Ever since I purchased my Playstation Vita, aside from the initial honeymoon period of my ownership, I’ve been pretty disappointed with the games available on the system. Yes, there are a couple of very good ports, both of the Rayman games recently, and a couple of decent releases here and there, but nothing really stood out for me. As far as shooters go, Unit 13 is an average game, and Black Ops Declassified is terrible, so when I heard about Killzone: Mercenary, I had a small amount of hope that Vita owners would finally be getting something worthwhile. Now, it should be said that I’ve played both Killzone 2 and Killzone 3 without being wowed, for me the story was forgettable and the gameplay was bland. In the days leading up to the release of Mercenary, I broke out KZ3 and gave it another whirl, and still….nothing. I was pretty much prepared for more disappointment.
The game starts out stating that beyond the soldiers from the ISA and Helghast, there were a third group of soldiers, Mercenaries. These Merc did not follow lines of beliefs, they followed money, and you’re a Mercenary named Arran Tanner. You’ve been tasked to help the ISA to liberate Vekta, and the truth behind both of the ISA’s and the Helghast cause comes to light as Tanner fights for both sides. Soon, decisions need to be made, and lines in the sand need to be drawn, but on which side does Tanner fall under?
Killzone: Mercenary is a first person shooter, with typical FPS controls, but with some added touchscreen utilization. There are 9 missions all together, but with different Contracts (Covert, Demolition, and Precision) each with their own objectives, there is massive replay value. It’s a good thing, because my first playthrough took only 6 hours. The controls do suffer from the Vita’s short joysticks; the movement is jerky until the player gets more accustomed to the game. Moreover, the touchscreen controls, surprisingly, are done well, are intuitive, and actually add to the immersion of the game. Lastly, there is aim assist for all you CoD fans, and due to the touchy controls, this is a good thing.
For me, the multiplayer on KZ:M was the most surprising part of the game. I didn’t think that I would enjoy MP on a handheld. Normally, when I play online, I have my headset on and my TV dialed in for the most realistic experience, which I would not be able to do on the Vita. But after one round, I was hooked on the multiplayer; the three different modes are interesting. The game features Mercenary Warfare, which is a free for all deathmatch, Guerilla Warfare, a team deathmatch, and Warzone, which is a team based rotating objective mission. I really enjoyed the Warzone; the rotating objectives require the player to change gameplay style from killing to tactical, which I really enjoyed.
Odds and Ends
Killzone: Mercenary is an FPS, not an emotional story based game, and the writing and voice acting follows suit, they get the job done, but at the end of the day it’s pretty forgettable. The soundtrack is solid, though, and the sound effects and visuals are done well for a handheld game. I was able to progress through the game without experiencing any glitches, and I found that the combat was fun and not repetitive. In fact, with the VAN-Guard weapons, or killstreak type weapons that reload after use, even while replaying levels, keep the game fresh.
After dismissing the game, I have to say, Killzone: Mercenary surprised me. By far, it’s the best shooter on the Vita, but even beyond that, it’s a solid game in general. I enjoyed all aspects of the game, and the different ways that the developers allowed me to play their game. Overall, I’d give Killzone: Mercenary a 85/100, giving major credit to the “fun factor” and customization of the gameplay. I finally have hope that we’ll start seeing more fun games like this come out for the Vita.