Killzone has, bar a rare PSP outing, primarily been a console endeavor. Liberation tried to bring out the lore and take the series to handhelds via top-down strategy fun, but It’s really a series thats at its strongest for Sony when you can shoot something. Now though, it’s in the hands of Guerrilla Games Cambridge to take the console shooter and shrink it down into the palm of your hands.
Unlike previous Killzone titles, which placed you in the role of the ISA military, this time you’re a gun for hire working with other mercenaries to do the grittiest jobs. You’ll specialize in whatever job pays well, from guns blazing to insurgent stealth missions, you’ll take it all. Taking up the role of Aaran Danner, a Phantom Talon Corp mercenary who was formerly in the UCN military until a disagreement involving civilian casualties arose. Along with the help of Blackjack, a black market arms dealer, and Benoit, the man who helps assign you missions, your journey starts by rescuing ISA figurehead, Admiral Grey. However, nothing’s ever as simple as it first seems.
Taking place across the course of nine missions, where you’ll take contracts for the ISA or even from the Helghast themselves, not an awful lot really changes other than the bodies you’re firing off rounds into. That said, you won’t just be storming through levels killing everything as many missions in Killzone: Mecenary let you approach them with stealth at the forefront of your mind. There are sections where you’re forced into open gunfights, but the weapons loadout and black market store show you that you’ve got options for how you tackle any situation.
This is evident just by the sheer amount of weapons available to you compared to any other Killzone game. You can outfit yourself with varying types of armour that can offer better protection, noise dampening, or even movement speed. You’ll also be able to pick from a raft of primary and secondary weapons, each with their own merits for certain situations. If a standard grenade or heavy weapon isn’t enough for you, then the allure of the VAN-Guard system will certainly capture you attention as it offers you tech tools that can deliver room-clearing explosive power or something a little more conservative and stealthy – or something in between if you like.
Shooting isn’t all you’ll get up to either as many missions, and multiplayer sessions, will require you to hack doors and attain intel from officers or terminals strewn throughout levels. Hacking comes as an interesting and rather intuitive touch-based game, and intel from officers is gathered by injuring and then interrogating them through swipes on the screen – in a similar way to the brutal melee attacks you’ll perform on enemies throughout your journey.
As a mercenary, you’re always in it for the money, so each mission you take, kill you make and piece of dropped ammunition you pick up grants you a fat wad of Vekta Dollars. This isn’t superfluous cash though, it’s vital for improving your arsenal to suit any situation Mercenary throws your way. Also, any weapons purchased, along with your rank – earned through play and skill shots etc. – carry across to online play, so you won’t have to repurchase anything.
There’s also plenty of replay value to be had here as after each time you beat each mission, you’ll unlock three sub-contracts that can be performed for Blackjack. You can’t activate all three at once though, and each one requires certain criteria from your loadout – meaning you’ll probably need to buy some stuff. These extra missions come in three flavours: Precision, which is a timed blast that requires you to free hostages and perform other good deeds; Covert, a stealth section of the previous level; and Demolition, a mode that allows you to let your hair down and go nuts with guns.
Each contract also has five challenges that must be completed in order to complete the contract. If, for instance, you miss a hostage, you won’t be notified until towards the end, which means it’s time to restart the entire mission. Because of this, it offers multiple playthroughs – largely because it never becomes irritating. What’s more, you can pick from three difficulties and the hardest difficulty puts up a challenge thanks to the removal of on-screen crosshairs.
Valor cards also add another layer to Mercenary and are collected through completing missions, collecting from fallen multiplayer foes and comrades. While they don’t give you anything instantly, collecting four of a kind, a suite or a full deck grants you monetary bonuses.
Multiplayer is rather fully-formed and overly impressive for a handheld title. It might be somewhat basic compared to a console offering, but you’ve got yourself Killzone‘s popular Warzone game type, a free-for-all mode called Mercenary Warfare, and a team deathmatch mode by the moniker of Guerrilla Warfare. Also, unlike previous Killzone titles, anyone can use camouflage in combat and you’ll have random VAN-Guard drops on the battlefield. It’s insanely gun and an experience that’s completely unavailable anywhere else on the Vita, or any handheld for that matter.
Killzone: Mercenary is the definitive Killzone experience on the go. Many of us thought it wasn’t possible, especially after missteps from other FPS franchises. Guerrilla Cambridge came through and developed an addictive and satisfying experience, both online and off that’ll secure its place in your Vita library for months to come. Simply put, it’s a must have title for any self-respecting PlayStaion, Killzone or Vita fan.
Audio/Visual – 5/5: Looks amazing, sounds meaty and is the prime example of the portable home console experience
Gameplay – 5/5: A mix of fun and classic experiences with some fresh elements thrown in to make it even better
Innovation – 5/5: With an interesting approach to contracts, each level is replayable and fresh
Value – 5/5: Various ways to play, tons of guns to collect, and a robust online experience to keep many playing for months on end