Review - Killzone: Mercenary
At a point in the PlayStation Vita’s life when rudimentary criticisms point to a lack of original software, Killzone: Mercenary is under a lot of pressure to produce a first-party title with panache. A “killer app” to carry the console into the bright future it will most likely find. Expectations aside, Killzone: Mercenary is a wonderful experience on the PlayStation Vita. It succeeds in both spectacle and playability, while almost being a bit too much like a home console experience. Get ready for a wild ride through Helghan!
So often the Vita is guilty of touting a visual experience on par with home consoles. I cannot say whether or not Killzone: Mercenary actually achieves this feat; but it makes me feel like it does. It has a fantastic sense of scale when you get to a landing zone at a mission’s start, massive battlefields with you as a cog in the machine of war. The environments shine on the Vita’s OLED screen, death animations are suitably brutal, and contextual objects in the environment create great POV animations. But instead of returning as either Sev or Rico from the trilogy, you are Arran Danner, a hired merc. And with a name like that, you basically know the story is going to suck very early on. It really won’t matter much with how little Danner interacts with everyone else in the story. The character could essentially be you, so the decision to even go with a terribly named protagonist is puzzling.
You are commissioned to be a mercenary for the ISA and in doing so, you earn monies for every action you take against the Helghast. Eventually you’ll jump between militaries for the almighty dollar, which is really the crux and motivation for the entire game. But this is a proper Killzone experience, an first-person shooter with all the creature comforts. I especially enjoy the double-tap sprint action on the back touch panel. Tapping crouch mid-stride leads into a satisfying slide and a contextual cover system is natural. Solid. There are optional motion controls for crosshair tweaking, but I prefer the right analog stick with the sensitivity turned way up. It feels just like the experience you’d want from the proper home console experience, maybe a little too much...
There is a linear storyline broken up into a series of missions. Many of them are fantastic backdrops for international espionage, kidnapping, biological warfare, and other quixotic war stories. But in the end, most missions felt a bit long. Playing in a mobile setting wasn’t always possible for me, with some missions taking 25 or more minutes. Having a story to tell isn’t necessarily the issue, it’s the pacing Killzone: Mercenary sets relative to the platform. Breaking missions up into smaller bites would have complemented a more mobile experience in my opinion. Once you complete the mission’s Primary Contract, the game unlocks three additional Contracts: Precision, Covert, and Demolition. They add time caps, kill counts, or other various requisites to complete the mission and earn you more money. The best way to do this is build out Danner to have the right tools for the job. That’s where BlackJack comes into play.
BlackJack, the arms dealer, is where Danner goes with all those precious credits earned in enemy blood. For every kill, Danner makes money. Hack a console. Money. Interrogate an officer. Money. And of course, completing the mission. Money. You are a hired gun and your comrades remind you as much. While in-between missions or at a console mid-mission, Danner can buy and trade in/out weapons at will, for a small fee. You can also buy VAN-Guards which are various abilities that aid you in battle and have a cooldown. Examples include a shoulder mounted rocket launcher called the Porcupine or the stealthy Ghost module which makes you invisible. BlackJack will even let you re-up on ammo and VAN-Guards, which on more than one occasion was very useful.
Enemies will always drop ammo (you get money for picking that up BTW), but not guns, so you can run out depending on how you spec Danner. The way you spec your character is fairly important. Something that turned out being my favorite aspect was building out my Danner as a more stealth oriented merc. Completing an area without being detected kept the enemy count low and usually netted me more money. I found the stealth combat rewarding, albeit strange for a Killzone experience, but rewarding nonetheless. All your progress in the BlackJack armory is carried between both multiplayer, making the multiplayer experience easy to get into. That’s where Killzone: Mercenary really shines.
The multiplayer is incredible! It manages to recreate a console FPS multiplayer experience on handheld to near perfection. It swings hard from you going on a run, topping the leader boards, to being crushed by your own inadequacies. The system of earning money is prominent, with the free-for-all deathmatch counting dollars over kills. There is a TDM mode and Warzone, which rolls through a variety of objectives. One of these includes hacking VAN-Guard drop pods for new abilities, some of which can be devastating in a losing battle. And the addition of Valor Cards makes every match feel like Kill Confirmed. Valor Cards pop up over every enemy corpse while in multiplayer, creating an added layer of strategy when collecting them. Valor Cards are used to identify your play style and are a suit-based deck with 52 cards. You can collect the entire deck by either changing which weapons you are using or just killing enough mercs. I come away from the multiplayer experience feeling extremely satisfied with what the developers built.
Sure there are little changes that I would make to things in the Killzone: Mercenary experience, but most of them come down to player preference. What you get from the game is a solid, fun-filled FPS in the Killzone universe. New systems like the VAN-Guards, BlackJack, and Valor Cards are great additions to the franchise. While the story is decidedly lacking, the missions are fun and unlike anything else on the Vita to date. Multiplayer is incredibly fulfilling and I really wish the multiplayer wasn't region locked, because the larger the community, the stronger the experience in the long-term. Every Vita owner should pick up Killzone: Mercenary, even if it isn’t quite the fictional “killer app” everyone keeps trying to externalize.
|ScrewAttack's News Director Sean Hinz worked in logistics for over four years before decided it was time to switch industries. After a couple years spent getting an MBA and freelancing, he finally found a home at ScrewAttack.com. As far as games go, Sean likes to play anything he can get his hands on, but especially enjoys third-person action RPGs. Is that really a genre?|
I found this game to have one of the worst multiplayer in a shooter I ever played, horrible spawning, horrible melee, over-reliance on Vanguards, bad netcode, bad matchmaking putting one new player against 4 aces and an aim assist that can't be turned off.
How did you come upon this info?
That's the thing: using the party chat is basically the equivalent of using Skype.
What Domino said you can use Party Chat
The only Killzone I've played was 3 a while back, which was okay and this looks like more of that, so this looks like a decent pick up if I ever buy a Vita.
You can always use Party Chat which I believe the game actually tells you to do
Had fun in the beta, just picked up the title today. Took long enough but nice to know the Vita finally has a great FPS.
I thought the multi-player in the beta was awesome. I only play FPS games for multi-player, so I will probably wait to pick this up, but it sure looks nice and plays great!
It's a really awesome game for the Vita. REally a shame that the servers are region locked. And that there is no voicechat. Or maybe I'm not aware of it
Wait the servers are region locked!? Didn't know that :( there's goes my chance of playing with you Sean