Video Game Review

Killzone: Mercenary — Finally, a worthwhile shooter for Vita

by Wes Mayer


This is what the game actually looks like between your thumbs. Pretty cool, huh?    

Finally, a worthwhile shooter has made its way to the PlayStation Vita. While I wouldn’t say Guerilla Cambridge’s Killzone: Mercenary is the best shooter I’ve ever played, I can say if you were waiting on that special game to motivate you into buying a Vita, this would be the one.

Ever since the Vita was released, it was obvious it would be a great handheld platform for first-person shooters. I mean, it has two analog sticks. It was practically built for it. But when popular shooters like Call of Duty and Resistance attempted to jump onto the Vita, they fell short, received tragic reviews and disappointed thousands of potential fans.

But now Killzone has entered the scene, and where the other shooters failed, Killzone: Mercenary has succeeded.

Killzone: Mercenary is all about, well, being a mercenary, and money is the driving force in the story. Basically, in the war between Vekta and Helghan (two separate planetary colonies of humans who disagree on just about everything), there is a great deal of work for a skilled mercenary, and your character, Arran Danner, finds himself in the middle of a conflict over a mass genocidal chemical weapon.

Starting with the events of the first Killzone and ending around Killzone 2’s explosive finale, you complete the missions you are hired for, and due to your skills, you end up fighting for both sides. Actually, you keep getting jerked around by your employers, but I won’t go into detail. The story isn’t too deep, it just helps string the action together.

Fortunately, the shooting part of Killzone: Mercenary is a blast, probably because you get money for every enemy you kill, and you use this money to purchase a large variety of new weapons and equipment, more than any Killzone game up to date. Scattered throughout every level are equipment loadout boxes provided by a mysterious but friendly arms dealer. If you can get over their ridiculousness, basically you can walk up to any one of them, use your hard-earned money to buy new weapons, equipment, ammo, or these tactical devices called vanguards, and switch them out all in the middle of battle. So they’re like magical toy boxes of destruction.

The Vita’s touch pads are utilized throughout the game. Melee is executed by swiping the Vita’s front touch screen in one direction, and enemy officers can be interrogated to collect intel using the same controls. For the snipers out there, zoom is controlled by sliding your finger up and down along the rear touch pad. There are also hacking puzzles that pop up throughout the game that require some tapping.

In combat, you don’t face the brightest enemies. I found staying in one place with a shotgun worked best because enemies continued to foolishly charge in close. On Normal difficulty, most battles felt like shooting fish in a barrel, which isn’t a bad thing, that’s what makes it a game.

The straightforward campaign is not all Killzone: Mercenary has to offer, though. There are only nine missions in the campaign, but after beating each one, you can return to replay them as three separate contract missions — Precision, Covert and Demolition.

Precision is all about speed and accuracy, and you have objectives like beating the mission in a certain amount of time and by shooting a number of enemies in the head with a particular weapon. Covert is all about going through the levels without alerting your enemies, where your silenced weapons come in handy. And Demolition is all about, you guessed it, blowing things up and creating a big scene.

So you really have 27 different missions to complete. The main campaign on Normal took me about four to four-and-a-half hours, so if you do some math, the campaign can last about 16 to 20 hours, which is pretty good for a shooter. There is also a higher level of difficulty — Veteran — to tackle.

Of course, what most gamers are probably interested in is the online multiplayer. Up to eight players can join three different multiplayer games, with the top three players getting the best rewards. The game modes are Mercenary Warfare, a free-for-all mode; Guerilla Warfare, a team death match mode; and Warzone, a cool mode that puts two competing teams together to complete a specialized mission.

The multiplayer performs smoothly overall, and while I am personally not very good at it yet, I found it to be a very successful game on its own. This plus the campaign will have you playing for quite some time.

Overall, Killzone: Mercenary looks, sounds and plays amazingly, and the game allows you to truly appreciate how awesome the Vita is. Because there are so few games that have worked well on the Vita, the system has gotten an unfair reputation. I would say that it is one of the most impressive systems out there, though, and Killzone: Mercenary hits the nail on the head with just about everything the Vita can do.

Key Points:

Story: Straightforward and simple. It’s a war and you have missions — complete the missions and kill enormous amounts of enemy soldiers in the process. Its simplicity leaves something to be desired, though. Perhaps if your character had a voice or could make choices.

Gameplay: Point and shoot. With the Vita, the touch screen allows some versatility, and melee kills are executed by swiping the screen.

Lasting appeal: The campaign on normal difficulty was quick, just nine missions that took around four-and-a-half hours to complete. But being able to replay the missions under different parameters adds extra challenges, and the multiplayer provides an easily accessible and entertaining experience.

What you need to play this game: Well, a PlayStation Vita. Not many people won one of those from a Taco Bell sweepstakes like I did. Also, trigger grip accessories might help. The Vita is cool, but it’s not the easiest thing to hold on to for long periods of time.

Played on: Normal Difficulty on PlayStation Vita

Killzone: Mercenary is rated Mature

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