Killzone Mercenary Could Be Vita’s Killer App

Killzone Mercenary is not the PlayStation Vita’s first run at a blockbuster first party shooter. That honour fell to the Resistance franchise and it was met with a very mixed response from critics and fans. The much lauded arrival of a Call of Duty game for Vita – Black Ops Declassified – was also less than stellar.

But Killzone has a dearer place in the hearts of many PlayStation fans than either of those franchises and Guerrilla Games have consistently shown that they’re very capable of wringing the best out of hardware. So Mercenary is poised to prove a point.
Happily, from the short play time we had with it at E3, it seems well equipped.

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The visual style is still very much stuck with that Killzone tradition of dark and oppressive surroundings lit with bright blues and the sinister orange glows but it looks fantastic. It seems to be running at native resolution, which is less common than it should be on the platform, and it is textured and modelled beautifully.

Perhaps the best endorsement of how good it looks can be given in the form of an anecdote we brought back from Sony’s E3 press conference. After the queueing and the rush to find seating, we were in the balcony seats. As invited guests filtered in from the sunshine, there were a range of big screens around the stage – the ones they showed off PlayStation’s upcoming line up on during the show.

Each screen had someone standing in front of it on the stage, playing a game. Shadow Fall was there and so was Mercenaries. Both looked almost indistinguishable, upscaled onto those screens and from the balconies. It was only really the interface that gave away Mercenary’s platform.

Obviously, up closer, it isn’t PS4 quality but it’s also not what I would expect from Vita quality. Sure, we’ve seen some impressive output from Sony’s handheld but it always seems to come with a caveat. Golden Abyss looked great but that aliasing was dreadful. WipEout 2048 and Gravity Rush were stunning but in a very stylised way. Mercenary just looks great – no disclaimers.

The interface is what you’d expect too: it works as a normal FPS with on screen areas to tap for switching to grenades (which are then thrown with the trigger) and a melee prompt appearing, with swiping controls to finish the job when you get close enough.

The movement feels weighty enough, which is much appreciated with those tiny sticks, and the guns – although obviously limited in this demo – were solid and had plenty of impact. Sound, through the attached Sony Pulse headset, was impressive too, although with so much else going on around the stand, it’s impossible to give a fair assessment.

Given the history of this genre on Vita, I went into my time with Mercenary filled with scepticism. Would it be another franchise that aims high and sails below the bar? I expected a pared down version of the Killzone world and although the missions are planned to be shorter, the scale of gameplay certainly doesn’t appear to cut any corners.

There’s been a lot of indie developer love for Vita recently – smaller games with interesting mechanics or alluring visual styles. But the promise of a home console experience in your pocket might not have been quite as over-estimated as many of us were beginning to fear. Killzone Mercenary is coming and, if what I saw is a fair indication, it’s going to blow away the competition on PlayStation Vita.

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15 Comments

  1. What I like about the Killzone saga is the story and the world behind it, so I don’t really know if this kind of gameplay is right for me. A Killzone game without a story behind it is kind of “meh”.

  2. Excellent, hopefully this will lead to other developers investing in Vita as a core gamers console.

  3. Native resolution?! Nofi will be pleased!

    Seriously though, great to hear it’s living up to my hype-meter so far.

  4. Native res makes me smile like crazy.

  5. I was very sceptical but might have to keep an open mind for this title now.

  6. I hope it is as good unit 13 which i really enjoyed and is my first and only platinum.

    I have to ask is it worth getting the killzone HD and the psp killzone for vita as they are both on sale now ?

    • Killzone HD has aged badly, but if you like the series it’s interesting to see where it started. At the current price, I’d say buy it. But by today’s standards its got very mediocre gameplay, story isn’t bad though.

      I’m also wondering about Liberation on PSP.

      • Tbh I think the story is better than any of the others in many ways: more focused on characters’ interactions and they’re actually developed. Also the game environments are much more varied, especially compared to Killzone 2.

    • Liberation is probably worth the price. Rather than make a poor fps guerrilla used the limitations of the to inform the game design. so they made an isometric single stick shooter. On the psp it worked very well, on the vita it makes less sense but it is still good.

  7. It’s been confirmed as native res by the Playstation Blogcast. :-D

  8. I might have bought a Vita around launch if something like this was available then – now – I have to save my sheckles for PS4. Shame, as WANT

  9. Awesome news. Guerilla Games are knocking it out of the park with regards to graphics on both the PS4 and Vita. Top news for interested fans. :-)

  10. Even though this isn’t my favourite genre, on Vita anyway, I’m glad that it’s sounding like it’s gonna be an excellent wee game when released.

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