Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Killzone: Mercenary M for mature because of blood and gore, intense violence, strong language, and partial nudity. As with the rest of the series, Mercenary is an up close, and in your face first-person shooter that holds nothing back. You can cut open the throats of your enemies, shoot a knife through their eye, and much, much more. It’s an overly mature game that children shouldn’t be playing.
Plays Like: I’m very pleased to report that Killzone: Mercenary plays exactly as you’d imagine it would, albeit on a portable. It features everything you’d expect from a AAA console FPS, except it’s been miniaturized. You can shoot, move, aim, lob grenades, etc, etc. It really is the ideal portable FPS for hardcore gamers.
Review Basis: Sony sent us a review copy of the game. I played through the single-player campaign, tried a few contracts, and got destroyed in all three of the online multiplayer modes.
Living up to its potential. Far too many other games have promised to do much more than they ended up doing, but Killzone: Mercenary promised hardcore gamers a true console-like FPS for the Vita, and Guerrilla Cambridge delivered just that. From killer production values, to tight and responsive controls, Mercenary delivers everything you could want. It has a deep and robust online multiplayer mode, an excellent credit system which is incorporated into every facet of the game, and also packs a fun albeit short single player campaign.
+ The narrative is likely one of the game’s weakest aspects, yet it’s the way the game pushes story to the side and focuses on money that makes it so interesting. Players take on the role of Aaron Danner, a mercenary that will work for both the ISA and the Helghast so long as the price is right. Money is actually the name of the game here, as players are rewarded for literally everything they do. Score a head-shot, win an online match, secure intel, interrogate an enemy, everything gives you cash. The screen is constantly littered with notifications of increased credits, which is then used to purchase new weapon load-outs.
+ Weapon load-outs offer a means to constantly customize your character as you see fit. Both the single player and multiplayer modes share the same money system, meaning you can pop online with a few friends for a couple of quick team deathmatches, get some cash, then hop back into the campaign and purchase that new automatic weapon you were eying a few minutes earlier. Multilayer goes one step further though and adds another form of reward known as Valor, which are playing cards you pick up from fallen enemies. Eventually you’ll find yourself trying to complete entire decks, while also making a fortune at the same time. Not only can you buy new primary and secondary weapons, but you can also pick up new armor, equipment (grenades the like), and a Van-Guard.
+ Van-Guards are extremely powerful additional weapons or equipment you can purchase. In the video you can see I’m using a shoulder-mounted rocket launched which allows me to tap on-screen enemies for a one-shot kill, assuming the enemies aren’t in cover. Other Van-Guards include a shield, a turret, and more.
+ The campaign includes nine missions, each can easily be finished in fifteen minutes to twenty-five minutes, which is perfect for a portable. On top of that, players have access to a store, which takes the shape of a weapon cache, scattered everywhere in the stages. Every time players use one of these caches the game saves, so in essence players can save wherever they want. There’s far more to do than that though. Players can then revisit missions and try and complete different contracts, which greatly expand the game’s overall length. These include Precision, Covert, and Demolition contracts. Each offers a different style of gameplay, and a wide variety of mission objectives.
+ Multiplayer is even better than the single player campaign. Up to eight players can take part in any of the three modes, across six unique maps. Deathmatch, and team deathmatch are exactly what you’d expect, but it’s the Warzone mode that pushes it over the top. Warzone is an objective-based multiplayer mode comprised of five rounds. Players might have to score the most amount of kills during one round, then interrogate as many people as possible in the next. Regardless of what you have to do, it remains fun and engaging for the entire 25 minute session. That might be asking too much while you’re on the go, but it supports drop in and out, so if you don’t have the time to invest in the entire match, that won’t be a problem.
+ While running on the Killzone 3 engine, Mercenary might not look quite as polished as its big brother, that doesn’t mean it’s a slouch. If anything this has to be the nicest looking PlayStation Vita game to date. Environments are large and expansive, and while there are a few dips in framerate whenever too much action happens, overall it’s a technical showpiece for the Vita.
+ Audio is equally impressive. While some of the dialogue can get a little grating at times, the vast majority is superbly well acted. The soundtrack is also extremely enjoyable and fits the tone and pacing perfectly.
+/- Everything you can do on a console FPS you can do here, however given the functional limitations of the Vita hardware (non-clickable analogue sticks, missing L2/R2 buttons), it takes a little getting used to. Whereas you could easily lob a grenade with either L2 or R2 on console, here you have to press down on the d-pad in order to bring up your grenades, or use the touch screen. It works, but isn’t as intuitive.
– The story itself was an after-thought. Playing as a mercenary just isn’t as interesting as actually being involved in the battle between the ISA and the Helghast. Ultimately I found the climax to the story to be extremely predictable and cliché.
While I appreciate the additional contracts in the single player campaign, I still found the overall length of the campaign to be exceedingly short.
Killzone: Mercenary surprised me by how deep not only the gameplay was, but the multiplayer component. If you’re looking for a console-like FPS on the go, this is it. It may have taken a while, but Sony’s finally lived up to its original promise. Players can take their console experiences with them while they’re out and about in the real world. This one comes highly recommended for FPS fans.
Final Score: 8.5/10