REVIEW: Killzone Mercenary (Vita)

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  • Sony PlayStation Vita / Rated M / $39.99 / released September 2013
  • FINAL: You WANT this game. 4 out of 5 stars

The single defining characteristic to “Killzone: Mercenary” is the almost unbelievable graphical fidelity. “Mercenary” is, finally, the “no compromises” first-person shooter on PlayStation Vita.

As Sony released a free demo to the PlayStation Store, you can check out the looks for yourself. While that may dull the amazement a bit when you finally buy the full game, “Mercenary” has enough level variety to keep your jaw dropped. The game is not only full of great detailing and visual effects, it also runs impressively smooth. After a certain point, your brain starts to expect the Vita to maintain these almost-PS3-level graphics, which only makes other Vita games look worse in comparison.

Taking place across key events covered in previous “Killzone” games, “Mercenary” puts you behind enemy lines as a solder-for-hire. This means you’ll end up running missions for the series’ baddies, the Helghast, as well as the “good guys.” You will not be at a disadvantage if you have not played any of the previous “Killzone” games. Some of the single player campaign’s twists may lose a little punch, but “Mercenary” does recap events so you understand the game’s “shades of gray” vibe.

Now, it’s not a fantastic story by any stretch, which is another reason why you won’t be left behind if you’re new to “Killzone.” The story is a series of entry-level action movie scenes that are not helped by the bored voice work and computer-based cutscenes.

Mercenary” uses the Vita’s touchscreen in some novel – and some less novel – ways. To the good, there’s a quick and easy puzzle game that pops up whenever you have to “hack” into an enemy computer. This involves you tapping on particular shapes to complete a design on the lock. And every now and then, you’ll come across a switch that will require you to touch the screen to manipulate it. Where the game goes too far is with the touchscreen-based kill moves, where you get to swipe in certain directions to pull off a specific finishing blow on an enemy. While these actions take place in slow-motion, it’s still an awkward break from the controls to have to lift a finger over to the touchscreen in order to successfully execute the execution.

The single-player portion of “Mercenary” does not last very long, so you are encouraged to re-play each individual mission in one of three alternate styles. The “Precision” goal asks you to focus on being accurate, for example, rather than spraying bullets everywhere.

The online multiplayer mode, however, is where the game expects you to sink most of your time. Multiplayer is just as slick as the offline game, with competitive and co-operative options to build your online reputation. Game modes have new names – Guerrilla, Warzone and Mercenary – but they are familiar takes on online deathmatch and team battles that we’ve seen before. The key difference here is that this is a genuine feat on a portable device that a first-person shooter looks like nice and runs this smoothly.

This review is based upon product supplied by the publisher. Image courtesy Sony Computer Entertainment America.

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