The Killzone series has always been a bit odd. Originally designed as Sony’s “Halo Killer,” the series seems a bit out of place as of late. With the current trend being Battlefield vs. Call of Duty, Killzone and Halo have more or less fallen to the sidelines. Sure they’re still enjoyable, but without its original purpose, Killzone sits adrift in the ocean of obscurity.
Despite not being relevant as anything more than “Sony’s exclusive shooter,” Killzone has moved to the PS Vita. The newest edition to the series, Killzone: Mercenary puts a spin on Killzone franchise. Branding itself as a game where you’re no longer an army grunt, but a freelance mercenary, it’s a title that promises a lot. Can the series make a successful transition to the PS Vita or will it come up a little short?
The Best Graphics - I hope at this point I’ve made it abundantly clear that graphics aren’t something I value highly in a game. However, seeing PS3 quality graphics on the PS Vita is definitely something worth noting. All the characters are highly detailed and you can tell that the best people worked to get the most out of the Vita. If nothing else, it’s a benchmark for what the Vita is capable of.
Tale of Two Factions - Mercenary does players the favor of not painting one faction as overtly good, and the other as diabolically evil. Rather, each faction is full of dicks that need to be shot in the face, and you’re the one getting paid to do the shooting. With a title like Mercenary it would only make sense that you work for the highest bidder, and that’s exactly what happens. Without spoiling too much (I’ll spoil the rest in the negatives), you end up changing factions a lot, and seeing the war from different perspectives. In the end, you decide who is right and who is wrong in this war.
Run & Gun Meets Stealth - At the beginning of almost every area in a level, you’re given the option to be stealthy or go in guns blazing. Stealth approaches tend to be more rewarding but take longer, whereas the “shoot everything” approach tends to lead to you dying more often than not. It’s a pretty nice balance that can appeal to all kinds of gamers. Still, I don’t know why you’d include stealth and an LMG in the same game. It just seems silly to me.
Change of Scenery - Despite being a shooter, Mercenary does its best to give players a bit of an Around the World in 80 Days feel. The game starts in a pretty uptown kind of place and then quickly shifts to air craft carriers and backwater slums. Each level is insanely different from the last which is something I can appreciate as it’s rare to see a shooter that isn’t the same areas over and over again.
WE'RE THE BAD GUYS
Of No Consequence - One of Mercenary’s most glaring issues is that it literally doesn’t exist in the series. This game is supposed to take place after the events of Killzone 1, but I’m pretty sure I know a pointless side story when I see one. Put simply, the game ends with everyone except you dying, and anything that had been accomplished exploding. That’s it. This game will bear no relevance to any other Killzone title.
Unforgivable Controls - The PS Vita suffers from the same issue that the PS3, PS2, and even PSX suffered from. Put simply, the Vita is great for 3rd person hack-n-slash, JRPGs, and rhythm games, but absolutely terrible for shooters. The two sticks start to hurt the hand after a while, and everything seems far too crammed together for me to truly enjoy it. What’s worse, Sony still hasn’t given up on making touch screens a thing, and forces the player to use them for every interaction that isn’t shooting something in the face.
No Online - I gave up on the online pretty fast. The matchmaking system was choppy, and it was rare for me to find a match that had more than 3 people in it. Maybe I had a bad experience with it and somewhere someone is playing with 8 people and no one is using countless amounts of air strikes, but I doubt it. The game’s online is pretty much nonexistent a week after its launch, and I doubt it will get better.
Limited Customization - Being fair, Mercenary gives players quite a few weapons to play with. At the same time, they’re trying so hard to bank off of what made Call of Duty’s customization so popular, it isn’t even funny. The unfortunate thing is that they took everything from Call of Duty except for the weapon customization. I don’t want an LMG with a scope, and I certainly could do with some deeper character customization. I mean, it’s not bad. It’s just lacking.
Killzone: Mercenary suffers from 2 big problems. The first problem is that it’s on the PS Vita and despite its best efforts, it can’t get over how poorly designed the controls are. The second problem is that it’s a game that’s had a lot of money put into it, but lacks some basic fundamentals. I can think of no one save it be casual players who enjoy Fruit Ninja like to pull their hands off a controller to swipe a screen. Still, despite some glaring design flaws both on the hardware and software, Killzone Mercenary is a solid game, and one of the few worthwhile Vita titles.
*This review was based on the PS Vita version of the game with a review code provided by the publisher.