Killzone Mercenary is yet another attempt to bring a playable, console-like FPS to the PS Vita. Those who have tried in the past have failed miserably, but came from great console success: Call of Duty and Resistance to name a couple. All the reasons FPS games have failed on Vita in no way apply to Mercenary. It’s beautiful, smooth, engaging but a little shallow in terms of gameplay length. Although, the levels are so well designed it’s worth coming back to. Mercenary is broken into 2 parts: campaign and multiplayer. While the majority of my review will focus on the campaign, I have put considerable time into the multiplayer and strongly recommend it.
The campaign has 8 missions that follow Arran Danner - a former UCA soldier who takes on a job from the ISA. His evacuation mission goes wrong and the son of an Ambassador becomes the key to winning the war. A welcomed addition are missions where you work with the Helgan against the ISA. That’s a series first and helps to humanize the traditionally villainous Helgan. I completed the campaign on medium difficulty in under 3.5 hours. That’s pretty short, but there is serious replay value in collecting hidden intel throughout the maps. When you complete the campaign, three new bodes are unlocked: Precision, Demolition, and Covert. Also, any game that is short, but good, makes it easy to replay and master at higher difficulty settings. With longer games its easy to get fatigued by a long and complicated story line.
A note on voice-acting (as it is my biggest gripe about video games): The acting is solid but the game would benefit from more variety after your character dies.
Playing as a mercenary means you’re free to move away from the ISA standard-issue weapons. You constructs loadouts consisting of primary and secondary weapons as well as body armor, an explosive, and a special weapon called VAN-Guard. The campaign and multiplayer share weapons and loadouts in real-time. You also share money earned for kills, scavenging and intel collecting. This makes it really fun to move in and out of game modes.
The mechanics in Mercenary are just what you would expect from a Killzone FPS - and that is a huge statement considering this is the first good FPS on the Vita. Although it does maintain the waist-height point of view that I struggled with on the PS3 games. The weapons are fantastic. There is outstanding variety that I didn’t expect. For example, every FPS has a shotgun. But in Mercenary you have 3 types of shotguns, rocket launchers, pistols, etc. Each can support your multiplayer habits or assist in the replay of the campaign through the above-mentioned modes. However you use it, it will motivate you to earn cash.
The levels are very well designed. The attention to detail and multiple routes to various arenas are superb. You can sneak, rush, or do both. You can even leverage the VAN-Guard weaponry to unleash powerful attacks on opposing forces as you move throughout the maps. Weapons and Van-Guard are provided by the always awkward in-game kiosks. I’m with you: it doesn’t make sense. But hey, it’s a video game (secretly can’t wait until we can stop using that excuse). Here you’ll find pistols, sub-machine guns, large-machine guns, shotguns, rocket launchers, grenade launchers, and even more. This becomes very helpful when you level up and unlock multiple loadouts for multiplayer.
It’s beautiful. Seriously.
I’m not much of a multiplayer gamer. I’ve played my fair-share of COD and Battlefield, but to me it’s not entertaining. Killzone Mercenary has serviceable multiplayer. It’s really fun in short spurts and surprising how well it runs on the Vita. There are 3 modes: free for all, team deathmatch, and an objective-based option. This is perfect for me. There aren’t a lot of options and it’s quick to get into a game.
Killzone Mercenary is not only the best FPS on the Vita, it’s also a really good FPS for any platform. It isn’t obnoxious about using the touchscreen(s) or other Vita-specific features. When the PS Vita TV eventually makes it state-side, this is an easy choice test the console with. If you don’t already own a Vita, and you’re a fan of shooters, this is what you’ve been waiting for.