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Killzone: Mercenary multiplayer - shorelines and shanking

Killzone: Mercenary is looking to deliver the full FPS experience on Vita, packing six multiplayer maps and three modes. Patrick Garratt gets helghasty deathmatchy.

Mercenary isn't Call of Duty, nor is it supposed to be. Given that the woeful Black Ops Declassified is the current shooter benchmark for Vita, Guerrilla's certain to be pleased about that.

Killzone: Mercenary, the fifth Killzone title and the first for Vita, is a console video game. There's nothing "bite-size" about it. It has a single-player portion Guerrilla's promising will last 6-8 hours, and a multiplayer side consisting of six 4-v-4 maps and three modes. The online aspect is of a significant size.

The level I played at Guerrilla's office in Amsterdam last week was called Shoreline. We tried a team deathmatch mode and free-for-all. Its look is instantly recognisable as Killzone 3, with waves crashing up through a series of walkways and the series's trademark neon-sludge palette coating the geometry. Six custom load-outs were available in the build. You carry two weapons, so there was a soldier type with an assault rifle and a rocket launcher, a sniper with a pistol, and so on.

Grenades and weapon-swapping are handled via the touch-screen, with small buttons placed on the right-hand side of the display. It works fine.

Throughout play, Vanguards (equipment pods) are dropped onto the map, presumably from your benevolent friends in the sky. They grant power-ups, and are activated by walking up to them and pressing the screen. If you’re the first to arrive you grab a perk, which, again, is activated by touch. Goodies include Porcupine homing missiles, Sky Fury drones, and a flying thing called Manty’s Engine which kills people by pinching them to death. Plenty to keep you occupied.

Whenever anyone dies they drop a playing card, which is related to rank. The level was littered with the two of diamonds early on in the day, but by the evening we were seeing eights and nines. This is a bit like dog-tags in CoD. You get money for picking them up. In fact, you get money for everything. All the cash you collate in the game is emptied into a single account and stays with your character through Killzone: Mercenary, both in single-player and multiplayer.

Watch on YouTube

Fresh gameplay footage.

There's no aim assist in Mercenary multiplayer right now, and I was told it's still under discussion as to whether it's to be included (there's an iron-sight lock-on in the campaign), but you can fiddle with the sensitivity as much as you like. We were told in a presentation that you can tilt the console to alter sniper aim, but I couldn’t get it to work. Melee attacks can be instigated through the touch-screen, just as in the campaign. There'll probably always be something intrinsically satisfying about shanking a competitor in the neck, and nothing allows you to do it better than Killzone.

As with single-player, there’s a slow pace to online play, even when you’re running. (As a note, I actually couldn’t work out how to run. I had to be told how to do it in my interview. Some of the controls are still work-in-progress.) You quickly learn to take your time. It’s far removed from CoD’s run-twitch, and if you’re not paying close attention to what’s happening in the distance you won't last long.

Graphics-wise it’s pretty, and unmistakably "Killzone". There’s obviously not complete parity with the PS3 version and the framerate’s noticeably lower, but there’s no question it’s a good-looking game. It's worth bearing in mind that Mercenary isn't out till September, so there's plenty of time for optimisation.

My biggest take-aways from my time with Killzone: Mercenary's multiplayer is that it's fully featured and unquestionably enjoyable. The franchise's online play is woefully under-recognised, in my opinion, with Killzone 3's multiplayer being a shocking amount of fun. Mercenary isn't Call of Duty, nor is it supposed to be. Given that the woeful Black Ops Declassified is the current shooter benchmark for Vita, Guerrilla's certain to be pleased about that.

Killzone: Mercenary releases for Vita in September. Check out new footage and single-player impressions while you're here.

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