I bet you never thought you'd end up fighting for the Helghast. Nevertheless that's just what you do in Killzone: Mercenary.
The FPS genre has been woefully under-represented on the PS Vita. Despite its high definition capabilities and twin thumbsticks successive attempts by the Resistance series and the mighty Call Of Duty have actually weakened the Vita's FPS credentials.
Killzone: Mercenary sees players take the role of, Arran Danner, a mercenary hired to carry out some covert operations by the ISA during a Helghast assault on Vekta. During the course of his work for the ISA, Danner becomes embroiled in a complex tug of war over a bio-weapon that will see him fight for both sides in an attempt to stop it being used.
This is a very good game. Guerilla Cambridge has put in a lot of work to correct the damage that has been done by Resistance: Burning Skies and Call Of Duty: Black Ops Declassified and they probably couldn't have done a better job.
Killzone: Mercenary is a fast, smooth and innovative first-person shooter that complements the PS Vita very nicely. The team at Guerilla Cambridge have managed to incorporate the Vita's unique features into the gameplay to produce a game that's a joy to play.
Aside from the traditional FPS twin-thumbstick control system there is a modest motion-controlled aim enhancer allowing players to move their Vita in order to get that all-important headshot. It's not necessary but it works quite well.
The touchscreen has also been used well firstly providing quick access to weapon changes and grenades without awkward combinations of button presses through some discreet on-screen buttons.
The most interesting use of the Vita's touchscreen is the melee combat system. An on-screen prompt appears when a melee attack is possible and pressing the screen or triangle engages a short swipe QTE adding a visceral tactile dimension to combat.
Sneak up behind an officer and the melee attack becomes and impromptu interrogation through a succession of QTE screen swipes giving a bonus to anyone who successfully carries out each sequence.
The final element that uses touch is hacking. It's a simple mini-game of matching the combinations of symbols to decrypt locks but it works very well and makes you feel an extra sense of accomplishment for completing a hack.
The single-player mode incorporates a lot of multiplayer elements with players given a loadout to customise as they fight through the game. This is done through the Blackjack arms dealer chest dotted throughout the single-player missions. Player earn 'Valor' currency for killing enemies in a variety of ways, picking up dropped ammunition, interrogations and successful hacks. All this can be spent on new weaponry.
An added bonus here is that as players unlock the weapons and level up in the single player everything to unlocked for the multiplayer as well. Ranking up in single-player also unlocks extra loadout for the multiplayer.
The multiplayer itself comes in three flavours. Mercenary Warfare is the good old-fashioned free-for-all deathmatch mode which is fast paced and quite addictive. The top three ranked players in each match win Valor bonuses. Guerilla Warfare mode is Killzone Mercenary's answer to team deathmatch with ISA and Helghast battling it with the winner being the first team to reach 40 kills.
The final mode is the most intriguing mode. Warzone mode offers a 30 minute match which alternates between five different modes switching up the gameplay to keep things interesting.
Mercenary comes with five multiplayer maps (Shoreline, Marketplace, Zenith, Refinery and Skyline) each themed on one of the levels from the single-player campaign and carefully designed to minimise the potential for camping. They are also all good sizes for the Vita's standard eight-player multiplayer experience.
A generous dynamic spawning system also helps make multiplayer games flow nicely and provides an element of unpredictability.
On the negative side – and this is possibly the only complaint that can be levelled at Killzone: Mercenary – the multiplayer is a tad unstable on weaker Wifi connections. It will boot players very sharply if the latency levels drop below its own carefully defined standards. While this certainly ensures that multiplayer games can be played at the same pace as the single-player campaign it can be frustration if you're just trying to grab a quick game before you go to sleep and the Wifi box is through several brick walls. This is a relatively minor complaint and doesn't detract from the overall experience
With Killzone: Mercenary Vita owners finally have a FPS that takes full advantage of the hardware to recreate the kind of FPS experiences on the go that they have had on their home consoles. It's visceral and addictive and is a must-have for any hardcore Vita owner.
Killzone: Mercenary is available now on the PS Vita on the PlayStation Store and at retail.
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