Developer Guerrilla Games Cambridge
Platform PS Vita
Release Date Out Now
When the Vita first launched Sony wanted to make it clear that this was a system that could handle the very popular FPS genre. Initial videos pushed this idea and focused on Call of Duty, Resistance and Killzone as three franchises that would offer that FPS fix to players. The first two failed to make the most of the powerful handheld console but it is third time lucky with Killzone Mercenary.
Thanks to the Sony owned Guerilla Games and their Cambridge based studio the Vita now has that powerful FPS it so desperately needed and despite its one or two flaws is a compelling package mixing a strong campaign with an robust online multiplayer mode.
For the first time the story moves the player away from playing as an ISA soldier and instead sets you as the “gun for hire” Aaron Danner. The Mercenary Danner is more interested in his Paycheck than choosing sides, but that is all about to change.
The main thing with any Vita version of a big console franchise is just how well it plays and how the developers have reworked the controls to make them work on the small device without loosing that big game feeling. The touch controls are not crowbarred into the game and do generally work quite well. They are used for melee attacks (once you have started the sequence with the triangle button) you have to swipe the screen to match the attacks. They are also used to hack terminals in a clever (and difficult to beat) mini game, as well as being used to switch weapons and to take out your grenades.
Although you now have two sticks (to move and look around) they are not quite console quality. The main problem is the lack of the ability to click them in to run. Instead run is mapped to the O button which also controls the crouch function this is not only cumbersome but also quite frustrating when you want to crouch quickly behind cover but you end up sprinting out into the open.
As with any FPS aiming is vital to its success. Shooters on the Vita to date have had two problems they are either too loose leading to a lot of spraying and praying or they are just hopelessly inaccurate leading to more frustration at trying to hit those harder targets in the distance. Killzone has an incredible feature built in to get around this. It makes use of the internal gyroscope to allow you the precision aiming that is required by moving the console itself when you aim down the sights. Moving the console is simple with the light Vita and allows you to move your cross hair in tiny amount giving incredible precision. This is perfect for hitting head shots, sniping or just tracking running enemies.
The impressive online mode is always a Killzone fans favorite and again it manages to capture that experience on the handheld device. Game modes include the traditional Death Match, Guerrilla Warfare (TDM) and Warzone which is objective based and probably the best mode.
For the most part connections were near perfect over Wi-Fi , I didn’t get a chance to test it over 3G but I have a feeling you are probably better off on Wi-Fi if possible.
Throughout the entire game you get cash for everything you do in both Multiplayer and single player modes. Collect your payments for killing enemies, unlocking terminals, collecting intel and ammo then spend it at the arms dealers to get better weapons, gadgets and unlocks.
As mentioned there are two problems with the game that should be easily fixable in a patch. The first is the save locations. The game does not save at check points for some unknown reason, so if you need to turn off the console when you come back you need to restart the level. I found this out the hard way and with long introductions, long loading screens and tutorials the first level ended up taking about 5 attempts.
Handheld games thrive in a world where you can play in ten minute bursts, it is not uncommon for you to need to stop mid-game when you get to the end of your bus journey, when your lunch is finished and you need to get back to work or when your battery dies. Having to complete the full level to save the game is not best practice for handheld gaming.
The second annoyance was a problem with the arms dealer, when you go into the menu to change your loadouts the on screen touch button that exits and returns you to the game was occasionally not working. This led to the Vita requiring a restart and of course without the checkpoint save point issue it again led me back to start the same level all over again.
Restarting the same level over and over was a pain but thankfully the game is good enough that it was enjoyable even after the fifth and sixth time. This also gave me a chance to try other approaches and I found the game is not as linear as I first thought with many hidden side missions being found throughout.
Overall : The PS Vita finally has a FPS to be proud of, we still feel the best is yet to come from this console and hopefully the cross play features set to come on stream with the release of the PS4 will give it a much needed boost. Having titles like this that give a credible gaming experience with its single player campaign and longevity with its multiplayer modes goes a long way to helping that.
Killzone Mercenary is not just a good handheld game it is a good game all round, the flaws are hopefully going to be addressed which will make this a game we fully recommend.