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Sunday, September 15, 2013

[Review] Killzone Mercenary (PS Vita)

Owning a PlayStation system and not owning at least one copy of any Killzone title is like owning an Xbox without owning Halo. When I heard that a Killzone title would be released for the PlayStation Vita in September 2013, I was immediately excited.

The PlayStation Vita has had a rough start. Not enough great games were made available for it even though it is a system with lots of potential especially for 3-D first person shooters. Call of Duty: Declassified and Resistance: Burning Skies were the only two FPS games available for the Vita. Until now.

The great thing about this title in the Killzone series is that you don't necessarily have to have owned the previous games in the series to understand what's going on. The bottom line is this: there's a war between one group, the ISA, and another, the Helghast. Your character's role in the game is a mercenary who is hired by the ISA to join an invasion on the Helghast's home planet, Helghan.

To be brutally honest, I have owned Killzone: Liberation for the PlayStation Portable (PSP) and Killzone 3 for the PlayStation 3 and those are the only two titles that I have owned from the franchise. Liberation was a game that was made differently than the rest. Due to the limited functions of the PSP, it could not offer adequate support for a true 3-D shooter. While other games like Star Wars: Battlefront were highly successful and 3-D FPS, they were difficult to control and did not offer gamers many options in the game that may be necessary. The Vita has changed the game by adding three additional features that can help gamers in using all the same options as they would have on a living room console.

The game is beautifully designed. The graphics are out of this world by any current 2013 standards. When friends ask how good the graphics are on Mercenary, I tell them that they may be just as good as the PS3's, if not better. I am not kidding. The lighting, shadows, and structures are all so colorfully detailed just as if you were really there! This is phenomenal for a portable game. This is one component that will be very difficult for you to bash the game for.

The game's story is engaging and easy to follow. There are briefing spots that I would like to have the option to skip instead of sitting through a few minutes of dialogue; however, I believe this is just a way of having a loading screen without having the loading screen. While the dialogue is playing, the next level's map is being loaded for you without explicitly telling you "Loading". For me, at this current moment, I am still playing through the game so I cannot comment on the game's full story.

The missions and levels are boasted as being massive. The game's packaging boasts 9 massive missions and does not kid. I have played through four of these and they are decently sized maps for a portable gaming system. That's not to say that the levels are huge or that they are small, but they will keep you busy. I haven't been able to play through an entire mission without pausing so that tells you something about how long the missions are. Don't get me wrong, the missions are not boring at all. The fights are very intense and keep you on your feet.

The gameplay of the game is, as I said, highly intense. There are many ways to play through each mission which adds to the replayability. While the game is short with only 9 missions, you are motivated to replay the mission for extras hidden in the mission or to play it in a different way.

This game has you playing as a lone wolf most of the time which gives you two modes of playing. Either you can run through a mission, full auto on anyone and everyone or you can be quiet and plan your attacks. The game rewards stealth and "punishes" loud actions.

There is an in-game currency of credits that is immediately rewarded to the player for many actions within the game. Killing Helghan soldiers grants basic points, usually about 50 points, picking up dropped items for ammo gives you 10 points, and so on. The more stealthy and planning that goes into an attack, the more points you will receive. If you notice a guard before you walking around another guard, you must take time to plan your attack to get the most points. Getting a headshot awards you more points than if you just go in, full auto, and kill both of them together. If you use a silenced sniper and get two headshots, that grants more points. If you knife both of them, quietly, you'll receive more points. If you kill both of them at once, and quietly if possible, with an explosion, you'll receive more points. And so on and so forth.

One issue that I have in the game is with the scavenging. Most games like Call of Duty and Halo allow players to pick up an enemy's weapon once they are killed. If an enemy is killed in Mercenary, you cannot pick up their weapon. Instead, you pick up a bit of ammo for your weapons. This is not to say that you can't use the same weapons as everyone, because you can, but that you just can't pick up items when in the field. However, you can change your weapons and equipment while in the field...for a small fee. If you entered a mission and didn't have enough credits to buy a weapon that you need for the mission, but you racked up those points while in the mission, you can stop by any of the boxes placed on the battlefield and change your inventory. If you already own a weapon, it will cost you about 250 credits to switch to that weapon during the game. Switching weapons before a match does not cost you anything.

The game uses a unique melee system in that you don't just step up to an enemy and click the "melee button" but that you click the triangle button (or touch the on-screen notification) and you will need to swipe in a direction to knife an opponent. Failure to swipe within the allotted time results in the opponent kicking you back, you stumbling and losing your balance (you'll lose control for a few seconds) and they get to shoot you a few times. If you fail to perform near a group of enemies, chances are higher that you will die so make sure you are successful.

The online multiplayer is what completes this game. I have only played one mode, but it was a fun experience. One of the best things about the game that differs from others like Call of Duty is that the game does not use two separate systems for leveling up. Instead, if and when you level up in the single player campaign, you will level up in the multiplayer and vice-versa. This helps players who may have difficulty adjusting to an online game. For many gamers, like myself, it is difficult to level up in online games because I just can't immediately compete with others. And since kills count for points for leveling up, I just don't go anywhere quickly like everyone else can. This levels the playing field for us and gives more players a chance to level up. It also helps as not everyone can play online on the go with an active 3G connection. So even though you stepped out for a moment, you can still have a chance to level up for your online matches. This does make it easier for cheating, but the PS Vita isn't easy to cheat with.

The online multiplayer uses the same knifing system that is used in the single player campaign. Except, if and when you try to knife someone on the field, they are given a swipe to perform as well. For example, someone tried to knife me while in the combat and I successfully completed the swipe and therefore was not knifed. I imagine that if he/she were able to complete the swipe before I did, they would have been successful in their attempt.

What I hated in CoD Declassified was that the online matches were too small. Maps were too small and there didn't seem like a lot of players. In Mercenary, the map feels bigger and there seems to be a whole lot more players on the field. However, I was playing a free for all so that could explain why I had so many enemies compared to a CoD match where you only had two on two matches. Nevertheless, I enjoyed these online matches a lot more. I am not playing through them as much as I'm trying to finish the campaign and buy as many weapons as I can so I can be on the same level as everyone else.

The game exceeded my initial expectations and did a fantastic job of bringing a solid FPS to a portable gaming system. There are more announcements of other FPS games coming to the Vita, a new CoD for one, and I hope they take lessons from this game on how to build a great portable shooter.

I would highly recommend this to any Vita owner who enjoys FPS games. Would I recommend that you buy a Vita just for Killzone? Not so much. The game will become boring after a time and there aren't too many other games released yet that will keep your Vita from collecting dust. If you are a die-hard Killzone fan, then by all means, you probably should buy a Vita just for Killzone. In my opinion, this one is just as good, if not better, than Killzone 3. The two can be compared to one another which is a first for any portable spin-off especially considering Liberation which wasn't bad but just was a completely different way of playing in the Killzone universe.

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