The PS Vita is still a shockingly under-appreciated portable system, and it seems like it'll take a lot of TLC and quality games to get more players on board. Even though the hardware and controls can handle them fairly easily, there has been a distinct lack of FPS releases unfortunately. Resistance: Burning Skies and Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified were merely "okay", but it's fairly obvious that there is still a whole lot of untapped potential on the platform in the genre. Enter Killzone Mercenary…
We've had a chance to go hands-on with the Killzone Mercenary single player preview demo and all we have to say is… "finally". Guerrilla Cambridge's original take on the Killzone series is a gorgeous and well thought-out one so far and it really demonstrates how a quality FPS can look and play on the platform.
The single player preview demo consists of one mission (with 3 difficulties), and it does a good job showing off the money-based mercenary twist on the franchise. Since you're a for-hire merc nearly every action awards you cash that can be spent during a mission on upgrading equipment, purchasing gadgets, picking up deals, or restocking ammo. The missions, which can be for either the ISA or the Helghast, are story driven to an extent but also designed to be replayed. As you would expect, there's a whole ranking and leveling system in addition to the piles of cash that you can earn.
The gameplay and controls on the Vita are more or less dead on. The dual analogs are well tuned even at the default setting, and Guerrilla made sure to include the oft-ignored motion aiming option as seen in Uncharted: Golden Abyss. The Helghast in the demo are aggressive and don't (usually) stand around waiting to get blasted in the face… except when I climbed up on top of their barracks and picked them off one-by-one with a silenced pistol. I would say that their long distance and peripheral vision is a little too good and trying to stealth around the levels doesn't work as well as expected (I'm still in The Last of Us mindset). Melee attacks, which occasionally seem difficult to trigger, are super satisfying and require a quick touch-screen swipe after initiating one with the triangle button. There's certainly no shortage of chaotic moments in the demo, especially when you accidentally set off an alarm by crossing paths with a security camera and a wave of Higs come charging.
As you have probably seen in the gameplay videos and screenshots (including some of the captures we took below), Killzone Mercenary is shockingly great looking for a portable FPS. The engine is quite similar to that on the PS3, with all sorts of impressive next-gen style effects, techniques and animation going on. The game has a few slight pauses here and there and the framerate occasionally dips, but even in this preview state, it's neither game breaking nor all that annoying to be honest. The audio is full of chatter, and that satisfying multiplayer "chirp" effect has made it to the single player campaign.
Killzone Mercenary is shaping up to be another quality release for the PS Vita and surely the best FPS on the platform so far. Make sure to check back in the near future for some multiplayer impressions before the September 10th release (pre-order it below). Based on what we've seen so far, that also should be quite a treat.
Killzone Mercenary gallery: