Killzone: Mercenary (PlayStation Vita) review

Killer franchise gets the handheld treatment

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Sony Computer Entertainment Killzone: Mercenary

Pros

  • Amazing graphics for a handheld game
  • Feels and plays like a proper Killzone game

Cons

  • Touch controls break up the flow of gameplay
  • Single player campaign is somewhat on the short side

Bottom Line

Killzone: Mercenary is a highly enjoyable first person shooter that thankfully does justice to the franchise. The only thing that stops the game from being perfect is the unnecessary touch controls.

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After getting off to a mediocre start on PlayStation 2, the Killzone franchise gained a new lease of life on the PlayStation 3 when 2009’s Killzone 2 was released. Since then, the first person shooter franchise has become a key PlayStation property, and now Sony is bring the experience to its Vita handheld. After the disappointing release of Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified, Killzone: Mercenary has as much to prove now as Killzone 2 once did on PlayStation 3.

Killer for hire

The storytelling in the Killzone series has mostly been forgettable, often being relegated to the background in favour of action and carnage. Killzone: Mercenary is not much different in this regard, but this time around you don’t play as an ISA (Interplanetary Strategic Alliance) soldier fighting the Helghast. Instead, you take on the role of mercenary Arran Danner, hence the game’s title. As a killer for hire, Danner has no loyalties beyond getting paid, which enables him to work for either the ISA and Helghast at various points in the single player campaign. This simple mechanic puts a fresh spin on the ISA versus Helghast dynamic that has been a hallmark of the series.

Instead of using a proprietary engine for Killzone: Mercenary, the developers have integrated a modified version of the Killzone 3 engine from PlayStation 3 for the handheld game. This not only makes the game look amazing, it also ensures that it feels like a Killzone game as well. Uncharted: Golden Abyss and LittleBigPlanet PS Vita have so far been the most visually impressive titles on the handheld, but Killzone: Mercenary takes it to a new level both in graphics and scope. The environments, character models and weapons look great, and the physics engine ensures that all of the action looks good in motion as well.

Look but don’t touch

There’s much to like with Killzone: Mercenary, but a few issues mar an otherwise great first person shooter experience. The game makes use of the touch screen for various functions, such as switching weapons and picking up ammunition. The latter is a gameplay mechanic, as the player has the option to either pick up the ammunition or visit a Blackjack (tm) weapons kiosk to buy ammunition or purchase new weapons. Using the touch screen for either function feels a bit awkward, and as a result interrupts the game experience. Weapon switching assigned to a physical button would have been preferable, as would have ammunition being picked up automatically.

Despite these minor niggles, and the fact that the single player can be completed within a few hours, Killzone: Mercenary is an enjoyable first person shooter that should be in the game collection of every PlayStation Vita owner.

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