Killzone: Mercenary Review – Mobile FPS Gameplay Perfected

case_front+Guerrilla Cambridge, the studio responsible for creating new Killzone games for the PS Vita, has possibly created the best mobile first person shooter (FPS) video game of all-time in Killzone: Mercenary.

Killzone: Mercenary is the first full fledged mobile Killzone game to sport the same controls and nearly the same level of crisp visuals as the three console-based titles. Previous mobile entries have sacrificed the traditional FPS control scheme to utilize a more portable friendly setup, so the gameplay experience of those particular Killzone games lacked the machismo of their console brethren. This is definitely not the case with Killzone: Mercenary, which does more for the FPS genre on a mobile platform than any other titles that have come before it.

Mercenary features a fully fleshed out single player campaign that takes place over 9 different levels, and offers nearly 6-8 hours of action packed gameplay, as well as additional replayable contract missions once each level is completed (think Gears of War Judgment’s declassified challenges.) Rather than focusing on a character from the ISA forces, or one from the Helghan army, Mercenary puts you in control of Arran Danner, a merc for hire who cares more about getting paid than what side he fights for. By playing a merc the lines of morality are never clear, neither is the side you’re fighting for, which make for some interesting plot twists throughout Mercenary’s narrative.

Danner is only loyal to himself, or is he?
Danner is only loyal to himself, or is he?

The campaign begins sometime during the initial invasion of Vekta by the Helghan army, so part of the game takes place alongside events of the first console game, and the plot eventually progresses to the Killzone 2 and Killzone 3 timelines. For a fan of the Killzone franchise it was refreshing to see that Guerrilla Cambridge managed to tie this mobile title’s plot into the larger scope of one of Sony’s better exclusive franchises. Both new and veteran Killzone gamers will be treated to perfectly made recaps that help to set the stage for each of the missions embarked on by Danner and his mercenary faction. These backstory laden intros, as well as the missions themselves, all help to paint a much clearer picture of some of the behind the scenes events that took place during the three Killzone console titles. Typically mobile spin-offs try to sow new stories, or ones not related to the console experience, so it was fantastic to finally play a mobile game that packed boatloads of backstory into a diminutive package that also added narrative value to the overall franchise.

The campaign does provide goals for you to achieve as well as a few foreseeable twists, but without great visuals this game would’ve felt like just another mobile spinoff of a killer console gameplay experience. The pristine visuals showcase just how powerful the Vita can be, and each level plays out in a way that will make you forget that Killzone: Mercenary is a mobile title. Its execution on all fronts screams, “This is a PS3 game”, which is something that most mobile games, even those for the Vita, haven’t been able to accomplish up until this point.

The campaign sports amazing visuals that could pass for console quality
The campaign sports amazing visuals that could pass for console quality

The campaign looks amazing and features a decent story, if not typical for a science fiction based FPS, but the true star of Mercenary’s package is its near perfect gameplay controls. Far too often developers have tried to mimic the fine tuned twitchy controls of a FPS title on mobile devices and failed miserably, but that isn’t the case with Killzone: Mercenary. In fact, it boasts the best FPS controls on a mobile platform to date, and I’d take that to the bank if there were banks that cashed guarantees. It was amazing to finally play a video game whose franchise started on a console platform, designed to use a controller, and actually have those controls translate to a mobile package.

Mercenary’s FPS minded controls work flawlessly with the Vita’s dual analog sticks and shoulder buttons. After a brief getting used to period the controls felt just as natural as if I were using a PS3 controller. The addition of touchscreen inputs enhanced the overall experience by allowing tasks such as puzzle solving and brutal melee maneuvers to be executed with a touch, or swipe of a finger, but they’re not entirely required. Unlike other games that employ gameplay gimmicks, Mercenary doesn’t unnaturally force its Vita abilities on you. Although, the touch controls do feel natural and work quite well. The only issue with the controls is a finicky cover mechanic, but it’s completely minor and only rears its ugly head when you’re scrambling in an intense fire fight and possibly bumbling your thumbs towards inputs while trying to avoid your demise.

This game’s campaign is more than worth the price of admission due to its high polish, but Guerrilla Cambridge also included a full fledged multiplayer component that not unlike the single-player campaign, looks and feels like it’s a console game. Mercenary offers six multiplayer maps and three different game modes in Mercenary Warfare, Guerrilla Warfare, and Warzone. Mercenary Warfare offers lone wolf style, every man for himself matches, while Guerrilla and Warzone are team-based affairs with the latter featuring a variety of rotating game types (same as the console versions.) Mercenary’s multiplayer further bolsters its replay value thanks to the fact that every unlock and V$ (in-game currency) earned in multiplayer is also available to use in the campaign modes.

Multiplayer employs ISA versus Helghan matches just like the console titles
Multiplayer employs ISA versus Helghan matches just like the console titles

Unfortunately, at the time of this review (9/4, game ships 9/10) there were not enough gamers online to fully test out Mercenary’s multiplayer component, but based on how well the few matches went that my Vita did manage to connect to, there’s no denying that Mercenary has the potential to not only provide a rewarding single-player campaign experience, but also a stable dose of pick up and play FPS multiplayer competition. The uncanny resemblance to a Killzone PS3 offering is quite clear, so if you’ve enjoyed owning noobs in Killzone games past, there’s no doubt that you’ll appreciate the ability to do so while away from your consoles.

Killzone: Mercenary has set a new bar for high-end portable gaming. For the first time in a long and arduous gaming career I felt like I played a mobile game that provided nearly an identical experience to a console-based video game. Mercenary’s presentation is top-notch in all facets: the visuals are glorious, the campaign is fun and full of intense FPS gameplay, the multiplayer mimics what you’d find on the PS3, the controls blow every other mobile FPS game into oblivion, and it has more than enough replay value to justify its $39.99 price tag. Killzone: Mercenary is the PS Vita experience that Sony needed to prove to its fans and neigh-sayers that its handheld unit is a force to be reckoned with, and that it is more than capable of delivering a console gameplay experience during this generation and next.

Killzone: Mercenary releases on September 10, 2013 exclusively for the PS Vita.

 [schema type=”review” name=”Killzone: Mercenary | Review Summary” description=”The Awesome: Stunning visuals, Perfected mobile FPS controls, Replayability | The Not so Awesome: Touchy cover mechanic, Not having gamers to play multiplayer with (not the game’s fault due to review deadline)” rev_name=”Killzone: Mercenary ” rev_body=”Killzone: Mercenary is the latest entry in Sony’s exclusive FPS franchise. This game boasts some of the best visuals seen on a mobile platform to date, but its biggest claim to fame is its excellent execution of console style controls for a portable FPS game. With a solid campaign that provides tons of replayability, and a full fledged multiplayer system, Mercenary will provide endless hours of console style gaming while away from your rig. This is the Vita game to show off to your friends to make them drool with envy. ” author=”Matt Heywood” pubdate=”2013-09-04″ user_review=”9.8″ min_review=”0″ max_review=”10″ ]

The reviewer received a review copy of this game for review purposes on the PS Vita platform.

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Tags : Game ReviewKillzone MercenaryPS Vita
Matt Heywood

The author Matt Heywood

Matt Heywood is the founder and EIC of where he strives to make you a better geek, one post at a time! When he’s not scouring the Internet for interesting nuggets of awesomeness he can be found in his secret lair enjoying the latest and greatest video games, taking pictures of toys, or talking Star Wars on EB’s Star Wars Time podcast show.