Killzone: Mercenary Campaign Impressions

by Matthew Thompson (All images courtesy of the KZ: Mercenary page found here)

Killzone Mercenary 3

Ever since the Vita was first announced, I have dreamt of seeing certain genres done justice on a portable platform for the first time. For one, the Vita’s dual analog setup looked like it might finally deliver the FPS I coveted on the go. It seemed  my best hopes came in the form of the Killzone project that was shown briefly during the reveal of Sony’s next generation portable system. It had a quality developer behind it, a suitable amount of time in the cooker, and was an original experience designed for the Vita rather than just a port. On the other hand, Killzone is more of a multiplayer series and since I was looking for something good to sink my teeth into solo, it might not give me what I want. But I had to give it a try to see for myself.

The shooting itself feels really great in Killzone: Mercenary which despite some of its other shortcomings is a constant in the series. I still love the M82 rifle… maybe a little too much as I rarely swapped it out for another firearm. There were times where I equipped a sniper rifle of some sort to take on certain encounters for strategic reasons, but other standard rifles were no substitute for the M82 in my opinion. In my other slot, I ended up settling on a shotgun that lit enemies on fire which is always a plus and gave me something for up-close messy confrontations to go alongside my versatile go-to assault rifle with the occasional rocket launcher mixed in when the situation warranted it.

Killzone Mercenary 1

Guerrilla Cambridge has done a good job matching the feel of the controls on consoles, but they couldn’t quite pull it off perfectly. As good as the hardware of the Vita is, it lacks a couple of shoulder buttons and clickable sticks when compared to a standard controller. Putting crouch on the same button as sprint led to some slight annoyances when trying to duck behind cover and no dedicated grenade button meant they are a little trickier to work into frantic firefights. And I could have done without the swipe-based melee attacks.

The level design is thankfully more reminiscent of the earlier entries in the franchise than the PS4’s Shadow Fall. The more linear structure means the focus can stay on shooting and avoid the pitfalls that dogged SF‘s campaign when it tried it’s hand at non-combat scenarios. I also enjoyed the various abilities granted by your Vanguard particularly a drone that would fly by my side and zap enemies which would help thin numbers when I felt a bit overwhelmed by a large swarm of opposing soldiers.

There is a story here, but I doubt anyone will care much about it. I did like that as a mercenary for hire you ended up fighting for both sides of the conflict which meant taking on Helghast and ISA soldiers at different times throughout the game. And I appreciated the little history recap that set things up before the game sent you on your first mission.

Killzone Mercenary 2

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the graphics. While Killzone: Mercenary isn’t as beautiful as Tearaway or some other standout Vita titles, I think as far technical proficiency it has to be tops on the system. It is hard to not be impressed by this aspect of the game even if the color palette and art leave something to be desired.

And I can’t finish talking about Killzone: Mercenary without mentioning how I found the length of the campaign to be totally unacceptable, finishing it in under four hours. I know campaigns particularly in this genre and maybe more often in portable games have gotten shorter and shorter over the years, but I have never come to accept it. I suppose the game wants to you to replay missions for money and under different parameters. It is supposed to fit into the merc theme I think. But it seems a little cheap to try to add extra replay value this way. If I enjoyed the core content more, I’d probably be more lenient on this aspect because then I’d probably play it through a few times just because I liked it so much. But that just isn’t the case here.

Again I realize this is a series about multiplayer first and I’m sure there is great fun to be had in Mercenary‘s MP modes if my samplings of other Killzone games’ competitive components are anything to go off of. I guess I was just hoping some game would deliver that great FPS campaign I want so badly on a portable and I was hoping, maybe against reason, that this could sate my appetite in that regard. But with its short story mode and solid gameplay, the campaign itself is just an above average one at best. It does reiterate what I already believed to be true after playing even the lesser title Resistance: Burning Skies, the Vita could give me what I want in a portable FPS. It’s certainly capable, but it just hasn’t done it yet. And I’m not sure when it will.

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8 comments on “Killzone: Mercenary Campaign Impressions

  1. Yeah, this is basically what I expected out of the game. I’ve never been a Killzone fan despite how good the weapons feel, the campaigns have always been filled with things I hate in FPS games and like you, I want a good single player experience. I wish the Vita was more popular so that someone would make a really great FPS. That Bioshock Vita announcement feels like a bigger cock tease than ever now.

    • Bioshock would have been cool. I did always suspect it didn’t really exist. I would have loved a Far Cry game. Even something about the size of Blood Dragon. Would have checked the open world and FPS boxes for me on the Vita which would have been nice.

    • With the closing of Irrational, I’m not sure we’ll see the Vita version of Bioshock unless Take Two decides to go that way and I don’t think this is one of their priorities at the moment. Too bad.

  2. I almost exclusively used the silenced STA-18 gun, or whatever it was called. I mostly played stealthily, co I used all the silenced weapons I could. My favorite VanGuard were the Porcupine or the Mantys Engine. I used the Arc Missle when I was farming for the Platinum trophy (http://playstationpalo.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/platinum-tracker-killzone-mercenary-35/), while it really took care of a lot of enemies at once.

    I don’t think I can agree that the campaign was too short. You said it yourself that the story is there but noone cares so it’s not like we needed it to tell more about it. On the other hand, playing those different contracts forces you to change the strategy dramatically. Even though the map layout and the enemies are the same, you find different ways to achieve the same goal and I found it really enjoyable. I played through all of them on the highest difficulty, except for the final mission, which I found too difficult so I beat it on normal. With the different contracts, the game duration goes up to some 10 hours, which I find acceptable.

    I didn’t mind the touchscreen executions, to be honest. It was a good use of this input technique in a game like this. The crouch/sprint conflict was a bigger one although I almost exclusively used the back touchpad for sprinting and the button for crouching.

    Have you tried or are you planning to try the MP? It was my first KZ game and I rather liked the experience. I did much better than I thought I would and grinding 100 MP games for the trophy wasn’t really tedious but fun. I recommend checking it out, especially with the new maps, which should draw people to the game.

    • I am so bad at stealth. I tried playing it that way at first and finally just gave up… haha. Hopefully it didn’t come off like I was picking on the weapons. There is actually a lot of great ones. Same goes with the Vanguard. I just love the M82. I did in KZ2 as well.

      I wish I could agree about the length. It is not about delivering more narrative, it is about giving me more unique encounters and levels to play through. I think the alternate contracts are a cool idea. I guess I just wish the core campaign was like 8 hours and then those contracts boosted it to 15 or something instead of a 4 hour campaign becoming a 10 hour one.

      I’m not a big multiplayer guy. And since I rented this I just sent it back. I could always play the PS4 game’s multiplayer if I have the craving. I’m sure the multiplayer is quite good. I think KZ MP in general is all really good. So while I was not enamored with the campaign, I get this game delivers its replay value there. So while I may be critical of the campaign, I’m not really making judgment on the game as whole.

      I appreciate the thoughtful comment. I can see where you are coming from even though I don’t agree with it all 🙂

      • Maybe I’m simply approaching the game differently and also the 24h+ I spent playing single player to farm the 10000 kills for the platinum trophy gave me enough was more then enough 😉

  3. I’ve always been more of a fan of multiplayer from Killzone games, but I enjoy their campaigns as well. Definitely shorter than other games, but I think adding different ways to tackle the missions adds some depth to the game if you’re playing it on the go and don’t have wifi access to play online.

    I was a little disappointed they strayed away from KZ2/3’s war zone modes in favor of different missions, but they’re still fun and enjoyable. The only problem I have with multiplayer is matchmaking, they typically put shitty players against great players far too often. Before I would always just assume that this is what happened, but since every day you get a Valor card (the higher the card out of the 52 cards, the better player you are) for yesterdays work, it is pretty inexcusable when you’re playing 2 people with Ace cards and a 7 and a 8, and your team consist of 2,3,4,6 ranked players. Maybe I’m bitter because I suck at this game online, and I was so awesome at all of the other games.

    And I agree with your weapon assessment above, the M82 is awesome. One reason SF is a let down for me is the weapons all being new. If they just brought back this one weapon, I’d forgive them.

    • That is a bummer about the matchmaking. Bad matchmaking can ruin the best of multiplayer modes.

      I liked KZ2’s campaign more than this one personally (not sure how you feel on that front). I think I’d take Liberation’s campaign over it too. I still need to play KZ3.

      The M82 is just so great. One of my favorite FPS guns probably. Thanks for checking out my impressions Bret!

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