At the launch of PS Vita back in 2011 Sony promised us the Vita was capable of replicating our favourite PlayStation 3 experiences on the go, in portable form with no sacrifice to quality. I’d like to think Sony has upheld this promise however the PS Vita does currently lack a stellar line-up of great games and new IP’s, particularly in one category… FPS. Could Killzone: Mercenary be the Vita’s long awaited (and needed) saviour to the first-person shooter genre? We recently got our hands on a preview build of the game, and I have to say I was quite impressed & for many, Killzone: Mercenary will become the first real reason to own a Vita.
Mercenary is set between the first and second Killzone entries as you take the role of Arran Danner - the titular mercenary protagonist. After a short mission briefing I was thrown (literally) into the combat zone as Danner and his team skydived down to the Helghast satellite base they were tasked to infiltrate, not only will Danner fight against the Helghast, he will also join forces with them and fight against the ISA – a first for the series. The game did make me feel like I was being funnelled along in some areas but for the majority of the demo I was free in how I wanted to tackle each situation. Players can either attack in stealth or run out guns blazing, although doing so does have consequences as alarms systems are strategically placed around the Helghast compound and once triggered send in a swarm of enemy re-enforcements.
An interesting new element to the game, known as the Arms Dealer station, allows players to purchase and upgrade various weapons, tools and equipment using their accumulated in-game points. These vendor stations are located throughout the game and are navigated by a friendly and effective touch-screen menu. Load-outs can be customized for all different scenarios in each of the missions – weapons fitted with silencers for easier stealth kills, scopes for longer ranges, lighter armour for versatility and more equipment, well just to have fun with. A very cool new piece of tech is known as Mantys, the Mantys is a new remote-controlled covert, stealthy killing device that at your command will fly ahead to scout and take down enemies. The in-game points used at the Arms Dealer stations are awarded for completing specific actions – kill an enemy for 50 points, shoot him in the head for an extra 15 and stealth killing an enemy will earn you an impressive 90 points.
Enemy AI are smart and adaptive to the way you play, quite often I found myself being flanked by enemy troops adding more of a challenge to the mission. Mission objectives were fun and there was a sense of relief and completion flying away at the end of the level watching the Helghast base explode. The controls are responsive and work well, with everything working as you’d expect it to, although they are a bit tricky to get used to and I needed to play around with the settings to find the right sensitivity. I’ve never been a big fan of taking my fingers away from the physical controls at crucial moments to use the touch screen and unfortunately for me Mercenary features moments just like this. Other controls I didn’t take to much of a liking to was the ‘circle’ button doubling up as your sprint and crouch, fortunately in this case this could be changed with a few moments of your time in the games option menu. Rest assured, Cambridge have done an amazing job with Mercenary’s visuals with stunning graphics, smooth frame rates and fancy effects Killzone: Mcercenary is beautiful on the PS Vita.
The preview we played didn’t go to deep into the story although from the mission we played Mercenary does seem to offer plenty of replay value, assuming it has a decent storyline when the game launches. With the new Arms Dealer portion players will have the urge to go back and replay missions to earn more points to use upgrading their armoury. The combat is fun, intense, fast paced and the cover system is simple and works well with your surroundings. Though it has it’s triumphs Killzone: Mercenary does have some minor flaws; the checkpoint system does get a little frustrating and melee kills just take to long to complete – thanks to the touch screen integration. Unfortunately we were unable to get our hands on the games multiplayer so we can’t comment on that aspect, however, we believe Mercenary is a step forward for the vita as it shows AAA titles are possible for the system
Killzone: Mercenary launches September 4th in Europe and September 10th in North America. Check out the gallery below with snapshots from the preview we played.