Finally, a shooter worth owning on the Vita.
Killzone Mercenary puts you in the shoes of Aaran Danner, a man part of a mercenary group that will fight for anyone, if the money is right. The story spans over both Killzone 1 and Killzone 2, although the game only references these moments as you complete contract after contract. The story is not its strong suit, as it primarily beats the point into you're doing this for the money.
While the money theme is heavily emphasized, Mercenary does show that there's two sides to every conflict and neither side are saints. Instead, we see an ISA and Helghast group that will do whatever it takes to win, leading to betrayal and sacrifice.
The story itself will take you around 5-6 hours to complete, but it will unlock the different contract mission types that have you completing objectives on all nine levels either through stealth, demolitions, or precision combat. This greatly extends the life of the campaign, as you use different weapons, equipment and approach.
Where the story might not be the reason to keep you playing, the gameplay is some of the finest for the Vita and a nice change of pace for the Killzone shooters. Danner is equipped with a primary and secondary weapon, a grenade of some type, and special abilities granted by the VAN-Guard technology. The best part is equipment can be changed at any time if accessed by a Blackjack terminal. So instead of having to juggle between finding guns on the ground and being screwed if you picked a shotgun and a pistol, you can just redo you setup if you find one of many terminals.
The Blackjack terminals are set up by an arms dealer with calling name of Blackjack. He supplies ISA, Helghast, and various mercenary groups and wants to keep the conflict alive. The Blackjack terminals also act as checkpoints, with the added bonus as a way to restock on ammo.
What really makes this game good is the fact that the shooting is not at all hampered by being on a handheld. The recoil, aiming and reloading feel natural without feeling difficult. You won't have a hard time aiming because of the smaller sticks and it really just feels like you're playing a console Killzone.
The touch controls are a welcomed addition as they don't feel tacked on like some other Vita titles. You melee targets by using touch, given swipe prompts to carry out deadly assassination kills. Other uses include hacking terminals and using the back touch to zoom in and out of a sniper rifle scope.
The game really takes off once you can afford your first VAN-Guard ability. Some of the abilities rely on stealth, others offer hellfire from above. It's here that adds a nice twist to the proven Killzone forumla, as you can kill your opponents in more ways and complete areas in different styles.
Given that you can mix and match weapons and different VAN-Guard abilities, you'll find yourself mixing and matching your loadout as you go through missions. That alone is what really separates it from the other games, the freedom to choose what weapon you want to use and when you use it.
The only problem with the gameplay occurs when you choose the optional mission contracts after beating the main campaign. Due to fitting everything on the screen, the objectives are sometime paraphrased, which can cause you to misinterpret an objective and have to redo a section. There are even times you have to rescue X amount of hostages and they will sometimes not show up on the map, causing you to enter the next room and fail the objective since you cannot go back.
Another major success for the Vita, the eight player online portion of Killzone Mercenary. As for game modes, your simple Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch, with Warzone making another comeback. Here other players are mixing and matching their equipment and VAN-Guard abilities, adding another layer to the game. It's here that will really extend the value of Killzone Mercenary, and the multiplayer itself is something truly enjoyable. The nice thing is every dollar you make either in the campaign or multiplayer is attached to the same bank account, so there is always that drive to unlock the next gun or buy a new VAN-Guard technology.
Although Killzone Mercenary released around a time filled with heavy hitters and the looming next gen titles in the distance, any Vita owner looking for a good shooter will not be disappointed. It's a game that truly captures the Killzone feel while adding a few new toys and tricks to the gameplay that really plays out well for the Vita.
+ Freedom to choose from a variety of weapons and swap them out at any moment for any mission
+ Good use of touch screen
+ Satisfying gun play
- The mission contract objectives are sometimes a bit vague, will have you replaying parts
- HUD is a little cluttered
- Way too many references to making money, it's easy to understand what a mercenary does for a living