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Killzone: Mercenary review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £28
inc VAT

Hands down the best FPS on the Vita right now. If you want a portable shooter, buy this

We had high hopes for first person shooters on the PlayStation Vita – twin analogue sticks were supposed to add a level of accuracy and interaction previously unheard of on a handheld, but early FPS releases were nothing more than digital insults to their respective franchises. We came into Killzone: Mercenary trying hard to put Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified and Resistance: Burning Skies to the back of our minds, but it turns out we had nothing to fear – Guerrilla Cambridge has done an outstanding job porting the console series to the small screen.

As the name suggests, Mercenary puts you in control of Arran Danner, a soldier of fortune fighting for whoever pays the most for your services. In the Killzone universe, that’s either the Interplanetary Strategic Alliance (ISA), descendants of the first inter-stellar settlers from Earth, or the Helghast, a Nazi-like fascist planetary force bent on taking over the galaxy. Danner has no qualms over working for either side if the price is right, so missions are split between the two. This changing point of view finally puts the ISA’s often morally ambiguous actions under the spotlight, as you take in the series’ many familiar sights including the scorched Helghan home world.

Money plays a crucial part to player progression, as virtually every action rewards you with a small amount of cash – both online and during the campaign. Completing missions or scoring well in multiplayer earn you the biggest pay-outs, but so do melee kills, collecting dropped ammunition and hacking computer terminals. This can be spent during each mission at various Blackjack weapon dispensers to unlock weapons, armour and the new VAN-Guard equipment.

Killzone: Mercenary

It’s these tech toys that add a dash of variety to the mix, giving you temporary buffs or access to unique abilities like being able to see through walls for a short time. Others will feel familiar to Call of Duty fans, giving you missiles and gunships to target any position on the map. The expanded armoury should appeal to Killzone fans, that have tired of the ISA’s usual loadouts.

You earn experience as well as cash, with XP unlocking higher ranks that give you more lead-out slots in the multiplayer mode. Playing daily also earns Valor cards, which are tailored to your character and grow in value depending on how well you’re playing. Get shot in multiplayer and you’ll drop one, giving your killer bonus points.

Crucially, the controls feel natural to anyone that’s played a Killzone game before. The twin sticks control movement and aim and the shoulder buttons control iron sights and shooting respectively. You don’t have quite the same level of precision as you might on a PS3, simply because there’s not as much travel in the analogue sticks but you soon adjust.

Being able to choose between pressing triangle or an on-screen prompt to interact with objects is much appreciated, as Vita games frequently force you to use the touchscreen without any real merit. Sprinting too can be performed by pressing circle or double-tapping the rear touchpad. Melee attacks are the exception, forcing you to perform a timed swipe that, if failed, will give your enemies time to disarm you and put you down.

Killzone: Mercenary

Playing against human opposition online is much more of a challenge than tackling the campaign’s AI enemies, but it’s a satisfying experience with plenty of game mode and map variety. Randomly dropped VAN-Guard capsules, no character classes and a weapon load-out that carries over from the campaign give the game a unique feel that has hallmarks of the console originals but doesn’t rehash them either.

Best of all, it’s incredibly easy on the eyes. Guerrilla Cambridge has used the same base engine as the PS3’s Killzone 3, adding in effects like volumetric lighting and smoke, realistic shadows and high resolution textures. It’s impressive to see all that running in real time on a handheld, especially one with a screen as vibrant as the Vita. Still screenshots don’t really do the game justice, which is why we’ve included the trailer at the beginning of this review.

Mercenary doesn’t get everything right: the laborious hacking mini-games dotted throughout the campaign are never much of a challenge and appear to be dotted throughout each mission solely to break up the action for a few short seconds, killing the pace. It’s all over too quickly too, finished in around five hours as you’re rushed into set-pieces and given little time for exploration. However, there’s plenty to unlock and the diverse multiplayer mode should keep shooter fans coming back for more.

Killzone: Mercenary

In spite of this, Mercenary is still the best shooter available on the Vita right now. It takes everything the series does well and distils it down onto Sony’s handheld, proving that fast-paced multi-player FPS games don’t have to be consigned to the PC or home consoles. It’s also great news for the PS4, showing that the Vita will definitely be able to hold its own should you want to stream games from the next-gen console to its smaller, portable screen.

Killzone: Mercenary won’t convert anyone that’s not already a fan of the genre, and probably isn’t deep enough to take priority when a console is within reach, but for a brief bit of on-the-move carnage there’s nothing better.



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