Friday, 6 September 2013

Killzone: Mercenary - Final Round Review

Killzone has been a much loved franchise among the PlayStation supporters since the first title release on PS2 back in 2004.

Since then the series has made some stunning, albeit bland at times, leaps into the future with beautiful visual, solid mechanics and a good story to back it up.  Killzone was limited to consoles until its debut appearance on the PSP with Killzone: Liberation, and whilst Liberation was good, it was nothing special.  What the folks over at Guerrilla Cambridge & Sony have done this time round with Mercenary is nothing short of inspiring.

The PSVita is quite a power-house considering the small package it comes in, and Mercenary really shows this off by giving a full-sized console feel.  The visuals are fantastic, and the framerate is ridiculously solid.  Using the same but slightly modified engine that Killzone 3 did on the PS3, it has allowed them to find the fine line between good graphics and solid gameplay; both of which Killzone: Mercenary have.

The single-player campaign, Contracts, takes you on a memory trip down some familiar locations fighting as a mercenary with no agenda other than his paycheck.  It felt rather nice to not be morally obligated to fight for one side and actually explore the views of not only the Vektan (ISA) but also the Helghast.  While the Contracts aren’t huge and it doesn’t take too long to smash through them, there are more than enough secondary objectives making this a solid single-player campaign worthy of replaying.

Furthermore, there are some pretty sweet additions in game that make the gameplay a little more interesting.  The new “Black Jack” feature is a portable gun station/merchant which allows you to refill your ammo, buy or change your weapons and reconfigure your whole load out.  But you can only change weapons by finding a Black Jack merchant; you can’t pick up any guns.  This causes you to scramble around trying to collect scraps of ammo to survive the onslaught from whatever wave you’re facing off against.  The beauty is that you can change you’re load out however you want, but the tragedy is that you get charged for it, even if you’re already bought the weapon/item you want to change to.  I found this to be great, yet also frustrating feature, as it forces you to think ahead and plan your assault instead of just running out guns blazing.

Another cool feature is the difficulty system; you can change your difficulty setting before any mission, however the payout is much, much higher if you play on Veteran difficulty.

Killzone Mercenary is not without some serious faults.  The Multiplayer is somewhat broken; unless you have a seriously intense Wi-Fi signal there is no way to get into a match.  Just you join the match, before you even spawn in game you will find yourself kicked from the match due to poor connection, even if you’re connection is solid.  Not to mention that when you do get into a game the matchmaking is somewhat dodgy as well.  The majority of Team matches are unevenly matched, with 2v4 matches happening constantly.  It seems the Match Join function is set to random and will almost always leave one team at 2, sometimes 3, player disadvantage.  It’s funny how there were far less, if any, of these issues in the Killzone Mercenary Online Beta.

Luckily this is not the first game to have these issues, and it is not a big problem to fix.  The fun that you have in the three different multiplayer modes far outweigh the connectivity issues.  Multiplayer may be slightly broken for now, but is still enjoyable.  Sadly, yet understandably, there is no voice chat, however due to the Vita’s Party Chat feature not all hope is lost.

Overall, this is definitely the Vita’s first good shooter, and in fact one of the best games you’ll play on it.  But it is more than just a fun shooter on a handheld; it is a great First Person Shooter.  If you feel the need for a change of pace from your conventional shooters on PC or console, then this is a truly solid alternative.  One thing’s for sure, I am super pumped to see what they do with Killzone: Shadowfall on PS4 and how the Vita’s powerful potential will be integrated.

Final Round Rating  -  8.5/10


 - Frank van der Merwe

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