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Killzone Mercenary Beta Impressions

by William Schwartz

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With the beta for Guerilla Cambridge’s Killzone Mercenary now available for PS+ users in Europe and North America I have had some time to sink my teeth into the multiplayer and experience the Vita’s first high quality first person shooter.

Graphics

It’s beautiful. Even I had my doubts about Guerrilla being able to pull off a smooth framerate with all the bells and whistles they have incorporated into Killzone Mercenary’s engine. But those misgivings are now cast aside and it is clear that in the hands of talented developers the Vita is capable of graphical fidelity never before seen on a real gaming handheld.

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Gameplay

There is one level named Shoreline included in the open beta currently in progress. It’s layout is reminiscent of Killzone 3’s jungle areas with many winding vertical paths and small dark alcoves from which to launch your attacks.

While gameplay is tight and enjoyable with similarly experienced opponents – but the balance of the multiplayer falls apart when your opposing team is a party of high level jerks, as anyone who has soaked some time into The Last of Us before the “no parties” option became available can testify.

The level design is prone to cheap maneuvers with spawn points at an absolute minimum, meaning everyone knows where you might show up and they have probably decided to just sit behind that spot and farm kills with a minimum of talent and effort. Getting those cheap and easy kills also grants your enemies bonuses similar to COD killstreaks which makes it even easier to grind you into a fine paste.

In short, the multiplayer desperately needs a “no party” mode to even things up for individuals who just like to have a bit of fun.

The classic Warzone multiplayer mode which is included is well realized although expecting users to solve a shape-based puzzle mid-level to ‘hack’ points is rather silly and belongs more in Deus Ex than Killzone multiplayer. The loadout editing features are deep and allow you to spend your hard earned cash on new guns, equipment and powerups.

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Controls

The controls of any first person shooter are important and on a handheld system even moreso – as a flagship FPS for Sony’s fledgling portable they are perhaps the most important aspect.

With customization the controls can be tight and motion-controlled fine aiming while using iron-sights adds a level of detail which is essential to lining up enemies well.  Some find the Vita’s rather small analogue sticks are overly confining for FPS control and I am one of those people – this can be minimized by changing sensitivity to your tastes.

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Killzone Mercenary Beta – Conclusions

With all things considered Killzone Mercenary on the Vita appears to be a solid title with some enjoyable content and a deep multiplayer mode allowing a great deal of customization. Shortcomings in the multiplayer mode could be fixed by allowing single players to opt out of playing with parties of high level competitors or by modifying the matchmaking system to avoid this frustrating behavior.

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