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Killzone Mercenary Review: Take the war on the go

Sections: 3D, Action, Developers, Exclusives, FPS, Game-Companies, Genres, Handhelds, Originals, Publishers, Reviews, Vita

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KillzoneMercenaryBoxArtKillzone Mercenary
Price: $39.99
System(s): PS Vita
Release Date: September 13, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Sony Computer Entertainment (Guerrilla Cambridge)
ESRB Rating: “Mature” for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, and Strong Language

If you’re familiar with the Killzone games, you probably know the rather diverse reactions to the games since the series premiered on the PS2. With Shadowfall coming to the PS4 as a launch, it would’ve been good to get product that runs parallel to the previous four games, three if you don’t count Killzone Liberation from the PSP, to flesh the backstory to what looks like a sci-fi rendition of the Cold War. And that’s really what the game, at least the single player campaign is all about. And all the better if the game is able to capture what the console experience of Killzone is on a portable handheld. And surprisingly, that’s what Killzone Mercenary is.

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For Gold and Glory

Killzone Mercenary is a side story to the existing Killzone games. Now the story, though it has good twists, was always a weak point for this series. It’s always been quite generic, while the game has been an interesting spin on World War II, which made it fall flat, particularly due to the lack of different perspectives and even a bit of a lack of urgency. This game offers that in spades as you’re working as a mercenary who starts off working for ISA who, after getting double crossed by both the ISA and your own mercenary company, ends up working for the Helghast army to help avert a planetary level crime against humanity. Something about Killzone Mercenary actually gives a sense of urgency and it could just be due to the fact that it actually spells out the viewpoint of both the ISA and the “Higs” as both aggressor and victim fighting for survival. It’s remarkably well done as a story in comparison to most of the rest of the existing games, but much like the other games, it does fall short and could be built up more beyond the supplements gained through intel terminals or interrogations.

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I love the smell of money on the battlefield. It smells of gear.

There’s a lot that Killzone Mercenary does well with the only really weak points being the story and the occasional graphics slowdown. The story could stand to be stronger by fleshing it out more. And the graphics, while they are stunning, especially for a handheld, suffer the occasional bit of chop when there’s a lot of action going on. That being said, it’s time to get into the good.

Killzone Mercenary gives you money for everything except for dying, committing suicide or killing civilians. If you rescue captured soldiers, regardless of the side you’re one, you get money. Kill enemy soldiers, there’s some money. Use explosives, get some money. Hack a terminal, get some money. So on and so forth. The money earned through successful soldiering can be used to restock ammo, work through your loadout to try to find weapons that would be applicable to the circumstance you’re in at the moment, upgrade VAN-Guard capabilities, etc. So the game does allow for heavily adaptable gameplay as you find different Arms Dealers locations on the maps.

The touchscreen is used for a lot. It covers a bit of everything between simple things like switching between your primary weapon, side arms, VAN-Guard system and grenades. It’s used in the Arms Dealer to restock, buy new equipment or re-equip old equipment. It’s used in timed hacking puzzles as well as flipping switches or levers. And save for the occasional slip-up, it is very responsive.

Even with the graphics slowdowns, Killzone Mercenary is remarkably beautiful and pulls off the console experience in terms of its presentation. While it does return to a lot of the darker color palettes from the first three games, which Killzone Shadowfall is noted as abandoning for more robust colors, Mercenary does the return in a way that actually is able to compete with console quality graphics (though screenshots don’t necessarily do the game much justice since a lot of the effects rely on motion. This is an actual console experience FPS on a handheld, something that games like Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified or even Resistance: Burning Sky really kind of fell apart on. While playing Mercenary, you’ll feel like you’re playing at least an early PS3 FPS.

The multiplayer component is pretty good when you’re able to find a game to jump into or have people to join with you. With online play, while Mercenary does have a limit eight people per session, the map sizes don’t run into the same issue as the multi-player component for Spec Ops: The Line, where the eight player limit was just too small for the general  size of the maps created. With Mercenary, the multiplayer maps are scaled back versions of the areas largely in the the single player campaign that allows for the more action-driven players to run straight into battle while the sneaky players or players who like ranged combat can also try to focus on their specialties as well. Sure, the number could be increased a bit, but the eight player limit is a suitable size for some pretty epic battles. With three different match types, there are a lot variations on play and play styles different from player to player, so there’s a lot of replayability there. There are also six different maps illustrating some of the areas that the single player campaign visited as well as areas that the first two games have visited as well. Your work in multiplayer also adds to your total earnings and valor card acquisitions, the latter of which can also add to your total earnings through the construction of various hands.

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Once more into the breach

For once, there’s is a not only a Killzone game that does most things right, but also an PS Vita FPS that actually fulfills the console experience from sound and design to even graphics. Naturally, there’s still more that can be done or added. There are still ways that Mercenary can be improved, which can be done with patching. But beyond the need for patching, what we’ve got here is a compelling FPS for the Vita that is actually good enough to be a system seller. It’s also a great work that could double as hype for the  PS4′s Shadowfall.

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