The Playstation Vita was never know for having a rich library of first party exclusives. Sony’s neat handheld had all the tools to go onto great things, but it never quite reached it’s potential.
During the early days, Sony were happy to try and bring big name franchises to the Vita. The likes of Assassin’s Creed Liberation and Little Big Planet proved to transition quite well, first person titles were another story.
The Call of Failure
Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified represented the boldest attempt to bring console quality first person shooter action to a handheld. With a fair amount of marketing, and even a console bundle, Sony placed faith into Black Ops Declassified. The end result was far from desired. Almost every aspect of the game fell flat on its face.
Awful AI, fiddly controls, no narrative and utterly uninspired gameplay resulted in Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified becoming a utter failure. A few months prior to Call of Duty, Resistance: Burning Skies was released. While the controls were solid, a mixture of generic gameplay and repetitive level design left the Vita still longing for that console quality first person shooter. Resistance wasn’t the last first party shooter to appear on the Vita.
A New Hope
A year later, Guerrilla Games released Killzone: Mercenary. A spin off from Sony’s flagship first person shooter franchise, Mercenary was a stripped down and condensed formula of the console counter-part. After two disappointing big name shooters, and a few barren months, Mercenary didn’t just meet expectations, it shattered them.
Killzone has always seemed to suffer from something of an image problem. After being marketed as a Halo killer, the franchise began to hit its stride after the release of Killzone 2. Guerrilla games improved the even further, producing the wonderful Killzone 3 back in early 2011.
The tightness of the controls and simplicity of the action, partnered with Guerrilla’s ability to make the most of Sony’s hardware, allowed the foundations of Mercenary to be set.
Unfortunately, Killzone: Mercenary went under the radar. A lack of marketing, and low sales for the Vita, left the Guerrilla’s quality first person shooter firmly in the shadows. It’s honestly a great shame, for a system that is known for never truly hitting its stride, it certainly had a number of under appreciated gems. Mercenary stands tall and proud among these gems.
Tight controls, that also make use of the Vita’s various features, combined with intense action allowed Mercenary to flourish. The pick-up-and-play gameplay worked perfectly on Sony’s hardware, feeding into the games fast faced action.
Even though it was on a much smaller scale, Mercenary possessed all the qualities of modern shooters. A well rounded cover system, customizable loads outs and online multiplayer all formed the backbone of the experience.
Guerrilla’s work and obvious dedication into making a quality Killzone experience is clear to see. Mercenary worked from a point scoring system, with players earning money for doing just about everything. Kills, picking up items, blowing stuff up, it all results in the player having money thrown at them. The money earned can be exchanged for weapons, armour and various gadgets, granting Mercenary a neat level of depth.
The Vita purrs with confidence, displaying the power it poses in each of Mercenary’s levels. The visual quality on display really does make for some impressive imagery, and even better set pieces.
Character models move smoothly, while maintaining that distinct Killzone aesthetic. Textures shine with the industrial tones the franchise is known for, all while the splashes of Blade Runner-esque lighting seep into the backdrop.
So Close, Yet So Far
Mercenary was, and still is, one of the Vita’s proudest moments. The accumulation of talent, craft and appreciation for the platform. Guerrilla had created the first true top quality first person shooter experience on a handheld system.
Even though the plot is pretty much non-existent, the replay value achieved through scoreboards and multiplayer makes up for campaign that climaxes around 5-6 hours in.
Even in 2017, Mercenary is still worth playing. Witnessing the power of the PS Vita, experiencing the craft of Guerrilla Games, engaging with a fantastic video game experience, this is what Killzone : Mercenary is all about . You should play this game.