With less than four months to go now we have brought together what we have found from those that are in the know about the next title in the Killzone series.

One thing sticks out like a sore thumb for the Vita. It is the lack of not only a solid first person shooter, but also the sheer fact that there aren’t even many shooters. (Unless you count the excellent Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD as a shooter). You have the critically destroyed Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified and Resistance: Burning Skies, which was also not critically acclaimed. Assuming that nothing else is going to be either revealed and released before September it means that the Vita will have waited over 18 months before it got a shooter worthy of the name. But it is good that Killzone is coming, and it looks like it will raise the bar dramatically. So we present you with everything that we know about Killzone Mercenary – starting with the newest trailer for you to enjoy if you have not yet seen it.

The release date was moved – and it has two pre-order offers

We now know that the game is coming out much earlier than previously announced. To avoid a clash with Grand Theft Auto V the title has been shifted to September 4th in Europe (6th in the UK) and September 10th in North America. We also know that there are two pre-order offers. The first offers a cash boost in game and double XP in all modes, whilst the second grants exclusive use of a light machine gun.

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We will update you with full details on where to pre-order but we do know that in the UK GAME seem to have the LMG as an exclusive and also have the Briefcase offer but they are £10 higher than Shop To, who have the Briefcase deal and are selling the game for under £30.

The game is set between Killzone 1 and 2

Killzone Mercenary is set after the beginning of the first Killzone title, and will see the story concluding around the end of Killzone 2’s timeline. The storyline is based around the character of Arran Danner. Danner is a former UCA-soldier who has no qualms about taking on paid contracts from the ISA as well as the Helghast.

When a seemingly routine mission to evacuate the Vektan Ambassador and his family in Pyrrhus goes awry, Danner discovers that the outcome of the war could very well depend on the fate of the Ambassador’s young son. With both sides going to increasingly desperate lengths to get hold of the boy, he begins to wonder whether the price of victory is really worth the paycheck.

The game uses the Killzone 3 engine

Thomas Jones – who is the art director for the game – said:

A large part of it is due to the fact we’re using the Killzone 3 engine. This has allowed us to utilise a lot of the post-processing and lighting effects that are synonymous with the visual style. With regards to the content, particularly our new environments, there’s been a big effort to make sure it feels grounded and fits Killzone’s “hard sci-fi” look. We look at real life objects and settings as the basis for everything we create. Despite being a futuristic world, it’s still important that everything makes some sort of structural or mechanical sense. I think it’s this attention to detail that stops things getting too fantastical, and helps create a more immersive, gritty and believable world.

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The single player portion is between 6-9 hours first time through

It was important for Guerilla Cambridge to ensure that there was a meaty single player to go with the longeivity of the multiplayer portion of the game. Piers Jackson, who is leading the development of the game spoke about the single player campaign.

We have nine single player missions. On average, on a first-time play-through, they’ll take between 40 minutes and an hour each to complete. So, it’s a lengthy game. It’s got a full narrative too – every mission brief is set up as a full story. There are twists and turns. It’s a very detailed single player experience; it’s not cut back in any way.

The game is said to have a great deal of replayability

Piers continued:

When you first get to a level, there’s a standard play-through mode. Once you’ve completed that you’ll unlock three challenge modes – Covert, Precision and Demolition. Each challenge mode will dictate that you need to play the level in a different way. You may have gone in guns blazing first time, but if you take the Covert challenge you’ll need to be much more stealthy – you can fail it if you get detected. Precision is usually about accuracy and how you’re taking out the enemy – headshots, melee kills, interrogations. There can also be a timed element to it. We also have gun challenges in there as well, so you may have to play the mission using a certain weapon. Demolition is largely about exploding things, as you might expect! You’ll have additional requirements in the mission that you’ll need to destroy.

The challenges are known as contracts, and will not only earn you additional currency, but could also earn you new weapons if completed within a certain time. But they great thing about the currency and contracts are that everything earned will carry over to the multiplayer portion of the game too. This common sense approach will mean that once you have familiarised yourself with everything online, you then aren’t completely outclassed when playing online, needing to grind your way to get better load outs.

Multiplayer is quite extensive despite being portable

The multiplayer has three modes, including the multi-objective Warzone and the obvious Team Deathmatch and will see a maximum of 8 players fight over 6 different maps.

The official Killzone Twitter has quite a few tweets about the multiplayer.

Warzone will basically be the same as the console version but there are no plans to increase the player count.

 

The player limit has been imposed so not to affect the quality of the experiences.

 

Despite the player cap you can expect a balanced experience.

 

Phil Iwaniuk from Official PlayStation Magazine UK got some hands on with the game.

Multiplayer is no less absorbing for being portable, and will easily arrive as Vita’s best online shooter. I got to grips with Shoreline in a four-on-four deathmatch. Half tunnels for close-quarters shooting, and half terrifying open space, it successfully channelled us all out of our cosy hiding places by dropping Vanguard weapons in the exterior half every few minutes.

There I learned the guilty pleasure of barraging everyone with the Ion Cannon, and the jaw-tightening fear of stumbling into someone else’s Mantis Engine. Wow, those things make a mess of a head. At present, it feels like Vanguard weapons are too readily available (Dresden suffered fewer air strikes than that Shoreline), but there’s plenty of time to perfect the balancing act.

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There have been very few cutbacks to get it running on the Vita

For those of you thinking that the game must have had some cutbacks to squeeze onto the portable scene, Thomas had the following to say:

For me the challenge was following the previous games. I was very mindful of this game being perceived as a low quality port or the ‘little brother’ of the franchise. It was extremely important to me that it could stand proudly next to Killzone 2 and Killzone 3. Seeing the very positive public reaction, particularly those likening it to a PS3 game, has been very satisfying. Honestly, I’d be lying if I said we’ve achieved everything that I wanted to, but I think that’s part and parcel of wanting to push the tech and graphics to their limits. It’s important to be always looking for more, whether it’s bigger explosions, more particle effects, or just more content! Ultimately though, when I take a step back I think we can be really proud of what we have achieved so far with the tech. Our ultimate aim is to make the best looking FPS that there has ever been on a handheld. It’s a high target to set ourselves, but I believe we are getting close to where we want to be.

These thoughts were echoed by Piers:

We’ve tried not to shrink it at all – we’ve tried to get a full Killzone experience running on PS Vita. The system is incredibly powerful – we’ve got graphics that are comparable to Killzone 3 running on a handheld. It’s optimised in a lot of locations but the core AI system is based precisely on Killzone 3. We’ve had to replace a few of the audio and rendering systems but the back-end leading into them is pure Killzone engine architecture. We’ve also got certain things in the renderer that are unique to our system – we’ve added reflection mapping on the floor and particle systems can actually be lit as well. There may be a few areas we’ve had to tone back a bit, but we’re pretty convinced that we’ve come up with something that touches most of the technical features from the main Killzone engine.

They also have the following tweet:

 

It controls just like you’d hope

Piers continued:

We needed to rebalance it (the controls) slightly for the PS Vita stick inputs – which are slightly different than the DualShock – but that is the feeling you expect from Killzone; that weightiness. If you don’t have that you’re not making a Killzone game. It was imperative that we kept it.

When asked on Twitter it was stated that the controls are closer to Killzone 3.

 

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The weapons feel more powerful

Sid Shuman (who works for SCEA) also got some hands on time with Mercenary and was also blown away.

Of course, the series’ bedrock shooting mechanics have made the leap fully intact thanks to PS Vita’s dual analogue sticks. Actually, Mercenary’s refined damage model means that its weapons feel slightly more powerful – a satisfying tweak that enabled me to drop enemies a bit more quickly than in the PS3 games.

Killzone 3′s savage melee attacks have also made the cut, and they benefit from PS Vita’s front touchscreen as you swipe one of several directions to gouge out eyes, break necks, and slit throats. Meanwhile, the rear touchpad takes over sprinting duties with a quick double tap.

The VAN-Guard is the most high-profile addition to Killzone’s lethal arsenal, and it adds new gameplay wrinkles to the campaign and multiplayer modes. The VAN-Guard is a wrist-mounted murder assistant that enables you to deploy a head-stabbing Mantis drone, guided Porcupine missiles, or a Sky Fury ion cannon bombardment with a tap or two on PS Vita’s front touchscreen.

Because your VAN-Guard slowly recharges between uses, it doesn’t necessarily favor the most skilled players in a multiplayer match the way traditional Killstreaks can. Based on my time with multiplayer, I found it served as more of a leveling influence, keeping the rookies in the game and the most skilled players on their toes.

Money talks in Mercenary, and you’ll collect a bit every time you complete an objective, pick up an ammo clip, or slay an opponent – bonus cash for creative kills! Build up a large enough pool and you’ll be able to purchase new guns, VAN-Guard abilities, and armor mid-mission from crates left by a shady weapons dealer named Blackjack.

And you’ll want every credit you can find – based on what I experienced, Mercenary has the series’ biggest weapon loadout yet, from medium-range battle rifles and stealth SMGs, to shotguns, pistols and much more. What’s more, Mercenary’s large weapon loadout accommodates a wider variety of play styles than in past Killzone games, from stealthy sniping to close-range brawling.

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With less than 4 months to go now and with plenty of time to find out more we personally can’t wait for this. Vita owners have had their fingers burned before, but resources, time and development skills put in Killzone: Mercenary seem to eclipse those put in any previous Vita title; not to forget Guerrilla Cambridge is experienced with the Killzone brand and are closely working together with the Killzone guys in Amsterdam. The game is shaping up to be one of the Vita’s must-have titles, and we’re looking forward to it immensely.

[gameinfo title=”Game Info” game_name=”Killzone: Mercenary” developers=”Guerilla Cambridge” publishers=”Sony Computer Entertainment” platforms=”PlayStation Vita” genres=”FPS” release_date=”17th September 2013 (NA), 18th September (EU)”]

This article uses extracts from Official PlayStation Magazine, the EU PlayStation Blog and the official topic on PS Vita Forum.

  • Good article. Not long to wait now. Hopefully there will be lots and lots of MARKETING Sony.

  • im so hyped!

  • Rhys Hughes

    Great article Paul!
    This is a pre order for sure.

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  • PixelKnot

    Excellent wrap up of all the information given about Mercenary.

    Would be extra great if there was some system bundle to release with the game.