2013 is a great year for Sony's Killzone franchise. Not only will the series make its next-gen debut with Killzone: Shadow Fall on PlayStation 4, but its PS Vita counterpart, Killzone: Mercenary, shows tremendous potential. We already explored multiplayer through the recent beta, but single player has a lot to offer as well.
The game takes place in the middle of the Killzone saga. In the midst of all these events, we meet newcomer Arran Danner, a mercenary who doesn't become emotionally involved and likes the money, whether it comes from the Helghast or the Interplanetary Strategic Alliance (ISA for short). However, following the failure of a mission to evacuate the Vektan Ambassador and his family from the city of Pyrrhus, he develops a change of heart.
Attacking both sides of the story introduces something new to the Killzone franchise – the ability to fight alongside the Helghast army. The contracts change mission-by-mission, but it's interesting to see things from the enemy perspective. Furthermore, players have the freedom to select Arran's load outs to complete missions.
Players will have a wide selection of weapons to choose from. Depending on the mission, he may require the use of a grenade or rocket launcher. While this equipment holds less ammunition, it unleashes a huge impact that quickly destroys soldiers.
Machine guns and assault rifles pack a punch as well. You'll have more ammunition on hand, and thanks to a refined control system that utilizes the Vita's left shoulder button for precision targeting, these guns are ideal for picking off enemies from a distance. Shotguns are also effective. They lack range, but a well-timed blast up-close sends enemies flying.
Don't forget you'll have access to the occasional turret, which not only comes with nearly unlimited firepower, but also shielding – ideal if you want to wipe out groups.
Killzone Mercenary also provides a stealthy alternative. You can arm Arran with a sniper rifle, letting him pick off soldiers easily with headshots. In addition, using this style presents a great opportunity to learn melee attacks. To execute one, sneak up on an enemy, and when you're in range, tap the melee button that appears in the center of the touch screen. One of several executions will take place, whether you stab someone through the stomach or snap his neck. However, be careful when you perform these maneuvers to avoid detection. It never hurts to have a good secondary weapon on hand, like an assault rifle, if the situation escalates.
On top of that, you have access to VAN-Guards, secondary tools that help you win the fight against your adversaries. One of the most effective is the Sky Fury. Once activated, this weapon provides a black-and-white display for easier targeting, locks onto enemies and then rains down a pulsating laser. It also keeps track of your position – highlighting you and your allies in green while your enemies are in red – so you don't accidentally evaporate yourself; you recharge between shots.
Although the Arc Missile doesn't have the same dramatic impact as the Sky Fury, it also comes in handy. You lock onto enemies on the ground using a laptop-style device, and a roving robot shoots them with electrical charges. Even the most armored enemy doesn't stand a chance. Best of all, it operates automatically at certain points, while you clean up soldiers left behind.
Another personal favorite is the Mantis drone, which is wonderful if you prefer stealth. While in control of this quiet flying machine, you creep up on enemies and puncture their skulls with two sharpened pincers. That way, you don't alert any of their buddies in the area.
Finally, there's the Porcupine. At first glance, it almost seems like a variation of the rocket launcher. However, it has a homing ability, making it a sufficient weapon against aerial enemies, like roving automations and that pesky soldier-dropping carrier.
It doesn't hurt that the game's controls feel just right on the Vita. Along with the shoulder buttons for aiming and firing, you use the touchscreen to pick up ammo and perform melee attacks. You can also run, either by pressing (not holding, that makes you crouch) the circle button, or simply tapping twice on the Vita's rear touch sensor. You'll need to do this to avoid detection or get out of harm's way, sliding safely into cover.
Killzone has come a long way over the years, and Mercenary appears to be the most advanced portable game yet. Try it for yourself September 11th.