Review: Killzone Mercenary

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killzone-mercenary-coverAs September kicks into high gear some of this year’s most anticipated titles begin to hit shelves. For most this has been all about GTA V, but for those who love their PS Vita, Killzone Mercenary has been a long time coming. Question is, has it been worth the wait?

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Knife vs gun. You lose.

It has been a dream of mine to see a decent shooter on a handheld console. The fast combat, heart racing tension and instant gratification is a perfect kind of game to have stashed away for those moments you are stuck in a doctors office or waiting for a bus that has delayed. Since the early days of portable gaming the problem has never been hardware, it has always been one of control. The Playstation Portable tried to use its buttons to make a second analog stick and it felt awkward. The 3DS added the circle pro adapter, however the stick was sluggish and the adapter made the 3DS unbelievably cumbersome. When the Vita came out, we saw glimpses of the potential with games like Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Resistance: Burning Skies. However these came off half baked and lacked any replay ability or long term multiplayer. So Killzone: Mercenary has been a hugely anticipated game for avid Vita lovers like myself, and I am happy to report that it has been worth the wait.

Cha-Ching!

Cha-Ching!

The game side steps the main characters involved in the series and instead focuses on the untold story of a mercenary, Arran Danner working during the events of the previous games. Our morally ambiguous character is given a thin story to connect his mission, however due to average voice acting and a lack of character development players are unlikely to care. But don’t be discouraged, once you push past this, Killzone: Mercenary has a lot to offer. First off, the game does a good job at pushing the Vita as far as it can graphically, the environments are varied and interesting, with some of the best lighting I have seen in a handheld games up to this point. This modified version of the Killzone 3 engine also offers impressive smoke and shadow work. Plus, the character models all look fantastic and move with ease which helps to add to the games immersion. On top of visual immersion, Killzone: Mercenary offers some killer sound work for those willing to don headphones while playing, enemies call tactics, explosions are loud and surprising, and bullets sounds can be traced back to their origins during shootouts. Add to this a decent (if not a tad generic) soundtrack and you have one hell of a package.

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Amazing vision for level design

As far as gameplay goes, this title out plays anything so far on the PS Vita. The combat is visceral and quick, without the usual blundered attempt to force touch features into the gameplay.  Anyone who has played an FPS before will feel right at home here with all of the usual button locations you would see in a Call of Duty style title. The small uses of the touch pads work well, only using the front pad for weapon switching and melee quick-time events to help combat it’s slightly overpowered nature. The rear touch pad is also used quite nicely for scoped weapons allowing gamers to swipe up and down to adjust zoom, this works wonderfully when clearing an area of enemies giving you the precision to switch targets with speed and making you a dangerous foe in multiplayer.

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Speaking of Multiplayer, this side of the game has also had a lot of work put into it, the online component consists of three game types; Mercenary Warfare – free for all where the most money wins, Guerrilla Warfare – team death match and Warzone – team death match with 5 different randomized objectives. All of these modes are super fun and even with an average of 3 – 4 players on each team the rounds are still heart racing and fun. The matches are usually short, but being a handheld game, this works perfectly and even though finding a game can be tough at times, this is the first Vita title that I am regularly playing online.

Go my pet, kill, kill!

Go my pet, kill, kill!

Unless you have a huge aversion to FPS games, Killzone: Mercenary is one of the few must have titles for the PS Vita. Combining amazing graphics and sound this game not only has some of the best gameplay on the console so far but also gives players an insight into the possible directions this handheld could be heading with a few more titles of this caliber. Vita owners everywhere will be dust off the console to give this one a try and new users will be popping up all over the place to get a chance to have some good quality multiplayer gaming on them at all times. Painfully addictive and super immersive, this game is the best handheld shooters I have ever played and is a revitalizing breath of fresh air for fans of pocket gaming.

9 / 10

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Joshua Philpott

Tech MacGyver
Games writer, podcaster and tech wizard. Obsessed with obscure horror films, crazy gadgets and caffeine. Passionate, argumentative and open minded. Freelance writer and co-founder rawDLC.

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