Killzone: Mercenary

Zone Zeus

There is a new king of handheld shooters and it is Killzone: Mercenary.
Author: Aram Lecis
Published: September 4, 2013
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It always seemed like destiny that the Vita would end up being the home of the best handheld shooters. The dual analog nubs and hefty system specs means it could come closest to replicating the console experience, and the ease of PSN in relation to the Nintendo online system meant competitive play would have fewer roadblocks. The first couple of attempts proved the viability of the genre but they had their own failings that held them back. Unit 13 felt good but the game was depressingly generic, while Resistance: Burning Skies suffered from awkward controls and confusing level design.

We’ve heard rumblings of a Killzone game on Vita almost since the system launched. When those rumors coalesced into Killzone: Mercenary and details started to leak out our interest was piqued. Then we played under the intense lights of E3 followed by the dim lights of our basement during the single player and multiplayer betas. While there were a few blips here and there everything seemed to be coming together nicely and it felt like September couldn’t come soon enough.

Thankfully I didn’t have to wait quite that long as review code came in late August and I got down and dirty with the single-player campaign and tried to do my part for my team online. Bear in mind, I don’t normally have a lot of patience for shooters as a whole. I find the repetitive nature of killing people over and over again mind numbing and I generally check out after an hour unless the game is bringing something strong to the table. It was a bit shocking when I wrapped up the six hour or so campaign and another half-dozen or more hours in multiplayer and I still want to go back for more. Blessedly the campaign is structured in such a way that going back for more actually has a purpose!

Mercenary tells a story separate from the main narrative we’ve been following on the consoles. You’ll step into the shoes of Arran Danner, former soldier and current mercenary who’s happy to take jobs for the ISA or for the Helghast just so long as there is a paycheck at the end. Since anyone can be your enemy you’ll be fighting a wider range of bad guys than normal and you might feel a twinge of guilt as you put a few rounds into an ISA soldier’s head… probably not though. The narrative takes the poignant twists and turns you’d expect, with a few backstabbings and loyalty shifts that are de rigeur in a mercenary’s tale.

Once you complete each of the nine missions (referred to as “contracts”) you’ll unlock alternate contracts for that mission. Each level has a “precision”, “covert” and “demolition” contract that will task you with completing the level again meeting specific criteria with specific weapons. A precision contract might want 30 headshots with a particular gun and keep as many civilians alive as possible. Covert will force you to use stealth and silent kill while demolition is the opposite, ordering you to use grenades and get in close with heavies. While none of these contracts change the mission structure, they DO allow you to radically alter your playstyle.
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