Killzone: Mercenary – the “definitive FPS” control freak

Tuesday, 12th February 2013 13:30 GMT By Patrick Garratt

Guerrilla is attempting to make the “definitive FPS” for Vita in Killzone: Mercenary, studio boss Herman Hulst tells Patrick Garratt in Amsterdam. It has every chance of succeeding.

“Call us control freaks, maybe, but when you’ve been working on something for ten years, you’re not going to let it be anything less than what you want it to be. I’m happy with the progress.”

Calling Killzone “Sony’s Halo” isn’t fair. Yes, it’s a first-party sci-fi FPS, but it’s so distinct from Microsoft’s flagship shooter that it’s competing only on marketeering spreadsheets and fanboy keyboards. It’s different. It’s grimy, savage, and has a reputation for pushing Sony platforms to their limits. Killzone: Mercenary, the first in the series on Vita, will be in keeping with earlier efforts.

“The goal for this project was to make the definitive FPS for the platform,” says Guerrilla Games MD Herman Hulst, speaking to VG247 in his office overlooking the Herengracht canal in Amsterdam. “That’s the primary goal for me. It’s in line with our typical goals for projects. We like to take a piece of hardware and see how much juice we can squeeze out of it, and with this platform it’s no different.”

Mercenary will release in September, and, from what we saw of both the single-player and multiplayer last week, achieving the project’s primary aim is a given. The shooter looks superb, for a start, being based on the Killzone 3 engine and running on a piece of kit that can provide comparable (ish) performance to PS3, and its 6-8-hour campaign and full multiplayer mode means it’ll represent good value, even for a full price handheld game.

But as good as Mercenary seems, it’s true that Black Ops Declassified – the game Vita apologists hoped would buoy the machine late last year – sucked hard enough to barely scrape 30% on Metacritic. While Guerrilla’s latest will almost certainly be fantastic, Hulst is shooting at something of an open goal. He doesn’t pore over negatives, though.

“I tend to think in possibilities: what could we do on this platform? If you create something that’s innately good on a particular platform, only then does it have a chance of being picked up by the masses. That’s what I can do as a game-maker; I can make something that belongs on that platform, that uses it, that’s intuitively married with its capabilities and specs. That’s the starting point.”

Putting “mass” and “Vita” in the same room is something of a sore point for Sony. It’s no secret the console’s struggling, while the performance of iOS and Android continues to be detonative. Regardless, Guerrilla hasn’t been drawn by phone and tablet games in working on Mercenary.

“Most people are pretty platform agnostic when it comes to their own consumption,” says Hulst. “I think the starting point for this project was a Killzone game on a handheld, to capture the essence of Killzone, to take the visceral combat, the graphical prowess, and bring it home, rather than looking for external motivation. It came from within.”

He shrugs off competitive mobile OS as it relates to Sony’s handheld business in general.

“I have an iPhone and an iPad like many other people,” he says. “There are many more people now that use them for games, typically for pretty light usage. I would like to think that there are a lot of people that sample content, and it’s our challenge, our job, to see people liking that handheld game experience and offer them something a lot more immersive.”


Mercenary is the first Killzone game to be made outside the Amsterdam office. Sony’s Cambridge Studio, now Guerrilla Cambridge, is creating the title in collaboration with key members of Hulst’s team. Cambridge worked on both Killzone 2 and Killzone 3, partnerships which gained the Dutchman’s trust.

“I believe we’ve found a team who clearly really wanted to be part of this project, and they have a lot of experience with Killzone,” he says. “Just grabbing a team and saying, ‘Go make that Killzone game’; I don’t think I would have done that. With these guys, half the team has gone through learning the art style, and I knew through their work on LittleBigPlanet PSP that they had a real passion. That wasn’t a porting job; it was a real game.”

The Guerrilla Amsterdam execs are “very involved in making sure the game is everything we want the franchise to stand for. Call us control freaks, maybe, but when you’ve been working on something for ten years, you’re not going to let it be anything less than what you want it to be. I’m happy with the progress. I’m really happy that the team in Cambridge is so excited about having this opportunity. So far, I’m very pleased with the collaboration.”

There’s an easy answer to the obvious question: why did Mercenary go to Cambridge at all? Hulst announced in 2010 that Guerrilla is working on a new IP, its first fresh property since Killzone and Shellshock. It sounds as though the new game is a major one. Hulst tells me there are 175 people on Guerrilla’s pay-roll (I didn’t clarify if this included the Cambridge team) and an extra 20 contractors in the Dutch building. The studio has grown by around 20 people in the last calendar year, and is now at the most populous in its history. While it’s “too early” to talk about what’s next for the Sony-owned company, whatever it is will be large. And obviously next-gen. Hulst doesn’t do things by halves.

Actually, he does.

“I want to do both,” he says when I ask him about the continuation of Killzone and the creation of the new game.

“Clearly, new stuff is very exciting, particularly for people that work on a franchise for a long time. A lot of technical staff don’t care so much about the project, unlike the artists and the designers, who care a lot. Of those people, there’s a big chunk that love working on the Killzone franchise, and there are also some people that are happy to experiment with new stuff.

“But don’t forget that we were a very small company when we started, so a lot of the people that work here now have joined us over the years. Many of these guys specifically came here to work on Killzone. Doing Killzone: Mercenary is really great. It’s also enabling us to make better games, because you’re working on the shoulders of what you’ve done previously, so in that sense proving yourself is also nice.

“There’s the appeal of the newness, and the appeal of the mastery of things. They’re both exciting.”

Killzone: Mercenary releases for Vita in September. Check out new footage, multiplayer impressions and single-player impressions from our visit to Guerrilla in Holland last week.



  1. ps3fanboy

    ‘Guerrilla is attempting to make the “definitive FPS” for Vita in Killzone: Mercenary’

    why do you make it 4vs4 only then??.. the minimum for a good mp is 6vs6, anything under that is a joke, and will not be a “definitive FPS”…

    #1 2 years ago
  2. lexph3re

    goldeneye 64 and perfect dak beg to differ. Those were amazing fps games and they had a max of 4 players. Having 4 vs 4 is fine having a 8 player free for all is also fine. I actually prefer my arenas more tightly nitted anyways having a guy shoot you in the back of the head from across the board while your going toe to toe with someone else isn’t always fun but annoying.

    For a handheld 8 players is a great start gives them more creativity with a map the just making a giant area with a few corners and a building

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Klaxusprime

    Yo Pat, why do you talk about yourself in third person like Julius Cesar? Nice one, really :D

    #3 2 years ago
  4. jeffb01

    I. can’t. wait.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. ActionGameKing

    Everything about this game is amazing, except the release date. They have to push it up to August or GTA V will swallow it alive.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. diego-rbb-93

    I just cant feel comfortable with that 4vs4 MP. 6vs6 should be the basis of online playing, or at least 10 players.

    But 8 players versus still feels for me not enough. Probabably it will be a good MP but I dont understand why nobody dont try to push hard with Vita online.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. BraveArse

    Can I just say? Detonative. Awesome word.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. humanfish

    What happened to the old whiter than white Eurogamer breakdown of expenses and payments. That didn’t last long, bug just long enough to make’m look better than other outlets.

    Good read nonetheless.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. Dragon246

    Definitely buying this ASAP.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. Doc

    4v4 is a shame for fps games on the vita the way I see it and doesn’t show off the vita’s power at least make it 6v6, 8v8 or higher to make it more attractable to consumers. All I see with the vita power is graphic capability while everything else is inferior to even the psp such as player cap (if u guys played MoH u know what I mean 32 players and a good amount of maps), faster internet “speeds” (but can’t load most sites compare with the vita’s slow network speed but it can go on way more sites than the psp(personal preference)), etc. Maybe Cambridge can use all the time they have to at least increase the player cap to at least 6v6 and add in at least 2 more map (come on 6 really are they trying to milk money like Nilhilstic) and the maps can be subpar for all I care just to give a slightly more variety of places to choose from. The only good thing with 4v4 is with racing games. and hopefully it has dedicated servers at least the peer-to-peer aren’t that good (do admit lag happens rarely when I play except for wipeout 2048). Also more epic stuff happens with higher player counts maybe having 8 players is only good for gamemodes like ffa and nothing else

    #10 2 years ago

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