Killzone: Mercenary fits into the Killzone Universe, but takes the series in some new directions, whilst maintaining some of the series’ proven aspects. Players play as mercenaries instead of falling under an army. Mercs are given objectives or jobs, and from there players can use their own tactics to achieve the given goals. Mercenary offers both competent singleplayer and multiplayer modes.

Developer: Guerilla Cambrige
Publisher: SCE
Distributor: Ster-Kinekor
Reviewed on: PS Vita
Also available on: N/A
If we had to give it a numerical score: 9/10


Gameplay and Features

The all important factor for me was always going to be the control mechanics. And fortunately Guerrilla Cambridge got it spot on here. They used the same mechanics the series is known for, particularly the unique cover-system, where players can peer over objects from cover using the thumb-stick. In addition, and to favour the Vita, there’s plenty of good use of the Vita’s touchscreen: aspects like your inventory, hacking mini-games, scoped-weapons, melees and interogating Helghast use the touchscreen. The melee’s have you swipe the screen in different directions, and works really well. The rest of the mechanics are not indifferent from other shooters, but solidly crafted, and work well with the Vita’s smaller controller interface.

While the mechanics, aside from the touchscreen controls, are familiar to the series, the gameplay modes are a relatively fresh experience in the series. The campaign offers 9 mission of a good length. Then for the singleplayer there’s Contracts mode, which offer an additional 27 sets of objectives, and should keep you playing for quite a few more hours alone. The objectives get you rewards, and the higher the difficulty you set it to, the better the rewards. A nice touch here is whatever you earn in the singleplayer modes, and there are plenty of goodies to get, you can carry into the multiplayer front. The progression system also works in reverse, so your multiplayer winnings can be carried into your singleplayer modes.

Besides guns, gear, explosives and the usual unlockables, Mercenary offers various Van-Guards and Valour (currency) to unlock. Van-Guards are tertiary attacking gadgets or gear that can shape the way in which you play. For example for a more stealthy character, you can equip the ‘Ghost Van-Guard’ which allows you to be invisible for a short duration. There’s a Turret creating Van-Guard or a Shield one for a defensive type of player. The Van The Van-Guard system offers plenty of dimensions and was really well designed. This also makes for unique playthoughs – if you choose to kit out your merc differently the next time round, Van-Guards can help you shape a different experience. Valour is earned throughout, and the more effective or impressive you are through the levels, the more you earn.

The multiplayer side of things is just as polished as the singleplayer. The three Multiplayer modes support up to eight players, and are playable over six maps. Game modes include: Mercenary Warfare, a free-for-all mode where players must earn as much currency as they can in the set time limit, by taking out opponents. Guerrilla Warfare is a standard team-based deathmatch mode and Warzone has two factions go head-to-head in five different missions.

The entire design of the game integrated. The purpose is to progress through either modes, earn Valour and upgrade your equipment. Players compete on leaderboards and are even graded daily, your earnings and accomplishments that play before earn you Valour cards, a ranking card of sorts. The better you do, the higher you earn, the better the equipment you can buy, which gives you the edge on the multiplayer front or offline. I love that the progression system is wonderfully integrated to all aspects of the game. The design should keep you playing, instead of offering a playthrough, a bit of multiplayer and move on. The clever design should encourages players to keep going. If its an affair you are looking for rather than a quick fling, this one has you covered.


Sound and Visuals

With the Vita’s visual specification, I have found that you either go very ‘arty or abstract’ with the artwork, or keep things solid and neat for a realistic look. The latter is true with Mercenary. The visuals are crisp, neat and more than apt for the Vita’s prowess, impressing anyone that peers at the screen. There is definitely less visual effects or pizzazz than is possible with the home consoles, but the visuals here definately boast well for the Vita.

The audio quality echos the visual quality, and to get the real joys out of all the shooting and exploding, I would recommend using a good set of earphones. The narrative was not that profound for me, nor was the script, but the game is all about the gameplay for me, with the narrative taking the back seat.

Closing comments

Finally, the definitive shooter has arrived on the the Vita. While Mercenary is not my favourite in the series, the “darker” Killzone 3 being my absolute favourite, it is easily one of the better experiences I have had on the Vita, and undoubtebly the best shooter available for Sony’s handheld. I was positively surprised by the overall quality of Mercanary, not only with the production side of things, but also with the gameplay design and game modes. Killzone Mercenary is a thorough offering on the Vita that puts many a ‘home console shooter’ to shame. Top class.