Killzone: Mercenary (PS Vita) is a classic FPS shooter for the resurgent Sony handheld gaming system.
- Varied, long missions taking place in a variety of environments
- Gear and equipment level-ups
- 'Van-Guard' weapons systems for new battlefield strategies
- 8-person multiplayer
"Killzone: Mercenary gives a new perspective on the Killzone Universe. This time you’re not an Army grunt who follows orders - you’re freelancer, a gun for hire, a soldier of fortune. These guys don’t play by the rules or fight for any flag. They’re in it for the money. The client might give the objective, but they’re not going to be telling you how to do your job. You get to pick your own gear and tactics; as long as you get the results."
Killzone: Mercenary for PS Vita feels like a launch title for the touchscreen-enabled handheld PlayStation. It's a rock-solid first-person shooter, with quick and precise dual-stick controls, decent graphics and environments, and a few surprises that take advantage of the system's unique features.
Which sounds fine, but actually it's a bit of a shame. Not because the game isn't good - it is - but because we're about two years into the system's lifespan. We've needed a rock-solid first-person shooter on Vita for a long time - Resistance: Burning Skies and last year's Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified don't bear discussion - and this doesn't quite feel like the leap forward Vita needs to make another assault on the market.
On the plus side, however, Guerrilla Games' Mercenary really is a very strong title. It looks brilliant, with the just the right balance between visual fidelity and speed, and blows away lower-rent FPS games on iOS and Android. The basic mechanics are also excellent. Aiming down the gunsights is quick and precise, movement always feels well-judged and speedy and even the more awkward grenade-throwing and sprinting functions are bearable. The on-screen gesture-based executions are grim, but they work well.
Needless to say, the story is pretty basic. You play a generic mercenary fighter, happy to switch between the bright-and-good ISA and the evil Helghast depending on who's paying the bills, earning money for everything from headshots to completed missions, and gradually paying for equipment upgrades and ammo. A neat twist is that you continue to earn money as you play multiplayer, meaning you're always working towards something - even if it's only a vaguely better rifle. That's handy, because the campaign itself is short - nine missions, five hours - and despite a variety of 'Contracts' within each mission, it's not all that taxing. The missions are also quite generic in feel - you're not going to see much you haven't seen before, which is a shame.
In sum, playing Killzone Mercenary on the Vita is a bit like drinking a cold glass of water on a hot, dry day after fifty games of table tennis. It was absolutely crucial to get this system a decent FPS game, and that objective has been achieved. Mercenary is a very fun, precise, enjoyable and high-quality game and it's a huge relief to see it arrive - and our score below reflects that. But be warned: it's also extremely generic and straightforward, with little sense of invention or experimentation. The Vita can do better - and with the upcoming release of Borderlands 2, it will do. But in the meantime this is at least a worthy stopgap.