Later this year, Guerrilla Games will introduce the ultimate double threat for PlayStation consoles. On the PlayStation 4, the studio will flex its next-generation muscles with Killzone: Shadow Fall, which you can read more about here. Next month, however, the series will make its debut on the PS Vita with Killzone: Mercenary, a game that looks like it'll fit right in with its console counterparts.
Mercenary will come with a lengthy single player campaign lasting around six-to-eight hours. However, the game also includes something that first-person shooting fans have wanted for a long time on their Vitas – a strong multiplayer mode. Sony recently invited us to go hands-on with a closed beta to see how it's coming along.
Three modes will be included with the final game: Mercenary Warfare, where it's every man for himself; Guerrilla Warfare, which is a more traditional team deathmatch mode; and Warzone, which made its debut in Killzone 3 on the PlayStation 3. For the beta, we were able to try out Mercenary and Warzone, both of which feature plenty of action.
We started on Mercenary Warfare with two maps to choose from – Inlet and Zenith. For a portable game, the locales are very well designed, with space to run around on catwalks and within enclosed areas, mainly rooms on the corners of each map. Whether you prefer to strike silently or run into a room with your finger firmly on the trigger, both areas have a lot to offer.
However, if you aren't careful, you can easily run off the edge and commit suicide, which not only costs you a few precious seconds, but also 100 points of in-game currency – which you'll need to unlock more weapons and load out slots for your soldier.
Mercenary Warfare takes place over a 10-minute match in a winner-take-all scenario. The top three players are awarded the most cash for the match, complete with contract bonuses depending on final scoreboard position. Points are earned through killing enemies while also collecting Valor Cards, which are dropped once a soldier is taken down. The higher the body count, the higher your score rises. While there are no team tactics here, this mode does a stellar job teaching you how to hustle and get your kills.
As for Warzone, similar to Killzone 3, it's split across five match types. You have Body Count, where you kill as many enemies as possible; Search and Destroy, where you hunt down particular targets; Interrogator, where you extract information from enemies rather than kill them; Bounty Hunter, where you seek out the most Valor Cards; and Hacker, which results in a pursuit over precious VAN-Guard capsules housing special power-ups that aid you over the course of a match.
When accessing a VAN-Guard capsule, you'll gain access to some high-tech tools that assist you in getting a high kill count, whether it's an aerial vulture that can puncture enemies' necks or a porcupine missile launcher that can kill multiple adversaries at once. When one of these land, you'll want to make a beeline for it. Beware, though, as the opposing team will chase after it as well.
Warzone's five phases mix up each time. One moment you'll start with Body Count and shift into the others; the next, Interrogator will be the top pick. That keeps things interesting for each team, as you don't have time to strategize, and must figure out a battle plan on the go.
When it comes to team tactics in WarZone, they're vital. For instance, in Interrogator, your fellow team members can chase off the intended targets and watch out for their teammates while you pursue them to extract information. In Hacker, you work together to find the VAN-Guard capsules for activation, having teammates watch your back and vice versa to earn another notch in your belt. With a team of four, you can easily work together to earn a well-deserved victory.
The gameplay works well for the most part, with the shoulder buttons for precision aiming and shooting, and running activated through a brief press of the circle button, or a double tap on the rear touchpad. Sometimes you'll need to tap the touch-screen to do something, such as perform a melee kill or pick up ammunition, but it only takes a split-second to get used to this. Once you perform the technique enough times, it quickly becomes second nature.
An arsenal of weapons is at your disposal in Mercenary. You'll start with a basic assault rifle, which carries a clip of 100+ bullets that you can refill easily using the aforementioned "pick up ammo" function. You also have a silencer pistol, which is vital in certain situations where you don't want to raise attention from someone's teammates. Remember, an assault rifle is a lot louder than you think, and can alert players nearby.
Grenades also help in a pinch. You can easily take someone out in multiplayer with a timed grenade throw. You can also use one to "scare" them into the open, making him or her easy pickings.
Finally, your melee attack is very effective. There's a sense of satisfaction that comes from sneaking up behind a sniper or shooting a teammate from afar. Just make sure they don't spin around, or it could be an easy kill for their team.
Killzone: Mercenary arrives in stores and on PlayStation Network September 17th. We'll have more multiplayer strategies in the weeks ahead.