Not being a fan of the series, I went into Killzone Mercenary with no expectations. The most I played of Killzone was about two hours back on the PS2 and I wasn’t having a great time, so after that I never really played the series again. I was slightly interested in playing Killzone 2/3 on PS3, but never got around to it. That being said, one thing I never expected is that a short preview of a PS Vita version of Killzone would make me want to go back and play all of the previous games.
I’m not too familiar with the story (obviously) so I will tell you what I know. When you start the game the ISA is taking the fight to the Helghan home planet. While they are trying to punch their way to the planet’s surface, they send you, a hired gun, to the planet’s surface to take control of the AA cannons and turn them on the Helghast. There were two of you to start, but your friend gets plugged before he even hits the ground.
This isn’t my first Vita game, but even so I was surprised at how good it looked. The Vita screen gives the visuals a crisp, vibrant appearance while the steady frame rate keeps you visually engaged. The Helghan home world looks like an extreme industrial revolution. The skies are dusty orange and everything else is metal. The world looks very cold and dark, and really fits the look and feel of its inhabitants. I’m usually not impressed by games with these themes because they typically look dull to me, but not this time. This time it just drew me further into the game.
My biggest problem with console shooters are the controls (I primarily play PC). I thought the dual analog sticks on the Vita would amplify this problem since they aren’t as comfortable as the Dual Shock controller, but after getting adjusted to the controls (which didn’t take long), I have to admit that aiming and shooting is still a pleasure and difficult controls are not adding any challenge to this game. Killzone Mercenary combines button and touchscreen controls seamlessly to make swapping weapons, throwing grenades, and other auxiliary functions smooth. Some actions, such as crouching and running, are handled by the same button that changes function based on if you’re standing still or moving forward; making the control scheme less cumbersome.
My first kill in the game was one where I was able to sneak up on the guard. Once I got close enough I was able to melee attack, swiping the touchscreen in a specified direction in order to execute the kill. The direction of the swipe determines how the kill will come in, making it so that I wanted to get more melee kills just to see the different animations. Shortly after that a few more enemies made their way to me, and me, thinking this was going to be your standard shooter, thought it was ok to just stand in the open and fire back. Negative.
I quickly found out that these guys aren’t from the budget henchmen warehouse and can definitely aim. I found myself quickly trying to find cover so I could shoot it out with these guys. Looks like that wasn’t the best idea either, because once it as clear I wasn’t moving from my cover one of them started lobbing grenades in my direction to try to flush me out. While I’m thinking “oh shit”, I was simultaneously thinking “this is exciting”. Gun fights weren’t just whack-a-mole here; It almost felt like Max Payne 3 in first person. I didn’t have to go balls-out John Woo style on the enemies to survive, but in a gun fight I definitely had to be more aggressive while at the same time moving from cover-to-cover. And that flushing out thing works both ways, BTW.
Now, unlike most shooters, this game has more than one speed. If you want you can go in each room guns blazing, but know that if you do so it will draw more enemies to you which makes the game harder. Alternatively you can play it slow and try to pick off enemies with silenced weapons and melee kills. There were several parts where I had a few options on how I wanted to approach a situation. One such area was a locker room where I had the option to either enter through the front or climb up a pipe and try to go in from the top or something more stealthy. I soon found that the enemies were sensitive to sound – If I ran or made any moderate noise in the vicinity of enemy soldiers they would come and check it out (Some times more aggressively than others depending on the noise). I used this to draw a few out of the locker room and kill them stealthily. There is no right way to play this part – I just played it the way I wanted.
Most of your actions, such as killing enemies, completing objectives, and picking up ammo, reward you with credits. You can spend these credits at the arms dealer station found in the area. Here, you can purchase additional weapons and armor, as well as resupply bullets and grenades. Guns and armor aren’t just upgrades – many of them have advantages and disadvantages, and may be better suited for certain play styles. Armor is mostly clearly labeled for what it’s suited for ranging from light armor that allows more mobility to heavy armor that, you guessed it, stifles mobility. There are general all-around weapons and armor you can pick up if you are looking to be a jack of all trades, but you should remember that you will be a master of none.
You can also purchase new Vanguard Systems, which are abilities your character can use or deploy such as a cloak, a stealth controlled robot, or even a shoulder mounted homing missile. Only one Vanguard System can be enabled at a time, and after using them they require a cool down period before using them again. If you are impatient you can spend credits to instantly recharge your Vanguard System at the arms dealer, though.
Like I mentioned, the preview was pretty short. However, it was more than enough to get me interested in not only Killzone Mercenary, but the series in general. Great visuals mixed with engaging, challenging combat made this preview a treat to play. If you’re a fan of Killzone it’s looking like you won’t be let down by Killzone Mercenary. We won’t know for sure until the full game is out, but as of now I’m definitely looking forward to it.