Killzone: Mercenary (Vita) Review

What we liked:
+ Warzone is still a blast
+ Visuals are fantastic
What we didn't like:
- Controls feel off
- Campaign feels pointless
- Touch controls feel forced
DEVELOPER: Guerilla Games Cambridge   |   PUBLISHER: SCEA   |   RELEASE: 09/10/2013

That s%#@ costs money!

The Vita has been out long enough now for me to proclaim that I love that system. Its screen is gorgeous, and the amount of content coming to it lately has really invigorated my interest in it as a platform. That said, I wish Sony would stop trying to legitimize the machine by proving it can handle a solid FPS. Resistance failed to prove it, Call of Duty failed to prove it and now Killzone does little to enforce the idea that the Vita needs this genre to thrive. Mercenary is yet another disappointing attempt to bring the genre to this portable device.

The story behind Killzone has never grabbed me. The futuristic opera was always overshadowed by its annoying characters, and cookie cutter plots. Mercenary feels no different, and never gets a chance to. The campaign mode lasts a paltry four hours at best, and the dialogue continues the tradition of poorly written attempts at humor. Portable versions of consoles biggest shooters often feel stripped down, but Mercenary takes the cake. I never cared about a single character, and even with a big twist about midway through, I never once felt compelled to push forward.

As a first-person shooter on the Vita, Mercenary is hardly the worst attempt. What drags it down is that Guerilla Games’ series has always been known for its more realistic weapons and movement. A lot of the things that make Killzone unique are what hurt it here. The contextual cover becomes an issue early on as does the shooting. Being a slower, more methodical style, it never felt right. Combined with the tiny, and not as responsive analog sticks of the Vita, it took me far too long to get comfortable performing headshots, or aiming in general. I had to crank the sensitivity almost all the way up before it started to even feel somewhat manageable.

Then there was the touch stuff. Sprinting by tapping the rear touch is a horrible, horrible idea. Stop implementing it developers, please. I turned it off, which I was thankful was an option. The melee however, seems hopelessly tied to swiping the screen. Tap triangle to instigate, then a series of swipes that require far more efficiency and effort than I received in satisfaction. I stopped doing melee kills after the first level or two.

While the campaign is miniscule in size and interest, the multiplayer fares better, as is the story for most Killzone games. Traditional modes are here, but the real draw has always been Warzone. This randomizing event keeps players on their toes with cycling objectives that keep the action fresh and fun. Controls become less of an issue here as well thanks to the more run-and-gun mentality as compared to the campaign. I had a lot of fun diving into quick matches on-the-fly. This is the real reason to own Killzone Mercenary, I can only hope it holds up over time.

I did like that the developers opted to share upgrades and currency across both single and multiplayer. Cash is earned for performing feats such as headshots and killstreaks. These can be used to buy new weapons and other upgrades. I liked that the slogging I did through the campaign didn’t go to waste once I started in on the multiplayer. It is a cohesive system and it works. I rarely felt like things were unbalanced, but again, I am jumping in very early on, long before the dedicated players have time to build up and dominate.

Over the river and through the woods…

Visually, things look great. I am constantly amazed at what the Vita can output on a graphics level. The trademark gritty realism shines through once again. Sure, there are some flat textures, but the solid frame rate and unique design make the world of Mercenary stand out. The voice acting doesn’t fare quite so well, with some truly poor deliveries and questionable writing. Thankfully the music and sound effects make up for the lack of presentation in the rest of the audio.

On the surface Killzone: Mercenary checks all the right boxes, with superb visuals and a robust online mode. Sadly the methodical controls and tacked-on campaign really drag down the experience. Then the issues with the hardware itself start to creep in and once again remind me that the Vita is not the best platform for the genre. Still Mercenary is the best example of it so far, and those clamoring for more Killzone will find a lot to enjoy in the multiplayer. Sony continues to fight for that must-have shooter on its portable playhouse.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

Ken McKown

Ken is the Editor-in-Chief of this hole in the wall and he loves to troll for the fun of it. He also enjoys long walks through Arkham Asylum and the cool air of Shadow Moses Island. His turn-ons include Mortal Kombat, Metal Gear Solid and StarCraft.

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  • A true gamer

    dumbass article made by a morron.

    • Fixxxer

      I don’t really agree with this review and really enjoyed this game but his opinion hardly makes him a “moron”.

    • FrustratedFury

      Disagree all you want, but don’t insult the author.

      • FrustratedFury

        I like how someone disliked a comment that asks not to be a complete douchebag. You do know what you’re saying, right? “I disagree. I beleive I need to be a douchebag. People love douchebags.” Spoiler alert- no one does.

  • cell989

    completely disagree with his review, he shouldnt be playing FPS to begin with. “tacked-on campaign” lol this guy….

  • Abort Mission

    One of the most pathetic and highly ignorant reviews I’ve ever read.

    Stay away from making reviews, OP.

  • jspillen

    This review is ridiculous.

    This may be the most amazing graphics I’ve ever seen on a handheld. It’s the freakin Killzone 3 engine and it shows. You see little particles floating around, and the lighting catches through a window or wall sometimes and it’s really, really impressive.

    Next the controls… I’ve always hated touch screen gimmicks, and really don’t play mobile games much anyway. I was annoyed by the touch screen crap in Golden Abyss, especially since everything else was good to great. This game actually got it right, the touchscreen actually feels relevant and forces the player to stay on point through melee kills. I never thought I’d feel like touch controls were a good idea… I was wrong. Haha !!! I can barely believe I just said that.

    Lastly, I’m not really as much of a multiplayer guy as a campaign player. I enjoyed the story, and felt like it was way more cohesive then any other mobile fighting game I’ve played. While the missions are all longer than 5 minutes but shorter than 15… the story does wrap around to connect the whole picture.

    The only thing I’ve thought was annoying or poorly utilized was the regular banter about ‘making money’. The game’s called KZ: Mercenary, and it gets mentioned again pretty much every mission. That was the one thing that really seemed tacked on.

  • Concerned Citizen

    I don’t see how year after year CoD pumps out 4 hour campaigns and the same MP and gets praise, but a handheld FPS manages to deliver console tier campaign for 4 hours and a solid MP component and it gets berated. Critics are blowing my mind with their inconsistency and bias as of late.

  • Michael Rogers

    While the story isn’t fantastic, it does hold the campaign together and it’s quite clear having explored the levels, that it is designed to be replayed in different styles rather than to experience once and only once. I was really impressed by how open they managed to make such compact levels. While it’s certainly not the best FPS ever released, it’s definitely up there, especially when you factor in you can play this on a train!

  • Mark

    You don’t deserve my click.

    • Ken McKown

      But we got it, so thanks ;-)

      • FrustratedFury

        Now, that was funny.

  • pherall2k

    You know you can turn sprinting with the rear touch pad off right? and like half the other touch functions, they’re all mapped to buttons.

    • Ken McKown

      Yeah I said that in the review…

      “Sprinting by tapping the rear touch is a horrible, horrible idea. Stop implementing it developers, please. I turned it off, which I was thankful was an option.”

    • pherall2k

      yeah you know. lol

  • Sony Slaystation

    Why is someone with a personal bias against Killzone (as admitted on your podcast) the one person to review a killzone game? I’m not taking shots or anything of the sort, I just find it strange. This isn’t so much a review as much as an account of your displeasure of playing killzone games as a whole. And as such, doesn’t really do a reader any good in making a purchasing decision. I wouldn’t review a baseball game if i hate baseball. Don’t review games you don’t like going into them.

    • Ken McKown

      I don’t have to like a game to think it is a good game. I think ICO is a good game, but I don’t like it. Also I am the only person who plays a lot of FPS games with a PS Vita (with a US account).

      Like I said I reviewed the game outside my feelings for the series. Note I also reviewed Killzone 3.

  • satam99

    Was interested in the game but seeing that it scored almost the same as Resistance: Burning Skies and cost 20$ more I will get Resistance

    • waltercool

      Don’t do it, this game have a incomparable multiplayer and gameplay. At least, buy COD instead Resistance, more player online