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Killzone Mercenary Multiplayer Beta Preview — The Vita’s First Great FPS?

Published August 11, 2013 by |

From a technical standpoint Sony’s PlayStation Vita is a very capable machine, yet sadly the handheld is still lacking in quality standout games. This issue is especially true when it comes to first person shooters (FPS) — both the Resistance and Call of Duty franchises failed to make use of the Vita’s two analog sticks, typically perfect for the genre. Could Killzone: Mercenary be the Vita’s first great FPS?

That’s what developers Guerrilla Cambridge are hoping to achieve, bringing some much needed FPS fun into the Vita library with their take on the Killzone universe.

Gamebrit took the closed multiplayer beta for a spin to see whether this is the shooter that Vita owners have been waiting for.

Straight away it’s clear that this is one of, if not the best, graphical showcases for the Vita. Crisp textures, superb lighting, with plenty of detail on show, even in this pre-release build of the game. This visible bump isn’t perhaps that much of a surprise given that Killzone: Mercenary is built from a modified version of the same engine used in the series’ PlayStation 3 games. It’s impressive to behold, and shines on the Vita’s 5-inch OLED screen.

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Everything runs at a smooth pace, feeling more akin to the weighty controls in Killzone 2, as opposed to the more floaty, Call of Duty style, handling saw in Killzone 3.

The Vita’s two analog sticks are perfectly designed for shooters, and thankfully Killzone: Mercenary makes full use of them. If you’re coming over from a console then the portable controls will come as second nature. Only a very mild learning curve is required for where the lack of clickable sticks and second set of shoulder buttons of the DualShock are substituted.

Touchscreen controls are initially enabled for things like weapon switching and equipping grenades, as well as for making swiping melee kills — none of which feel forced or awkward to use. Even so should you wish, these touchscreen moves (aside from the melee) can be turned off, mapped over to the directional pad instead. It’s nice to have the choice, and good to see the focus on playability.

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Unlike previous Killzone titles there isn’t a class system, instead Killzone: Mercenary allows players to build load-outs as they see fit. These are limited to one primary and secondary weapon alongside a grenade type, vanguard type and armour type. The armour has three key features in terms of protection: mobility, movement and noise suppression. Whichever armour is chosen determines the look of your soldier, that along with an impressive amount of weaponry lets you create your own unique class. Such choice and customisation options may not be anything new to most FPS games, but this variety and freedom is certainly new to Killzone.

Ranking-up works like most other games where you earn experience from doing various actions in-game, thus increasing your rank. What makes Killzone: Mercenary different is that it also has a ‘valor’ system which is a more accurate indication of your true abilities. This is graded using playing cards and increases or decreases as you pick-up other players’ cards when they drop them upon death. Anyone can pick up deceased players cards, or indeed their team mates cards to prevent enemies from getting them, regardless of whether or not you scored the kill. These cards add a welcome meta-game to proceedings, along with another way to quickly level up.

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Vanguards are also new to the franchise, replacing the class equipment seen in previous titles. These include useful tools like an enemy map jammer, a pilotable stealth robot to pick off enemies, a holographic shield and a time-limited cloaking system. These can be equipped by player,s but can also be found by hacking the pods that drop randomly during matches. These add an interesting twist to gameplay much like kill-streak perks found in the Call of Duty series.

The beta presented only two game-modes: Mercenary Warfare (a simple death match mode with no teams) and Warzone, the classic mode where five differing objectives switch as the game goes on. These objectives includes the likes of capturing valor cards dropped by enemies, interrogating incapacitated enemies and hacking pods dropped down from the sky sandwiched between two rounds of team death match. Warzone is by far the most enjoyable and diverse mode of the two.

It’s worth nothing that there is also a Team Death match mode, although this was blocked out during the beta.

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Killzone: Mercenary’s beta shows promise, and fans of Killzone (or Vita owners desperate for a decent FPS game) have something to look forward to in early September.

In terms of multiplayer Killzone: Mercenary is every bit as addictive and fun as its console counterparts. The only slight disappointment is that matches are limited to a maximum of eight players, but the two maps shown were well designed enough to make the reduced numbers not seem like a problem.

If the multiplayer is an indication of the quality to be expected in single-player, then Killzone: Mercenary is shaping up to be one of the most complete FPS packages on Sony’s handheld.

Killzone: Mercenary is due for release in the UK on Friday, September 6th.