You would be forgiven if you thought that Killzone Mercenary was a PlayStation 3 game, it looks that good. Revealed at Gamescom 2012, Killzone: Mercenary blew the audience away with its console like graphics and multiplayer action that had never been seen on a handheld device since. Fast forward a year, and Guerrilla Cambridge have created the perfect console experience on the PS Vita. Players looking for the best first person shooter on the go need look no further.
In Killzone Mercenary you play as a mercenary called Arran Danner who will put himself in every and any dangerous situation just to make ends meet. This means accepting missions from the mars based Helgast and the earth based ISA armies without asking questions and putting all morals aside. When a routine mission to evacuate an Ambassador and his family from the planet Vektan goes suddenly downhill, Danner discovers that the outcome of the war could depend on the fate of the ambassador’s son. Danner takes it on himself to ensure that the ambassador’s son remains alive no matter what the cost.
The storyline is excellently presented with great characters and solid voice acting all round. It is just a pity that I hit the end credits a little over three and half hours on normal difficulty. I felt the campaign had built a perfect amount of momentum and then ended suddenly just as the storyline was getting excellent. Thankfully though, the game has an extra mode called contracts which manages to give the campaign a new lease of life and a brilliant amount of replayability. In this mode the player has to complete a set number of objectives per level to earn money. Completing each objective on the highest difficulty levels earns the player more money. This mode is brilliant and is highly addictive. The objectives in each level are thankfully varied and can push the player to their limits. Examples included kill a certain officer with a head shot or complete the level in under 20 minutes using only silenced weapons.
As I said above, Killzone Mercenary is a stunning game and a technical achievement in itself. Guerrilla Cambridge should be commended for pushing the PS Vita to its limits and showing that a handheld game can actually hold up to its console counterparts. Utilising the stunning Killzone 3 engine, Guerrilla Cambridge were able to create volumetric lighting and smoke, high resolution textures and amazingly realistic-looking shadows possible on a handheld device for the first time. I can’t overstate how good this game looks, with near-perfect framerate in the campaign and even in the multiplayer part of the game. The game also has a varied palette of environments from sprawling cityscapes to deserts, Killzone Mercenary has it all.
One of the biggest worries gamers have when it comes to a first person shooters on handhelds is the controls. Killzone Mercenary combines analogue inputs perfectly with touch functionality to give the player an intuitive and easy to pick up control interface to play on the go. The shoulder buttons on the PS Vita are used to aim and fire weapons and there are touch buttons on the main screen to switch weapons and throw grenades. The touch buttons are perfectly placed near your right thumb so they are very easy to reach and access when needed. All of the brutal melee kills are completed using touch swipes on the screen and they are brutal but satisfying. One example of a brutal melee is to stab a poor enemy in the crotch, take out the knife and then stab in the top of his head. Although this might sound like overkill, the brutal melee kills are exciting and when pulled off perfectly the player receives money to tool up weapons or gear. The two analogue sticks are perfectly responsive and are used to move the character and aim your weapon.
Although Killzone Mercenary is the best first person shooter in the handheld market, it is also the best multiplayer shooter and the most addictive and rewarding one I have played in a long time. You are a mercenary so every kill and every scavenge of weapons and ammo gives the player money. This money collected in the campaign or online will contribute towards your character. The money collected is used to buy weapons, equipment and a new addition to the Killzone franchise called Van-Guard. This part of your loadout is used to house specially developed weapons such as remote controlled stealth robots or homing missile systems. This new addition to the franchise brings a new element to the multiplayer mode giving players an added boost when needed.
The multiplayer portion of this game is without a doubt the reason to buy this game. The matches are 4×4 which is perfect for a handheld game and the levels are designed in such a way that a 4×4 match is big enough for a game to be action packed and strategic at the same time. There are three modes currently available in the game. Mercenary warfare pits every player against each other in a fight to the death, Guerrilla warfare is your standard team deathmatch and Warzone is the variable 5 objective mode which is without a doubt the best mode in the game. The levels are varied and perfectly balanced so that no team will ever feel cheated because of spawn point locations. This is the closest players will get to a console-like online experience on a handheld. The only problem I found with the multiplayer portion of the game, is sometimes it would take me nearly 10 tries to enter a game due to a loss in connection. Guerrilla have issued a temporary solution on their forums but it starts to get annoying after the 10th time of getting kicked from the match. Hopefully a patch will be issued soon to fix this problem.
Killzone Mercenary is the perfect example of a console experience on a handheld device. It is drop-dead gorgeous and a technical marvel. How Guerrilla Cambridge managed to create a technically perfect and polished PlayStation 3 like experience on the PS Vita is baffling. The campaign is brutally short but great while it lasts and the multiplayer part is THE reason to own the game. With deep character customisation, three gameplay modes to choose from and plethora of weapons at the players disposal, the multiplayer mode will keep gamers occupied for months to come. Let’s hope Guerrilla plan to give the players DLC with new maps because the current selection is a bit on the short side. If you are on the fence about getting Sony’s latest handheld though this is your reason to jump in, Guerrilla Cambridge has created a gem.
Killzone Mercenary is available now and can be purchased directly online on the PlayStation Store