The video shows gameplay from the first third of one level.
We’ve covered Killzone Mercenary in some depth here at its initial reveal and here from E3 this year, but over the last week I’ve been dipping in and out of a (sadly all-too limited) preview build for the game, and I have to say I’m completely won over by what I’ve played.
And whilst it’s almost impossible to show you how good the game looks from a dodgy off-camera video recording (hey, Sony, we’d love one of those HDMI models, please) rest assured that Cambridge have done an amazing job with Mercenary’s visuals – native res, smooth framerate, fancy effects.
But perhaps more importantly, the chain of sub-par (Resistance, Call of Duty) first person shooters appears to have been broken. The preview build doesn’t go anywhere near showing what the full thing will be like, but already it’s streets ahead of anything else.
One of the best elements of the game, not shown in the video, is the Arms Dealer section. Staffed by a mysterious Blackjack, this touch-screen menu system effectively acts as your in-game shop, with both primary and secondary weapons, equipment and armour for sale.
Players also use Arms Dealer to re-equip past purchases, refill on ammo and switch out the Van-Guard (the floating MANTYS tech seen in the video above) for other cool gadgets. These include the Porcupine rocket, the ‘death from above’ Sky Fury, the Arc Missile, a camouflage system, an enemy targeting drone, an electronics jammer and a shield.
The Porcupine is my favourite – select it and enemies are circled in red. Simply tap them on the touchscreen and a rocket will automatically lock on. Fire and forget, indeed.
Whilst it costs money to buy goods and ammo, it also costs money to re-equip things you’ve already bought, although not as much as buying them fresh. It’s tricky to figure out the impact of this in the preview build, but hopefully it brings tactics and planning to the full game.
Equally on note is your Combat Profile, a perpetually changing representation of your mercenary skills, a badge of sorts but one that’s really there to just highlight your skills as you switch allegiances between the Helghast and the ISA.
Hopefully the game’s open approach to weapon load-outs and tech, coupled with the already evident wide-linear level design (you’re funneled along certain areas, but are normally free to tackle major battles your own way, including stealthy if that’s your bag) will give Mercenary plenty of replay value, and that’s not even mentioning the online multiplayer, which sadly we can’t really talk about yet.
Certainly, the AI puts up a real fight, and seems adaptive and smart. The enemy hides, rolls and ducks, and seem smarter still hunting in packs. There’s little dumb running at the player here, and it makes for a surprisingly deep shooter.
The Vita might be finding itself home to a plethora of indie games at the moment, but Mercenary shows that the machine is more than capable of big-budget AAA titles in the right hands, with the right license. Hopes are high that the rest of the game impresses just as much.