Review – Killzone: Mercenary

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The latest saga in the epic Sony exclusive Killzone series will be released in less than a week. Is it ready for deployment, or should it be sent back to basic training?

Read our review to find out.


Handheld first person shooter (FPS) games are usually hindered by their lack of overall functionality and their lack of proper controls. While the PSP was a decent system for its time, with titles like Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and Resistance Retribution being great little games that pushed that system to its limits, the games still lacked a console feel to them and felt a little underwhelming when you were used to playing on a console. With the introduction of the PS Vita, and it being basically a PS3 controller in itself, the difference between handheld games and console games are becoming smaller and smaller. Uncharted: Golden Abyss was a great adventure title that mixed in platforming with third person shooter (TPS) game play and gave gamers a sense of what could be done with the handheld powerhouse.


As a soldier in Killzone: Mercenary, you are no longer bound to any one group. You fight for the highest bidder and your only allegiance is to your wallet. You are Arran Danner, an ex-UCA soldier turned mercenary, sometimes working alone, sometimes working along side other mercs, sometimes ISA soldiers, and occasionally Helghast soldiers, affectionately known as Higs. Who ever buys your bullets gets to tell you whose head gets to receive them.

A new bad guy is introduced that fits right in with the long line of previous Helghan bad guys. His name is Victor Kratek, and he’s just as ruthless and merciless as any that has come before him. A new bio-weapon is being created by the ISA that’s main goal is to be used for the genocide of the entire planet of Helghan. The leader of the ISA is hell bent on ending the long running war and the annihilation of the Helghan race should spell the end of that war. It is up to you to follow the orders of the person cutting your check, but how inhumane can a human actually become?


Killzone: Mercenary’s single player campaign takes place over nine different levels, and offers somewhere between 6-8 hours of gameplay, as well as additional re-playable contract missions once each level is completed. The length may vary depending on the difficulty you choose to play on as each level is full of bad guys and action packed. You can always go back through each level on the hardest setting later, so there’s no need for completionists to go blindly into death on their first go-round.

Gameplay is exactly what you would expect from a Killzone console game. The joy of having dual analog sticks and the full button scheme on the PS Vita makes Killzone: Mercenary the best made FPS shooter on a hand held to date. Period. Hands down. Nothing even comes close. The only issue with the controls arises with the cover system that doesn’t always work the way you would want it. It uses an auto cover system, so when ever you would walk up to a wall or object, you would snap-to cover. Occasionally this would make it hard to target enemies around you, but this same system was used in Killzone 3 as well and it had similar issues. This is a minor flaw in a game that far exceeds our expectations.


The graphics for the game can be summed up in one word: Wow! They are crisp, stunning, sharp, highly defined, and true to the Killzone series in every aspect. They are dark and futuristic, but can also be surprisingly bright and beautiful if you find the right places. The game was built upon the same engine technology as Killzone 3 so it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise how good it looks. The animations, weapons, brutal melee kills, and helmet popping head shots are everything that’s great about the series.

The game uses quite a few of the added features that the PS Vita has built into it. While motion aiming seemed like a terrible way to die (and we did many times while trying to use that feature) the touch screen and rear touch pad implementation  were both welcome additions. The rear touch pad can control the zoom on your scoped weapons, with the sliding up and down of your finger zooming in and out. This became second nature after a few minutes of sniping our way through a map, and with the proper rifle at your disposal, head shots become a dime a dozen.


The front screen’s main usage was for brutal melee attacks and for interrogating some of the Hig Officers for intel. Now we aren’t sure exactly how many different brutal melee animations are in the game, but all of them are worthy of the M rating the game received. To initiate a melee attack, you have to approach an enemy and press triangle. Most games just have your guy stab him in some fashion, mostly with boring and generic actions. Killzone wouldn’t be Killzone if it did that. After approaching your target and pressing triangle, a varying swipe arrow is presented on the screen. Once properly swiped you’ll then proceed to gut, dismember, de-bowel, castrate or possibly just cut the guys throat. The method of execution is random, but always entertaining to watch. Wait. Did I say entertaining? Am I wrong for being entertained?

The fun of Killzone: Mercenary doesn’t end when the campaign is finished as the game also has a full-fledged Multiplayer Suite. Designed to provide a fast-paced experience across a wealth of compelling modes—Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Warzone—Mercenary delivers a substantial multiplayer package. In line with the game’s gun-for-hire theme, players can use
money earned in combat to acquire a diverse range of weapons, grenades, armor, and special VAN-Guard devices with which they can customize their multiplayer load-out slots. While the retail version didn’t have that many players online due to it not being released to the masses quite yet, we did get to play in the Mercenary Beta and judging by that, coupled with the limited amount of retail play, we can say that the multiplayer aspects are all polished and match the same level as it’s console counterparts.

Something you might find useful after launch:

The Valor System:

The Valor system operates by assigning each member of the Killzone: Mercenary community a Valor Card. Your Valor Card represents your earning ability in the game, with Ace being the highest rank and two being the lowest. You will be issued a new Valor Card once every 24 hours, your new card will be based on your recent earnings compared to all other players, this means that the value of your card can go up as well as down!

In multiplayer, players will drop an instance of their Valor Card when they die. This card can then be collected for bonus V$ and the higher the Valor of the card the greater the reward. The suit of a players Valor card represents the weapon type they have been using. To change suits a player must make consecutive kills with a specific type:

  • Clubs – make 7 consecutive kills with an assault rifle or LMG
  • Hearts – make 5 consecutive kills with a secondary weapon
  • Spades – make three consecutive kills with a sniper rifle
  • Diamonds – make 4 consecutive kills with an SMG

Valor Cards collected in multiplayer and campaign (through retrieving Intel) are placed into your Valor

Collection. Your Valor Collection is represented as a pack of cards and by making “hands” (four of a kind, flush, full deck) you will gain large V$ rewards.


The Killzone series has long been a staple for PlayStation fans and the stories that have went along with it have been epic and well written. Killzone: Mercenary follows that same tried and true formula by bringing in new characters, with a new plot. Developer Guerilla Games Cambridge has brought us an entirely new aspect to the series, that blurs the line between the Higs and the ISA, and in the end you will find that the only faction you truly serve is the faction of the almighty dollar.

FPS fans, if you own a Vita, buy this game. If you don’t own a Vita, buy one and get this game. To say this is the best handheld shooter to date wouldn’t be telling the whole story. Not only is it the best handheld FPS to date, but it’s one of the best FPS games period. This is Killzone and it is awesome.



The Final Verdict


  • Incredible graphics
  • Action Packed campaign
  • Brutal kills are truly brutal
  • Well designed MP action
  • Great use of controls

  • Wonky cover system

VerdictWell done Guerilla Games Cambridge