Killzone: Mercenary

Developer: Guerrilla Cambridge
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release: 2013
Platform: Vita
Genre: Action / Science Fiction
OFLC Rating: R 18+

Killzone, for those unfamiliar with it is a first-person action sci-fi computer game series that made it’s debut on PlayStation 2 and has sequels on the PlayStation 3, along with one launching this November / December with the PlayStation 4. There was also Killzone: Liberation on the PSP which is the only instalment to be presented from an isometric view as opposed to first person, this was a sequel that bridged the gap between the first two games. Almost anyone who knows the series (myself included) will tell you that Killzone was a brutal series in both level of violence and challenges since the beginning. Killzone’s lore is covered briefly, but not to the point where the essential details are left out. This is more or less Killzone lore in a nutshell – Earth colonises Alpha Centauri. One of the colonial nations wants to declare independence. Earth government says no. Colonists go to war with Earth.
By now you may be finding it kind of hard to not feel sorry for the colonists, but anyway – Earth sends colonists retreating from their lush colony of Vekta to the inhospitable mining world of Helghan thus assuming the identity, the Helghast of Helghan. Killzone kicks off with the war between the Interplanetary Strategic Alliance (ISA – Earth Government) and Helghan after the Helghast execute a vicious surprise assault on Vekta.
Killzone: Mercenary is a spin off title that takes place between Liberation and KZ2 as the events of this game occur alongside the main story. The story as the name suggests, has you assuming the of the mercenary Arran Danner who initially is working for the Phantom Talon Company (PTC) currently under contract to the ISA. Without giving too much of the plot away – Everything plays out like a standard routine operation, until Danner gets “stabbed in the back” – It is then and there the plot begins to take shape. Ultimately, you wind up playing all sides.
The gameplay like the majority of the franchise’s instalments offers some pretty solid gunplay and adds knife play to the mix with some arguably intuitive touch mechanics. Like Call of Duty and Battlefield gunplay gives you the ability to aim down a weapon sight, giving a realist and immersive feel. The knife play takes melee beyond a simple button press and makes clever use of a touchscreen quicktime event swipe mechanic – like all QTEs, there is a sense of risk versus reward by the way of a timed prompt. KZM’s brutal melee system applies this QTE with the difference between success and failure to either striking with the perfect knife kill or having your target turn the tables on you with a quick counter.
Whilst the campaign offers a good deal of replayability with challenges and achievements, multiplayer offers up a simple roster of tried and true game modes – These being your standard death match / team deathmatch games being Mercenary and Guerrilla Warfare along with the objective based team play mode Warzone. This game mode plays over five phases:

Bounty Hunter – Throughout the game you will be dealt a playing card with each suit designating a particular weapon type and the rank (2 – Ace) indicating the proficiency. These cards highlight the kind of weapon you most commonly use, thus giving others the idea as to your kind of playing style and skill. However, the Joker is dealt to those new to the game or who have not played in while as this card represents one’s skill and style is unknown. In this phase you score points for your team by collecting the cards from fallen enemies and comrades alike.

Hacking – Throughout the game you will have periodical cannister drops that land randomly throughout the open space of the playing field, these grant a random special weapon for single use. To access these cannisters, you need to hack their security locks, this gives you an interesting touch puzzle to be completed against the clock. You are presented with a hex grid with each space divided into six wedges. On either side of this grid are sets of different wedge patterns, the puzzle consists of each of wedges on the grid being filled in. The object is to remove these wedges from the grid by matching partial patterns with whole ones on the grid spaces to remove the wedges in the allotted time. This phase occurs twice in the game and to score in these phases, you must successfully hack any of the cannisters you find without being taken out by the opposition. This puzzle mechanic is used in single player also.

Interrogation – Normally this is used to gain extra snippets of the story in the campaign from officers, in a multiplayer game you reveal the entire opposition on your team’s radar for a small period of time when you interrogate an opponent. Either way this is executed by performing a brutal melee sequence on your target from behind or using a tranqilliser gun and then performing a brutal melee on unconscious foe. This phase requires you to interrogate opponents to score for your team.

Body Count – This phase follows a second round of hacking and by way you score by simply taking your enemies down any which way you can.

Whether you play out all the set challenges throughout the story campaign or make a name for yourself in multiplayer arena, know that arsenal and earnings carry between modes thus giving you a fully unified player profile. What makes this title truly great is that the game’s quality is good enough to make you forget you’re playing on a hand held system.

Now to the important question…

Is Killzone: Mercenary worth the price of admission?

If you love the Killzone franchise… If you haven’t already purchased a Vita, this might be a good enough reason to buy one.

For Vita users looking for a satisfying action game, KZM is worth it.

To all parents… DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT BUYING THIS ONE FOR YOUR CHILDREN!! – Unless they’re old enough to drive, vote and drink alcohol.

Report Card

Quality: A
Gameplay: A
Content: B
Skill: B
Technical: A
Value: A
Audience: Adult