Killzone: Mercenary – First Impressions

The Killzone: Mercenary multiplayer open beta was released last week and I’ve spent a good amount of time testing it out. I must say I was pretty skeptical about how the FPS franchise would run on the Vita’s small screen and compact controls, but, I’m happy to say, Killzone: Mercenary exceeded my expectations with the little taste developer Guerilla Cambridge gave us. With only a few days until the release, I thought I’d share some of my experience with the game.

I find your lack of faith disturbing...

I find your lack of faith disturbing…

The first thing that I noticed when I jumped into a multiplayer match was the graphics. Killzone: Mercenary does a splendid job of illustrating the Vita’s graphical capabilities. Everything, from the waves crashing against the rocks and steel to the detail put into each weapon and character model, surpassed what I thought was capable on a handheld. I do have to say, however, the developer’s promise of console quality graphics is a bit of an exaggeration; parts of the environment are still polygonal and most textures are still pretty rough. But it’s a handheld game and, marketing promises aside, I’m truly amazed at how polished the game looks and feels for something that I can put in my pocket and play on the go.

The majority of my doubt though was placed on the gameplay of Killzone: Mercenary. I’ve played a few FPS titles on handhelds before and most of them were a disaster (with the possible exception of Metroid Hunters for the DS). Their controls usually feel clunky and fail to capture the accuracy required to run an online competitive shooter due to limited screen space and unorthodox control schemes. Yet after playing Killzone Mercenary for many hours this past week, it’s clear that developer Guerilla Cambridge has nailed it. The controls do take a little bit getting used to, but once I adjusted myself the game felt and ran smoothly; the dual-analog controls felt great, the front touchscreen buttons such as “Switch to Grenade” or “Alternate Weapons” were extremely convenient, and the game itself was fluid in its ability to handle online multiplayer. The only drawbacks I noticed were a few framerate hiccups and that the Vita becomes pretty hot when running the game. Other than that, I was pleased with the overall experience, even the touchscreen prompts that seemed gimmicky but didn’t detract from the pace.

Your shoes are untied.

Your shoes are untied.

Additionally, the game features a monetary system linked to character customization that was highly addictive. Killzone: Mercenary pushes you to play your way and to approach multiplayer in the manner you see fit, whether you’re into stealth or demolition. While this sort of system is pretty customary in the FPS genre, these multiplayer additions don’t feel tacked on and become a good reason to keep playing the game well after the singleplayer campaign.

Killzone: Mercenary was a game that I didn’t really have an interest in, a game I thought was sure to falter due to its genre’s standards and platform. But after playing it this past week, I’m genuinely looking forward to its release. The multiplayer open beta has shown me that the game has succeeded where many others have failed and that it’s a game worth watching come next Tuesday.

Written and edited by Tim Atwood
Chief Editor at The Pixel Pen Review

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