My initial reaction after hearing of another Killzone game did little to get me enthusiastic. I tend to enjoy Killzone games most of the time, but too much of anything is a bad thing. Regardless, the fact remains that my Vita has sat neglected since the last game I had dedicated myself to playing (Soul Sacrifice), so how could I knock Sony and Guerrilla Cambridge’s offer to provide more content for the platform. After actually getting some hands-on with the game, I can now say that I am more than enthusiastic about Killzone Mercenary.
Killzone Mercenary is set somewhere between the first and second games, and this time around you assume the role as a mercenary hired by ISA to do some of their dirty work as they invade Helghan forces. It’s a simple scenario that works fantastically well on a system that is designed to be literally picked up and played at the gamers convenience. There’s not too much information to digest, it’s just you, your gun and your objective. I would rarely ask for anything more than that from a handheld shooter.
The reality of your contracted assignments are kept alive by the rewarding currency system, which will keep you on your toes at all times. Everything you do in Killzone Mercenary has an impact on your earnings. Double kills earn you double the money of a single kill, you earn extra money by picking up ammo on the battlefield, headshots and Melee attacks earn you bonuses. On the flip side, dying will take a chunk of your earnings away for life insurance. You’re never at a loss for things to spend money on either, as there are various black market caches around the map allowing you to stock up on the fly.
Whether you want to go in stealthy, or you aim to cause a ruckus, you’ll have all the tools you need as long as you have the money to blow. As an extra incentive to rake in the cash, you can switch out your Van-Guard drone (accompanying you from the start) for something more expensive but effective. These include camouflage systems, shields, and particle beams.
The currency system is something I love about Killzone Mercenary, as it encourages you to actually play as tactfully as possible, opposed to doing just enough to get the job done. You’ll find that you’ll naturally become a headshot artist as if it takes no skill at all. The currency aspect is something that’s so simple to fathom, yet it adds so much to the experience. This game was clearly designed to give the player quick bursts of excitement, and this is just one of the many things that contributes. My objective was fairly simple on paper, as I was being commissioned to hack two radar dishes and take control of an AA gun. But as a mercenary I truly felt like my contribution to the conflict made a difference for the ISA.
As I mentioned, your approach is completely up to you. You can opt to stealthy take down enemies, and shoot down security cameras before they spot you and raise the alarm. Or you can simply say “f*** everything“ and shoot everybody in sight. While I had fun going with the latter, it was probably better to take a more sneaky approach sometimes, as you can quickly become overwhelmed by Helghast forces.
Objectives often change very quickly on the fly too, one minute you’ll be on one set path, then next thing you know you’ll have to shut down the alarm system to ensure you’ll be able to get where you need to go without too much trouble. Many of these objectives are concluded by pushing a button or fliping a switch – these commands are handled by the Vita’s touch screen. Mercenary’s makes great use of the Vita’s wonderful touch screen in ways that make sense, such as sliding your finger up or down to activate a switch. Or swiping in various directions to take down enemies with using Melee. You can also use the touch screen to switch weapons and grenades. Even more complex was the hacking mini-game featured towards the end of the demo. It was confusing at first, but with your boss-man throwing you hints over the radio you’ll soon figure out that it’s just a case of touching different hexagons with triangle shapes inside, and matching them up with the ones inside the system. It wasn’t as intense as Deus Ex’s hacking system, but it was enough to provide a few moments relief from all the shooting.
I had to think hard of something I didn’t enjoy about this demo, and the only thing I came up with was the framerate dips when there’s too much happening at once. It’s something that’s way too easy to forgive considering this is a preview build of the game. Aside from that I’ll bet my life on the fact that Killzone Mercenary is the first person shooter people have been waiting to play on the Playstation Vita. The controls feel great, it’s fun to play and it’s visually on par with most top-end console games out there. The game will also feature multi-player, which unfortunately wasn’t apart of this demo. As a Vita owner, you owe it to yourself to play this game. Killzone Mercenary’s is set for release on September 6th in Europe and September 10th in North America. It’s the perfect set up for the already appealing Killzone: Shadow Fall dropping later this year for the Playstation 4.