Hands on impressions of this long awaited title from a fellow gamer and long-time Killzone player.

Killzone Mercenary; you say the name to anyone who has a Vita and more likely than not you’ll get a reply of “I’m so $%#@ing excited”. The Killzone series is fast becoming something of a first-person shooter staple on the PlayStation, selling over seven million units across two consoles and a portable; now with the leap to Vita, many feared that the game would take a giant hit in the important areas (much like fellow FPS franchise Call of Duty did with their first foray; Declassified). After playing this preview build I can assure you that’s not the case – though this early code still has a few wounds.

Let’s talk about the Killzone Mercenary Preview Build.

The Story;

2013-07-23-204300You are a mercenary, paid for everything you do. Your actions (when related to your mission goal) will net you cash and that’s the only motivation you need to proceed.

You start the preview on a drop, jumping off a transport platform and skydiving (complete with a flying-squirrel suit) onto a shuttle pod; dodging missiles and bullets galore on your way down. Upon dropping into the pod you gain control of the player character and your first orders are given; open the security door. From there you must battle through dozens of enemies while taking out two radar dishes and capturing an AA-gun, pretty standard Killzone fare if I do say so. A+ for true-to-console here.

The Gear;

2013-07-23-204411Your load-out consists of a primary and secondary weapon, vanguard systems, equipment (grenades) and armor.

Primary and secondary weapons are guns, ranging from pistols with silencers/suppressors to RPGs and machine guns. They range in prices and abilities but once bought are cheap to “re-equip”.

Vanguard Systems are a wide range of mercenary-use equipment, including the ‘Mantys Engine’ – a remote-control airborne drone which is useful for reconnaissance and can be lethal at close range. The other equipment under the Vanguard Systems moniker includes a particle beam, camouflage suit, jammer, shield, various drones and a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher. These upgrades are expensive but quite powerful, each with a completely different effect.

Grenades come in different flavours, such as fire, gas, flash, frag and proximity (mine).

Armor is based on a point system, with three 5-point categories (protection, mobility and noise suppression) and various combinations of fill depending on a need.

Changing these weapons and defenses is possible through in-game “Arms Dealer” boxes, which are scattered throughout the game area in a fairly plentiful fashion. If anything I found there to be too many of these, as every time I rounded a corner for cover there was one in the way. A for effort, B for execution in this area.

See here for a photo gallery of the weapons available from the Arms Dealer boxes in the preview.

The Gameplay;

Hey buddy, want a shave?
Hey buddy, want a shave?

There are two main ways to go about playing Killzone Mercenary; quiet or loud. For quiet, you sneak around delivering melee attacks and carefully placed silenced bullets to targets while getting the mission objectives completed and not getting noticed. The opposite of this is loud, which involves running-and-gunning, grenade throwing, ammo-conservation and quick reflexes.

The path you take is your choice as both seem to work quite well if done right. Giving them an A+ for effort here as well, and a B+ for execution. Sometimes things that should be silent to your enemies just aren’t (ie; long distance headshot).

Controls;

2013-07-23-232934The control scheme for Killzone Mercenary is pretty top notch; all the buttons take care of the physical actions (aside from melee, sniper zoom) and the touchscreen deals with changing of equipped gear, activating advanced weaponry, melee and also giving a second option for a few physical controls. The back touchpad seems to only deal with sniper zoom as far as I could tell (though admittedly this is a portion of the game).

This style of control scheme keeps your hands on the physical controls unless you’re dealing with quick one-off actions and seems like a great way to keep the console feel with limited buttons. A+ in this sector as well.

The Graphics;

Isn't that lighting just beautiful?
Isn’t that lighting just beautiful?

Though definitely not on-par with the PS3’s Killzone 3, it does give those who want to compare some things to talk about. Most of the game is beautiful, both in cinematics and gameplay – though there are a few concessions that have been made in moving from the PlayStation 3.

Most of the visuals are top notch and would give most other Vita games a run for their money. Lighting was fantastic and in one scene (when looking through a sky-light) I believe I actually said “Wow” aloud to myself while playing. Textures did a good job of creating depth and mood, with minimal flatness across the board. The boundaries of objects seemed to be tightly set, as I found no instances of phasing through objects like I usually do in this type of game (*cough /CoD/ cough*). The frame rate was solid and high enough to seem quite fluid, other than in one type of situation (which I’ll talk about in the next paragraph). For 95% of what I’m seeing this seems like a level of graphic quality found on home console, but we’re not quite there yet.

The most prevalent issue I’ve come across so far is the explosion/sprite generation, which is pixilated at best and looks like an NES Mario game at its worst. Along with the pixilation, explosive sprites seem to temporarily freeze the game if covering enough of the screen – I experienced this most often from point blank muzzle flashes from enemies. At the moment of generation, the “flash” on the screen causes a pause in frame display (for around 100-400ms) before continuing as fluid as if it never happened. There are also some anti-aliasing issues, though they seem to be much more prevalent in the screenshots (whether due to the difference in pixel density as usual, or due to them compensating over multiple frames I’m not sure). Overall score for this section is an A- (I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt regarding the issues being “bugs”).

The Audio;

Audio is very crisp and pleasing to the ear, the sounds not too harsh or unrealistic to be bothersome. I played with headphones on through most of my three play-throughs (so far) and didn’t think any of the effects or dialogue sounded any less than spot-on. Voice acting seems well done too, with good lip-sync across the board. B+ in this section, as it’s true to form but I’ve never found Killzone audio to be too interesting to listen to.

The Verdict;

Judging by what I’ve got in my hands at the moment Killzone Mercenary is shaping up to be a flagship title for the Vita, in more ways than one. It covers all the right bases (with only few draw-backs) and does so while giving a home console type of experience; there’s not much more you can ask for.

The few draw-backs (delay during large sprites/explosions, certain areas of pixilation and jaggies) are small and easily fixable or overlooked depending on which you pick to tackle. Compared to the other FPS titles, Killzone is already dominating for me.

Overall verdict: A-, the game seems to be well put together in most aspects but there are a few kinks and oversights to be taken care of. Game play and look seems very true to Killzone roots and the fifty or so minutes of play they gave us (I assume this is the first “level”) are very enjoyable.

Killzone Mercenary releases September 10th in North America, 4th in Europe and 6th in the UK – my educated advice is to pre-order now.

If you want a look at some screens, I’ll be updating my photobucket album for the next few days.

  • Yuuki

    here a video by a german guy who shows ervery thing, he doent speak much and jsut shows gameplay http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=q2yJHsOUR3g

  • JonofPDX

    WANT IT!

    …but not as much as Tearaway.

    • Tearaway looks to be a great game but there is still not to much info so i could see not to many people wanting it! Ill be going to pax prime next month and will probably get my hands on more Tearaway perhaps you may be swayed to get it! 😀

      • JonofPDX

        Can’t wait to see what you think! It just looks so damn charming.

        Plus, I’m a sucker for a good platformer (though I tend to prefer 2d).

        • Wait i think I read your first message wrong haha are you saying you want tearaway more than killzone? Haha sorry. I can’t wait for either of them! 😀

          • I’m probably ever so slightly more hyped for Tearaway, but I do know I am in a minority. More noise should be made for it.

          • JonofPDX

            Agreed.

          • JonofPDX

            Yeah–I want Tearaway more but am excited for both. Tearaway will likely be the day-one buy for me though. I can wait on Killlzone until I catch it on sale.

        • Yeah I understand Tearaway seems like a great game and I at first wasnt to pumped for it but now i really want it but i still think im a bit more excited for Killzone

  • Very well written Kyle! Thanks for the info can’t wait to try this one out!

  • Kyle Wakeling

    If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask in the comments (or on twitter @teflontactics)

  • Rhys Hughes

    Great preview, I can’t wait for my pre-order to arrive!

  • Baran Altuncu

    So excited! This and Tearaway plus Batman is all I need for Fall!

  • WhyWai

    Finally a well made FPS for Vita. Still regretted the rush job of Resistance and CoD..

  • Escapethemoi

    Gnnnnngh Kyle, you’re not helping! Pre-ordered this ages ago and still waiting for info about the closed beta. I’m dying over here. I really, really hope the multiplayer’s good.

    • Kyle Wakeling

      Definitely don’t look at my photobucket album then. 😉

      • Escapethemoi

        Bah. I resisted for quite some time, but then it got quiet at work and I couldn’t help myself. Nice pics tho mate. The game’s looking really good.

  • Terramax

    Looks a bit too slow paced for me, and I’ll wager they don’t even release a demo for this game, so I doubt I’ll be getting, but I hope that this is the title that makes other Vita owners, with a sense of emptiness, feel complete. If Declassified was enough to spike sales for the console, despite its low-grade reviews, I’m sure this’ll be a triumph.

    • Kyle Wakeling

      I wouldn’t bet on them not releasing a demo.

      • I’d expect a demo. They will want everyone to try then buy this.

  • Buckybuckster

    What I like about Kyle is the fact that he always gives his honest accessment. While there may be some minor (for some major) issues, this is still one of the best looking and hopefully best playing games to ever grace a handheld.

    May unseat Guacamelee as my Vita game of the year. But then again Dragons Crown is waiting in the wings too!

  • Michael Rogers

    Cannot wait! Trying not to spoil the game with videos now as I want to be blown away when I see the KillZone 3 engine running on my Vita for the first time!

    I love the concept of being a merc taking whichever side offers the most money. GG Cambridge may well have made the best KillZone to date on their hand.