Killzone Mercenary: The Handheld FPS Standard?

We all recognised the FPS potential of Vita when Sony first dropped this handheld bombshell on us. We knew big things were destined for this little gaming device. We knew it was capable of more than your average bite-sized system.

Unfortunately, we’ve yet to see it.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified had all the potential in the world and it was horrendously squandered.

Resistance: Burning Skies was better but it was still missing something special.

Now its the turn of another major Sony franchise, Killzone: Mercenary.

We’ve played the preview build and are happy to say it appears to be the first game to find a happy, middle ground. A title that strikes a balance between robust, sophisticated shooter, but gets the concept for pick-up-and-play, on the move action.

Killzone Mercenary understands its audience better than anything thats come before it, but does that necessarily make it a good game?

Having only played one level, it’s still too early to say whether this will change the landscape of the genre on Vita, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

You play Danner, a Mercenary for hire, who changes allegiances for money quicker than he can spend it. For the first time ever in the Killzone franchise, players will play on both sides of the battlefield, making use of Helghast weapons, but also the ISA’s artillery.

When you first boot up Mercenary, you’ll be given a grade. That grade carries across single and multiplayer and can be improved by earning in-game points. To get higher grades, you’ll need to perform in-game actions, such as collecting ammo from the floor. For performing such a simple action, you’ll be awarded the ‘Scavenger’ perk and get 10 points. Each time you assassinate an enemy, the game will deposit 100 points into your account for your trouble. Complete a mission objective and get a ton more.

It’s a smart mechanic with a clever hook and will encourage people to keep playing the multiplayer, but also improve their competency in the campaign.

The gameplay is fairly straight forward. Left stick controls movement, right stick controls camera. Left trigger adjusts aim. Right trigger sends out bursts of fire. Anyone who has played a FPS shooter ever will be very comfortable and familiar with how this operates.

However, players must also make use of the Touch-Screen as well as the buttons in order to interact with Mercenary. Here, they can switch their weapons, lob grenades, duck into cover, sprint, jump to high ledges and even assassinate their enemies from behind, Sam Fisher style.

The touch-screen does things a bit differently. It can be used to throw grenades but it’s mostly used to play through the mini-games the game throws at you. Throughout the level, I was able to hack into mainframes in order to steal data for my contractors. The mini-game was a simple one that required me to fit patterns into blocks. The blocks had to match exactly, however, as I was on the clock and every wrong attempt would lose me a few valuable seconds.

The level was furious and frantic. I found myself being regularly rushed by Helghast forces of all types. Some were nimble and ninja-like. Some were hulking with a heavy arsenal. Others were just standard militia. Each bore unique traits and qualities, and were given identity and personality through appearence and fighting style. Players will need to diversify their playing style in order to plough their way through the gunfire.

The best news, however, is that the game looks great. The dusty, darkened sky the level was set against reminded me a great deal of the Killzone: Shadow Fall footage we’ve been seeing. Naturally, Vita isn’t capable of the horsepower PS4 is, but the game certainly looks the part and will really support that launch title in a few months time.


We only got to sample the game at its earliest stages but its easy to see that Killzone: Mercenary is coming along just nicely.

The game launches on September 4th in Europe (or September 6th in the UK) and September 10th across North America.


About the author

Ray Willmott

Ray is the founder and editor of Expansive. He is also a former Community Manager for Steel Media, and has written for a variety of gaming websites over the years. His work can be seen on Pocket Gamer,, Gfinity, and the Red Bull Gaming Column. He has also written for VG247, Videogamer, GamesTM, PLAY, and MyM Magazine,