Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Review: Killzone Mercenary

I was once dispatched by Jeff Rothschild to help out Id Software on Quake's networking code on DOS. After I was done with the work, I was invited by Carmack, Romero, and Cash to a friendly LAN game of Quake. "We'll give you all the weapons and come after you with axes." That match barely lasted 15s, with me dead and all I was carrying gone. As you can imagine, I'm not a great first person shooter (FPS) gamer, nor is the FPS my favorite choice of genre.

However, I'm cheap and love a good deal, so when PSN had a sale on Killzone Mercenary and I saw the rave reviews online, I picked it up. I tried the first mission and died very quickly, and so dismissed it as being too hard for a noob like me until I bought my brother a PS Vita Slim for his birthday. Unlike me, he's a FPS aficionado, and so I started playing the game again in the hopes that we could do a multiplayer game one of these days. Surprisingly, the PS Vita Slim has been sold out on all on-line stores, so if you want one my advice is to place an order with Amazon and then be patient while it ships. This is surprising news because up until now the PS Vita simply has not sold well at all.

First of all, the graphics on Killzone is gorgeous. The lighting is superb, the textures brilliant. The sunrise or sunset scenes are beautiful, and the game play graphics is so true to form that the first few times I hit a cut-scene I kept on fiddling with the joystick and buttons expecting to have control over the character!

The storyline is even interesting for a FPS. The conceit is that you're a mercenary working for pay, hired (initially) by one side to help out in a war. This is supported by the game: everything you do from shooting an enemy, interrogation, or hacking into a system has financial implications. You can then spend your booty on weapons, ammunition, and armor upgrades at the frequently found vending machines in the game that also double as checkpoint save locations. The storyline has several twist and turns, and soon you end up working for both sides and discovering how untrustworthy your initial impressions were.

In addition to the primary, secondary, tertiary weapons (grenades),  and armor, there's also a special type of weapon system called a Vanguard. This is additional gadgetry that you might see in a modern battlefield today, giving you the ability to pilot a killer drone, cloak you, or call down artillery strikes. These are very expensive, so don't expect to buy more than a couple on your first play-through. They add to the game somewhat but maybe if you have all of them you might not find the game challenging.

Once I got through the first mission, the rest of the game was fairly addictive. In fact, at one point I zipped through several missions without even realizing it, and found myself at the last mission under-equipped to face my enemies. At that point I had to quit out, go back to some earlier missions, and replay them with an eye on making extra money so I could buy the appropriate weapons to finish the game. With Bioshock, I complained that this was too much of a chore, and gave up on the game entirely. Killzone, however, is fun to play and the gameplay is designed to let you flip back to previous missions and play them again without having to go through the campaign again linearly, so this was a minor annoyance at worse.

There's a multiplayer mode, which I tried. But as mentioned previously, I suck at FPS games. I think my contribution to the multiplayer game is to be a target to be shot at and a source of loot. It's definitely not something I'd try for fun. The flaw here is that because I'd nearly played through the single player game before trying multi-player, my in-game rank was pretty high, and so instead of getting put in with other newbies, I was placed with experienced players and pretty much got wiped out every time.

Nevertheless, I had a lot of fun and could see myself going back and playing the single player game again at a higher difficulty level or to try out the special missions. I'm also interested in getting some of the stronger weapons to see how it impacts the game. I'm also now interested in going back to try out other Killzone games on my PS 3.

Coming from a non-FPS fan, this is high praise indeed. If you own a PS Vita, buy this game even if you normally wouldn't play an FPS. Highly recommended.
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