Platform: PS Vita

I've been severely disappointed in the past with the PS Vita's efforts to have a 'killer' FPS software title that truly utilizes the portable system's fantastic button layout and dual thumb sticks. Sadly, the portable console has been marooned with such titles as Resistance: Burning Skies and Call of Duty: Declassified, truly awful titles that passed up a fantastic opportunity to really sell the games system for Sony.

When I opened my post to find Sony had sent me a copy of Killzone: Mercenary for the PS Vita, I was instantly hit with feelings of cynicism. Would this title follow in the footsteps of already existing terrible FPS games on the PS Vita? Not at all.

Killzone: Mercenary's story is sandwiched between the events of the 1st and 2nd game, with most of the story being completely original and separate from the main plot, so gamers who haven't played either game can pick up this one no problem.

You play as a mercenary called Tanner who is part of a company contracted out by the ISA and put into action against their enemies, the Helghast. The mercenary force isn't there to take sides in the conflict, just to complete jobs and make money. However, as events unfold in the game, you will find your character's mission contracts aren't all that they seem.

 photo kilzone-01_zps53946f48.jpgAs a FPS, the game shadows the game style you'd expect to find in a Killzone title: your character can crouch behind cover and peak above it to shoot, the game allows a primary and secondary weapon (ranging from pistols, assault rifles, shotguns and rocket launchers) and there is also miscellaneous equipment such as Vanguard systems that can change the tide of battle and robotic air drones that will rain hell on your enemies.

Each of the 9 single player chapters take place as 'mission contracts' linked together by a story (Unlike Call of Duty: Declassified). The levels are incredibly detailed and very large for a portable console experience. You will often find missions taking anything between 30 minutes to an hour complete. It's an absolutely astounding feat for a portable console game.

During a mission you are awarded money/points for killing enemies in a certain way. You can even interrogate enemies and reap collectable intel as well as more points and money. These points contribute to your gamer score, levelling you up your rank online, and unlocking perks for multiplayer matches, among other things.

After missions you are presented an award screen and can replay the missions in three different ways: Precision, Covert and Demolition. These 'modes' contract you to complete the mission under new strict objectives, breathing new life into them. Theoretically, they game doesn't offer just 9 levels, but an additional 27 that feel and play differently depending on play style.

The ammo crate system is particularly enjoyable, with crates littered throughout each mission, providing the player with money and points. You can also manually restock ammo via crates and at any time switch-up your battle plan by loading out your character with a whole new set of weapons, grenades and vanguard systems.

 photo kilzone-02_zps9db3beb7.jpgGraphically, the game is astounding for such a portable game. Killzone: Mercenary really showcases what the PS Vita is capable of, and there are many set pieces during the game that show off a much larger battlefield without slowing the frame rate or cutting to a separate cutscene. Everything happens in-game and looks epic and gorgeous. There is the odd enemy A.I. glitch, but nothing horrendously game breaking.

Melee utilizes the PS Vita's touch screen as a QTE that forces you to swipe in certain directions according to arrow prompts on the screen. T work 90% of the time, however some of them lag and don't work at all when you initially melee an enemy -however, it is a rare occurence, and only seems to happen with 'Officer Class Helghast', which are the primary enemy from which to collect intel.

 photo kilzone-03_zpsba91114e.jpgThe audio is fantastically well done and feels like a full-blown movie experience that should really be played through a proper cinema set-up. It's boisterous, with explosions and gunfire sounds that are all believable and satisfying on the ears. My only gripe is that in the finale of the game, one of the voice recordings for a main character is badly produced and sounds far too low in volume, drowned out by the explosions and cacophony occuring in-game.

As for the game's multiplayer, it features up to 8 players simultaneously with 6 maps. It has 3 game modes Mercenary Warfare (Free-for-All), Guerilla Warfare (Helghast vs. ISA Team Deathmatch) and Warzone (Objectives-based mode). Like the game's singleplayer, it works perfectly and really showcases the PS Vita's capabilities. The connectivity is fantastic and, while the game modes are pretty standard fare, they are satisfying and work bringing a fantastic competitive online experience to a portable console.

Instead of following the well trodden path of mini-vignettes inspired by a larger game, Killzone: Mercenary offers its own 'large' game to players, giving them a fantastic experience worthy of a non-portable console.

The production values are spot-on, the gameplay flow perfect and is without a doubt the best FPS you will find for the PS Vita at the moment. It's totally got me psyched for Killzone: Shadow Fall for the PS4.