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Killzone Mercenary Review: Technically impressive, but anemic


Killzone is a franchise I have never really gotten along with, even though I have tasted of some of the different games it has to offer.

Killzone 2 was a decent game that mistook swearing for maturity and it was fun but not memorable. It was not that colorful and it was mainly gray and brown, and interesting weapons were hard to find.

Killzone shadowfall was a beautiful game with some pretty areas…..that was a bog standard FPS with some bad frustrations that held it back from being something I would hold up as a good game. 

Killzone liberation for PSP controlled like crap and was ultimately so colorless I couldn’t convince myself to continue playing it and just gave up.

I point this all out to illustrate my above point, and to let you know where I stand on this franchise. If you really like the franchise, you may disagree-in fact you probably will disagree and so you should consider that when reading my review to know if what I liked or didn’t like clashes with your opinions. Now if you read on a consistent basis these blogs of mine, bless you sir or madam, I really appreciate it but also you may remember me blogging this particular blog. Or you may notice its sitting around, waiting for your hungry eyes.

This was written before I played shadow fall and I also played Mercenary before then, so I wasn’t as disillusioned on the franchise before then. So now that the set-up for my thoughts and opinions on the franchise as a whole are now laid bare, to tell of the value of my critique is to you, let’s hit it!

Story of Killzone as a whole

Spoilers for the franchise can be found here, skip to the bottom of this section for only kinda spoilers about mercenary.  

Mercenary, and all of Killzone actually, takes place in the future during future world war 2, but in space and also America is actually the bad guys! (More on that in a minute). The heroic ISA flies to two planets, Vekta and Helghan which are owned by the Visari Corporation, ran by a man of the same name. Big corporations don’t like how well his corporation is doing, and bribe the ISA to go boot them off of Vekta, the nicer of the two planets and claim it as their own. The people living there are forced to live on Helghan, a harsh mutagenic environment that alters the genetic makeup of the people living there and turns them into a distinct offshoot of humanity-the Helghast. Crushed under the ISA, they are forced to use cheap and dirty concrete and pollution spewing machines to build up a militaristic society and are called space Nazis because some of their number are big jerks and to be fair they do some pretty nasty stuff. 

Yet they overcome this and develop incredible tech to fight back against the bloated stagnant ISA and try to reclaim Vekta, fail, and are then invaded in turn in a hilariously insufficient attack on Helghan that leads the now mad Visari to bomb his own people and turn them against the ISA before being murdered by a jingoistic madman who serves with the player, the two of whom later literally render Helghan unlivable and lead to a berlin wall situation on Vekta.

And you play as the ISA, IN ALMOST EVERY SINGLE KILLZONE GAME, who are portrayed as generally heroic and noble even though they are clearly the polar opposite of that in most of the games. That forms the crux of my issue with the franchise as a whole, because no matter how much the game tries to make me hate the Helghast, all I can do is look at this from an outside perspective and determine the ISA to be the more monstrous of the two. It makes me roll my eyes at everything the cookie cutter protagonists do, and when you’re rooting  for the bad guys more so than the good guys, you may want to reconsider your entire game story guys.

Which is why I find mercenary to be so much more satisfying story wise than any other game, including shadowfall. It isn’t perfect, or even really that good, but it’s much better than the other storylines in concept at least.

Basically you are a mercenary, a rough and tough voiceless faceless protagonist who is one of many exploiting the current war for big profits. You work with Merc Company, and spend most of the first half of the game fighting the Helghast, as the ISA hired you to work with them. You save a general, and eventually you’re ISA loving Merc buddy has to sacrifice himself for stupid reasons to blow up a ship while you escape but you never really make a connection with him anyway and I feel that might be somewhat intentional. You then go to Helghan to help with the invasion and attempt to secure a scientist who has information about a scientist who has info on a virus that can be used to kill the Helghast en masse, but get betrayed and have to work for the Helghast for a few, fleeting moments. Then you go back to just killing everyone, because it’s an FPS. There’s also a thing about a virus that can kill tons of the Helghast or tons of normal people, but this is starting to drag.

Honestly, it’s a pretty nuts and bolts story and there’s not too much complexity to it but it gets the job done. I also like how both sides are portrayed as big a-holes, as opposed to the prior games and even Shadowfall to a degree. It didn’t grate or make me roll my eyes as the heroic ISA marches towards justice-in fact, the ISA is portrayed here as a bunch of incompetent idiots who have no idea what they’re doing and have technologically stagnated compared to the Helghast-in least in terms of lightning artillery. This game is mainly a tech and proof of concept demo on the vita than anything, and if you play it for the story you’re probably in for a disappointment, but it’s not the worst story ever told.

 Visuals and Mechanics

This is the most impressive and memorable part of this game for me personally, despite all my other misgivings. This game looks incredible, and shows the amazing things the Vita can do with the power under the hood. The game looks really good, better than PS2 graphics by a wide margin and the game runs smooth too. Mechanically it controls solid as well, though one gets the feeling that a sequel would get the feel better. Generally it controls like a full FPS on a console, but there is a weird awkwardness to it that doesn’t ruin the game but is too noticeable to fully ignore. Enemy AI is generally competent, and the game has stealth in it to allow you to grab more Intel, get more money and get better guns and armor. It runs really well, and sounds pretty solid as well. That this game is so solid on a handheld is just really cool, and it would have been cool to see what could be done if this was expanded if Sony wasn’t stupid.

Also there is a multiplayer scence, which seemed to be reasonably sized and actually provided some enjoyment, but I didn't mess with it all that much and don't expect too much longevity in it, competent as it may be. 

Music and Sound design

Nonfactor honestly, nothing special about it, nothing to write home about music-wise and the sound design gets the job done.


So there it is, my review. Honestly this game is basically just ok at the end of the day, more notable for the console it’s on and being one of the first of its kind on said console that was actually worth anything. As I expected it looked pretty good, played pretty good, and just meh’d its way through everything else. Had these guys had another crack at it, maybe with resistance or a different franchise than this one if need be, they could’ve expanded on it, and maybe made something to build a story off of and create something really cool. Now that the tech limitations and control limitations have been set, they could have built on that skeleton, tweaked and improved it, and focused more on a new story that could’ve surpassed this one.

As it stands, that’s not going to happen because of Sony and the Vitas poor performance. But this game stands to show off the power under the hood, and how incredibly strong this platform actually is and I think that’s not entirely without merit. If you can get it cheap, hey I’d say it might be worth a shot if only to see what your Vita can do.

- “If you don't like bacteria, you're on the wrong planet.” ― Stewart Brand

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About Gamemaniac3434one of us since 11:25 PM on 02.01.2013

Who am I? I'm an avid gamer, beer snob, coffee snob and aspiring microbiologist. I love all sorts of different genres of games and different games from different years and as of recent years I've tried to get more into multiplayer games. I also really love microbiology and if you get me started on it, you will never get me to shut up about it.
-Gamemaniac3434 on everything, but Nintendo services