This might be a combination of a number of factors, but I still question how much longer people are going to play this portion of the game.
Not to mention Killzone: Shadow Fall will be out this November for the PS4. I suspect many players will migrate to that game in a few months’ time and the game’s multiplayer mode might feel emptier even more than it is now.
Another factor to consider is that there is a lack of multiplayer modes in this game too. There are only three modes to choose from and after a couple of games, you might get bored of them very quickly. Also the PS Vita can only handle eight players at one time so you cannot have large scale battles like you can on the PS3 and more powerful gaming systems.
If you're playing the single player campaign, don't expect to play a marathon because you may be able to complete it in around four hours or so. Even though there are nine levels in total, they're not very long and are even shorter if you play through them again when you know where you are going.
In the game's defense however, there are incentives to play through the game more than once. This is because you can play through the levels again but by clearing new objectives.
If you can clear all of the objectives, you'll earn more money for weapons and other upgrades you wish to spend. Still, if you did not like playing through the single player mode the first time, you may be discouraged to play through it again…
Killzone: Mercenary is everything you would ever want from a high quality FPS video game. The gameplay is action packed and very enjoyable and the game doesn’t suffer from too many technical issues too. In terms of graphics, the game might be the best looking PS Vita game ever.
That being said, the game might not be fun for non-FPS fans since it doesn’t really break any new boundaries. However if you own a PS Vita, adding this game to your collection is a no-brainer as it’s one of the best exclusives the console has to offer.
Bear in mind though that the single player mode is very short and the multiplayer community is pretty small at the moment.
Lasting Appeal: 7.0