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Killzone Mercenary Preview (PS Vita)

January 31, 2013 Written by Anthony Severino

It’s a difficult feat to comprehend, but somehow, some way, Guerrilla Cambridge has managed to almost flawlessly bring the Killzone 3 engine from the PlayStation 3 to the PlayStation Vita. Guerrilla was as bold as to call the game a benchmark game for the PlayStation Vita, and one that future FPS games will be measured against on any handheld platform. Bold, but they’re spot on.

From the instant you lays eyes on it, graphically, it’s on par with Killzone 2. Fitting, because the game opens in a scene all too similar to the infamous E3 tech demo… remember, the one that nobody believed could truly be match on console hardware? Well, now it’s on a handheld.

Textures are hi-res and diverse, despite the generally industrial feel found throughout. Dynamic lighting helps to keep the atmosphere eerie, and intense. Explosions, fire, and other particle effects look stunning, but have a slight pixelation to them at closer distances. Still, it’s a lot smoother than you would expect to find on any studio’s first shot at a PlayStation Vita title.

Combat is Killzone to its core. Weighty mechanics and punchy weaponry are a franchise standard that has not been overlooked. Back again are brutal melees, but instead of just a push of the button, a well-timed directional swipe is required as a finishing touch. It could be smoother, as there is a slight delay between initiation and completion. Since the game is releasing in September, there is still plenty of time for the kinks to be worked out and this delay diminished to the point of being unrecognizable.

Objectives vary, but in one instance, my Mercenary was to hack a computer powered shield system. Following the touch screen hack prompt, the game switched to a puzzle mini game matching hexagonal shapes pieces until the hack was complete. But before I could leave the area, a camera system was triggered and reinforcements arrived to great me with hot lead.

At last, I was provided with a Vanguard upgrade – Vanguards are an advanced weaponry system armband – which allowed me to fire rockets from air support to protect a vital transformer from a massive onslaught of Helghast.

But Helghast may not always be your enemy. In fact, these elite Mercenary hold no allegiance, but to fattening their wallets. There is a war raging on between the Helghast and the ISA, and war means money for Private Military Companies. They take on the battles others don’t want to fight, or the battles that others want to remain hidden. This should make for an interesting storyline arch away from the main ISA hero fare.

The game boasts a 6-8 hour single player campaign, and for each mission you complete, additional “contract” objectives become available as an opportunity for you to earn more cash.

Whether playing single-player, contracts, or the multiplayer mode, you earn cash for every action, every kill. Use this cash at black market weapons dealers to build your arsenal and kick some ass.

Multiplayer is fast, furious, and full of kills. The maps are on the smaller side given the 4v4 player cap, but it keeps the firefighting going without pause. It plays just as the single-player mode does, except for two differences. A melee doesn’t necessarily kill your enemy, and instead gives them a chance to counter and stun you. As each player succumbs to the bullet spray, a card is dropped by their dead body. Depending on the rank of the player downed, the higher or lower the value of this card.

Ending on the topic of cards, after initial impressions with Killzone Mercenary, I believe this is the Vita’s ace. It’s still a long way off, but even in its current state, Killzone makes an absolute fool out of any first-person shooters released on the system before it by stabbing it in the temple with a stealthful brutal melee.