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Killzone: Mercenary Preview (PS Vita)

July 25, 2013 Written by Anthony Severino

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This past week, Sony sent over an updated build of Killzone: Mercenary for the PlayStation Vita. And even though it featured the same area and gameplay from my previous preview of the game posted back in January, it’s more polished, and looking more like a complete package.

New to this build were menus separating the campaign, multiplayer, and contracts modes. Also new were cutscenes, which help flesh out the narrative—a story where neither the ISA or the Helghast play the starring role. Instead, you play as hired help, operatives from a Private Military Company thriving on the war economy that has erupted from the conflict between the ISA and the Helghast. Because they hold no allegiance to either faction, it opens doors for interesting storyline arcs you couldn’t have with one or the other.

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This demo featured just one particular level of many found in the main campaign that’s said to last between six to eight hours—in addition to multiplayer (which you can hear more about here, and even more in the coming weeks), and a contracts mode that we’ve yet to lay our hands on. Here, your commander barks orders at you and guides you through each objective until your mission is complete, including disarming weapons, and hacking into security systems using the Vita’s touchscreen. It’s a solid mix of near and far combat situations, allowing you to put the game’s weaponry to the test.

Also prominent in this build were Armory boxes that you can open to communicate with an arms dealer. This is how you replenish ammunition, purchase new weapons and armor, or buy Vanguard systems for use on the battlefield. After you battle your way toward the final objective, a Vanguard capsule is dropped for you to play with allowing you to fire remote missiles at targets attempting to plant charges at the area you’re defending. If it weren’t for this Vanguard system, you would easily be overwhelmed as the number of Helghast soldiers is staggering.

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But it’s like that most of the time. Mercenary keeps up with the Killzone franchise’s difficulty and intelligent AI, making every bullet count all the more. Combat is weighty, giving the feel that your operative is carrying a full arsenal with him at all times. Melees are gruesome, and must be followed through with a well-timed swipe on the touchscreen to drive that knife into the skull of an unsuspecting foe.

This build provided just a taste of what’s available in terms of weapons, combat situations, Vanguards, puzzles, and enemies. It was mostly a run and gun situation, but there are areas that require stealth and patience instead of hustle and bustle. What I noticed most of all in this build, compared to the first time I played it, was a thick layer of polish found everywhere—from the cutscenes, to the menus, to the AI, to the way objectives were explained. It’s much more AAA than it felt before, making Killzone: Mercenary out to be the PlayStation Vita title to watch this year.