One of the things that excited me for the Vita, when it was first revealed, was the promise of console-like shooters being available on the portable console. The system certainly has the horsepower, as well as all of the tools thanks to dual analog nubs, but we have yet to see a game that lives up to that promise. Black Ops: Declassified
was an utter disappointment
and Resistance: Burning Skies
showed an incredibly amount of promise, but ultimately failed to flesh it out into a “complete” experience
. Will the new Resistance installment prove that the third time is a charm or will it be 3 strikes, and “you’re out” for the hopes and dreams of a great shooter gracing the Vita?
Granted, I only have access to a very small section of the game (a single mission to be exact), but based on what I have seen after a few hours replaying this portion of the game, it looks like Sony and GuerillaCambridge are set to knock this one out of the park. It’s not perfect, but Mercenary is the best portable shooter that we have seen to date, not just on the Vita, but on any portable platform. Let me be clear about something right up front: as good as it feels, it is becoming clear that the Vita’s controls will never fully replicate the feeling of a console controller. That doesn’t mean that it can’t come damn close, because Mercenary is about as good as I can imagine it will get. The issue with replicating the console controller is the shallowness of the analog sticks. With such short nubs, you don’t get the full feeling of having pinpoint-accurate control over your reticule but this game more than makes up for it with smart integration of the system’s other features.
Killzone: Mercenary is a new take on the Killzone franchise, you won’t be siding for one side or the other. There is no good or evil here, only you mission and the money that you will earn by completing it. You are a mercenary for hire in the Killzone universe and that means you will do whatever is asked, as long as those asking you to do something have the cash to back it up. The war has moved to planet Helghan this time around, and you are looking to cash in on the desperation of both sides.
In the mission that we were given, you are hired to take down the air defenses of the Helghast at one of their military installations. The ISA has hired you to take them down so that they can bring in an ISA Fleet to begin their Helghan invasion. It starts off in dramatic fashion, with you using a wingsuit to fly in between their defenses to begin your operation. Unfortunately, you don’t get control of the aerial maneuvers during this section of the game, but it has a nice cinematic feel and presentation to it that sets the stage for the mission to come.
Shortly after landing, you begin maneuvering through a Helghan base in search of control panels to take down their air defenses, Of course, this isn’t going to be done without resistance (ha, get it?) so you will be armed for a fight. The basic controls are exactly as you would expect for the Resistance series; your right trigger shoots while the left aims down your sites, which is basically the standard setup for any modern shooter. If you are using a weapon with a variable site, like a sniper rifle or certain machine guns, zooming on the sites is done by simply swiping up and down on the rear touch panel. It works amazingly well in the midst of action. As for the face buttons, your X button jumps and Square is used to reload. The other two face buttons on the system are used a bit differently though.
The triangle button is used as a replacement for touch screen controls that interact with your environment; whenever you are prompted to interact with a console in the game or pick up an item laying on the ground (ammunition for example), you can either tap the touch screen on the item or walk up to it and hit Triangle. It is nice to have a non-touch alternative to these controls, for those who hate having the touch options forced on you. Although I didn’t mind using the front panel to interact with computers and things in the environment, it did feel a bit awkward to do things like picking up extra ammunition. Thankfully, you can use either at will, which works well in varying situations.
The Circle button took a little bit of getting used to for me. In Resistance, it serves as sort of a multi-purpose button that modifies your movement. Tapping it will put you into a crouching position, while holding it will allow you to sprint if you are moving. It takes a little bit of getting used to in order to effectively move around during battle, but once you get the hang of the settings it becomes almost second nature. Basically, it takes the place of the clicking capabilities of both the left and right analog sticks.
Other traditional functions from the genre, such as changing weapons or throwing grenades, have been relocated to on-screen buttons placed on the front touch panel. They are located near the edge of the screen, on both the left and right sides, making them feel almost as if they were additional face buttons. Granted, there is a short adjustment period to having more than the traditional four face buttons, but they too become second nature before long.
The only “forced” integration of the touch screen comes in terms of melee combat and computer hacking sequences, but after experiencing it here, I wouldn’t have it any other way on the Vita. Melee attacks are initiated by the Triangle button (or touching the enemy on the screen) but you will then be given a brief moment to complete an on-screen swipe motion that the game dictates to you with an arrow. Sure, we have seen this before but what makes it work here is that it makes sense in the context of your situation. The direction of your swipe command corresponds with the position and movement of your enemy; if your enemy is swinging at you from the right, you are given a rightward swipe to complete, which rolls into an animation depicting you countering that swing. A downward swipe pulls them down, and so on, making it feel far more realistic than some random command.
The hacking sequences, which only appear every one in a while, have you fitting puzzle0like pieces, which act as keys, over top of patterns on control panels. You are given a limited amount of time to complete these hacks, so you are forced to think and move fast. It is simple and well executed, alleviating that forced feeling that normally comes with touch integration. It sort of felt like Iron Man or Tony Stark interacting with his home computer by swiping around in the air in front of you; very well implemented to say the least and far from over-used in this section of the game.
The overall action is very fast paced and frantic, never scaled back for the portable world which is a feeling other Vita shooters have been unable to avoid. The shooting feels really good, both in terms of the unique feels of the weapons and the reaction time of the analog nubs. It is a bit hard to pinpoint your aim on the fly, but that is primarily caused by the short-length of the analog sticks as I mentioned earlier. Much like the other control features in the game, it becomes something that you adapt to almost natural over time; before long I had no problem quickly marking and taking out my targets even while on the run.
Everything that you do in the game world earns you credits, which is the crux of the Mercenary experience. Taking down an enemy, earns you money. Headshots? More money. Picking up ammunition? Additional money. Money is your focus as a mercenary and that shows through in every single thing that you do. It almost becomes something similar to Bulletstorm in the manner in which you are awarded for your service. In addition to money for your basic actions, things such as kill streaks and impressive take downs are awarded with financial bonuses which all go towards the bottom line of your proverbial career. I can’t wait to experience this in multiplayer!
This money, which will be shared between the single- and multiplayer portions of the game, is your direct route to enhancing your character. There are a variety of hubs found throughout the world that are virtual-gun-dealers of sorts, giving you access to more powerful weapons, enhancements, ammunition, and equipment. Once you have purchased a gun, you don’t need to pay full price for it again, only a “re-equipping fee” of 250 credits. this means that you can build up an arsenal with a vast variety of weaponry throughout the entire experience. These arms dealers aren’t hard to find and are littered throughout the world, so you can switch things up on the fly very easily.
Of course, you can’t replicate the true console-FPS feel without delivering a console-like world, and Resistance Mercenary definitely does that. this game looks and runs amazing. Granted, there are a moments of slow down and some less-than stellar particle effects noticeable in this build, but this is an early, preview demo. Things like this will likely be rectified before the game’s final release. Those issues aside, the world is incredible detailed and very active. there are a lot of explosions and tons of enemies making their way around you, making this feel unlike any portable game I have played before.
The entire mission in this build took about 20-25 minutes to play through, and that included a little bit of exploration. I found myself going back to find more things hidden in the world such as intel drops and additional weapon caches. That seems to be the niche of this game: replayability. One mission alone has provided me with about two hours of gameplay; imagine what an entire game of missions will be like? Sony may finally have their long-awaited portable shooter that comes as close as possible to delivering a console-like experience. Resistance Mercenary has officially moved up near the top of my “most wanted” list for 2013 and I am counting down the days until I can get my hands on the full deal. As long as the multiplayer feels remotely similar to the gameplay represented here, this is going to be a sure-fire hit this coming Holiday season.
Killzone: Mercenary will be available exclusively for the PlayStation Vita on September 10, 2013.