Killzone: Mercenary Hands-On Preview
Killzone: Mercenary  Box Art
System: PS Vita
Dev: Guerrilla Cambridge
Pub: Sony
Release: September 17, 2013
Players: 1
Screen Resolution: 544p
A New Kind Of Killzone
by Josh Wirtanen

The PlayStation Vita is a great piece of hardware with a ton of potential. Those of us who actually own one, though, will have to admit that it doesn't have the greatest game lineup yet. One of the things we're itching for is a good multiplayer first-person shooter, one that we can take with us on the bus and play to annoy our teachers at school.

There have been a couple notable attempts at delivering this experience on the Vita, first with Resistance: Burning Skies and later with Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified. Here's the thing though: Both of those games were terrible.

Killzone: Mercenary  Screenshot

What this means is that there is a group of Vita owners who would like that sort of experience, but who have already been burned a couple times. There's still a window of opportunity for a game to come along and do it just right, but that could be a window that's rapidly closing. Before it slams completely shut, the folks at Guerilla are trying to squeeze out Killzone Mercenary.

Just the other day, I got to sit down with the guys at Guerilla and see the progress they've been making on the game. I watched about a half hour of the single-player campaign (which is said to be about six to eight hours long), and I had the opportunity to spend some time with the multiplayer component (my time was with an eight-player free-for-all deathmatch game mode). While I'm not one hundred percent convinced yet, what I saw definitely has a lot of promise, and I'm crossing my fingers for that handheld multiplayer FPS experience I've been craving since I touched a Vita for the first time.


One of the things mentioned in Guerilla's presentation was that the Vita has some serious processing power, and Killzone Mercenary is attempting to cash in on that. In fact, Guerilla claimed that they were bringing Killzone 3's game engine to the Vita. The footage I saw looked pretty impressive, even when it was blown up onto a 32" TV screen. I was particularly impressed with the detail of the weapons; the silenced pistol, when brought up to an ADS perspective, was especially neat looking.

Now, the frame rate was pretty low, but as far as I saw, it remained stable. And the backgrounds looked especially nice, a huge step up from, say, Burning Skies or Declassified.

Killzone: Mercenary  Screenshot

The campaign is doing things a bit differently than Killzones of the past, as this time you'll get to play on both sides of the fight. You take on the role of Arran Danner, a mercenary for hire who will kill for whoever pays the highest price, and you'll get to re-experience events from past games in the series from a fresh perspective. For example, you will be asked to "clean up" after the Liberation of Vekta.

With the mercenary-for-hire motif comes an in-game economy. Every kill will earn you money, and, like in Metal Gear Solid 4, picking up the ammo these guys drop will also net you some extra cash. All of this money can be spent in Blackjack's shop, where you can upgrade your loadout and pick up new weapons.

Killzone: Mercenary  Screenshot

One of the coolest perks I saw was a flying drone called the Mantys Engine. This little thing could be flown around by players and was equipped with two blades. Many kills were had by getting this thing to pop up behind unsuspecting enemies and knifing them in the back of the neck. (I was told that it can even move undetected through small vents to emerge from locations your enemies might not expect.) It operates on a timer, and when it is not deployed, you "charge" it by getting kills.

All of this becomes especially important in the game's multiplayer, which I spent some time with before having a chat with Mathijs de Jonge, Game Director at Guerilla's Amsterdam branch.

There's a ranking/level-up system, but de Jonge explained to me that it was more like, say, StarCraft than Call of Duty. See, instead of constantly leveling up and moving up the ladder, the progression is relative to other players; you'll advance through the game's 50 ranks based on how well you do against your opponents. By performing terribly, you can actually move backward through the progression. The flipside to this is that the higher your rank, the more your "card" is worth. Like in Call of Duty's Kill Confirmed mode, players drop a card when they are killed, and picking up that card gains you points based on that player's rank.

Killzone: Mercenary  Screenshot

And this makes for a potentially addictive multiplayer component. I sincerely hope a community blossoms up around this, because it could have some staying power.

I definitely enjoyed my time with Killzone Mercenary, and there's plenty of time for improvement between now and the game's September launch date. I hope Guerilla nails this one, as the Vita could definitely use something like this to bring some luster to its exclusive lineup.

Josh Wirtanen
Editor / Social Media
Date: February 1, 2013

Game Features:

  • With Killzone: Mercenary, we want to offer PlayStation Vita owners a fresh perspective on the brutal conflict between ISA and Helghast – literally. For the first time in a Killzone campaign, you'll be fighting alongside Helghast forces as well as ISA specialists, carrying out missions that the regular soldiers just won't — or can't.
  • As a mercenary, you're free to decide which tactics and loadouts you'll use to fulfill your contract; your employers will reward you with state-of-the-art weaponry and cold, hard cash as long as you get the job done. But what is the price of that freedom – and will you discover it before it's too late?
  • Killzone: Mercenary is slated for a 2013 release.

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