Thu. May 26th, 2022

Everybody has a game or series that they just don’t quite “get”, something they have difficulty deciphering just what the fuss is all about. For me one of those franchises is the PlayStation exclusive first person shooter Killzone and, it seems I’m not alone in that view. I’ve always admired its universe, packed with striking World War 2 similarities and the powerful representation of a corrupt evil dictatorship lording over a civilization populated entirely by series antagonists the terrifying Helghast adorned in their instantly recognisable orange eyed uniforms. Regardless of my passion for the world developers Guerrilla Games had built the heavy trudging gameplay and somewhat stiff shooting mechanics failed to keep me invested for anything more than passing encounters with the series.

With that in mind it’s unusual that like many PlayStation Vita owners I find myself eagerly anticipating the latest series entry Killzone: Mercenary. For the first time players will be able to take a full Killzone first person shooter experience on the go complete with a full deep competitive online mode. Killzone isn’t the first FPS to come to Vita, the Sony owned Resistance series and Activision’s colossal Call of Duty were both previously been released onto the hardware back in 2012 to a tepid response from fans and critics alike; both developed by the same company – Nihilistic Software. Owners of the powerhouse portable are hoping that it’s Guerrilla Cambridge’s first go at Killzone that will prove to be Vita’s FPS saviour and buck the genres trend of disappointment on the portable. Sony seems confident in the game as PlayStation Plus subscribers were treated to an open beta of the online multiplayer earlier last week which I’ve spent some time with.

Allow me to start my impressions by saying how amazed I am that the 4v4 rounds run incredibly smoothly with little to no lag issues, through my time playing I’ve never seen a player disconnect once in play. The highest praise which I can impart upon Killzone Mercenary is how perfectly it emulates Killzone 3’s gameplay; the engine has been ported to the Vita so sublimely it replicates the previous PS3 instalment to such a degree it’s like playing a console quality game in the palm of your hand. Even with my qualms over previous entries gameplay I thoroughly enjoyed every round I played. Without a shadow of doubt if the beta is any indication Killzone could very easily be the FPS Vita has been waiting for.

Killzone Mercenary bears a stronger visual and gameplay resemblance to its predecessors than it does to upcoming PS4 launch title Killzone: Shadowfall. Locations accessible by players in the beta are awash with the series traditional war torn brown and grey palette. The controls are much tighter than expected considering the jump to a handheld; there’s a slight adjustment period but players should acclimatise fairly quickly after which both aiming and movement feel responsive and precise. Mercenary controls undoubtedly and surprisingly better than any previous portable FPS thanks to the Vita’s twin thumb sticks and happily feels as comfortable as playing on a home console like the PS3. Touch screen functionality is present but thankfully uninvasive – most touch inputs are also mapped to a button press allowing players to choose which they prefer. Only the intuitive knife kill inputs require swiping the touch screen, missing these touch QTE’s allows enemies to counter or escape the attack adding extra level of skill to proceedings, whether this will simply become an annoyance however remains to be seen.

As previously stated all beta activity is restricted 7.62×39 hunting ammo to one map named Shoreline that draws heavy inspiration from locales of Killzone past, it hasn’t yet been announced how many maps will feature in the full retail release. Shoreline is well constructed with blend of sub terrain tunnels, open plan arenas and some strategic high ground for snipers – perfect for the 4v4 matches the multiplayer revolves around. Once the released the game will feature three competitive online modes: Mercenary Warfare, Guerrilla Warfare and Warzone – Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Objectives respectively. For the purpose of beta players are restricted to Warzone only. Within Warzone the two rival factions, ISA and Helghast, face off against one another attempting to fulfil alternating objectives before their rivals in order to score points.

Warzone matches consist of five rounds featuring four different types of alternating objective. The round kicks off with the first of the five objectives named bounty. In bounty players must face off against each other like a traditional deathmatch, though unlike a traditional deathmach players must also collect the bounty card rivals drop upon their defeat, meaning that sniping won’t do much good unless you can swoop in to collect the reward. In addition to collecting defeated foes bounty card if team mates are quick enough they jump to the rescue and save a deceased ally’s card before the opposing forces claim the kill. The objective is quick paced and engaging, it sets up the rest of the match perfectly guiding players to work as a team to ensure the successful collection of cards.

Next up on the playlist is hacker, this objective type pops up in list twice as both the second and fourth rounds. In this mode VAN-guard capsules are dropped onto the map, within these capsules are special temporary power ups, players who hack them are randomly assigned a boon, which include but aren’t limited to air-to-surface missiles, a personal stealth generator and an arc launcher that zaps foes in close proximity into submission. Claiming the booty within these capsules takes a good amount of teamwork as hacking one requires the hacker to take part in a mini game of matching symbols, whilst doing so they become vulnerable to fire becoming reliant on allies to cover them. The mini game is simple enough to be an intuitive twist on the usual opening animation and timer without becoming a nuisance; additionally rewards skilled players who will be able to claim the prizes with more ease.

Smack in the middle at round three is interrogation. The goal in interrogation is to sneak up on rivals and dispatch them using Mercenary’s violent knife attacks. These strikes use the previously mentioned touch screen QTE’s making killing a group of foes in quick succession impossible, instead they need to be isolated; picked off one at a time. The round makes for an exciting diversion from the wonderful gun play forcing combatants to switch up tactics to get the drop on foes. This is the lowest scoring round in the stack of challenges as in many games I played combatants continued to simply shoot each other rather than attempting to interrogate with knife kills making point scoring difficult.

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