Hello all! While searching through the PS Store for another Mobile game to get I saw that the Killzone Mercenary beta was available! I find it odd about how little buzz there has been about that, especially considering how good it is! So, I've decided to do a miniature review for it to help spread the word! This isn't a real review, as if it were the full game, more like a preview that I've rated.
In the beta there is currently one map, one game mode, called Warzone which is a multi round match type with several different objectives, such as, team deathmatch, teamdeathmatch where you pick up cards (similar to Kill Confirmed in Call of Duty), and other objective based ones where you must activate some kind of data post. There appear to be 2 other game modes titled Mercenary Warfare, and Guerrilla Warfare which might be free for all and Team Deathmatch but they aren't active for the beta. There is also Private Matches that aren't available for the beta, but knowing that it will be there for the full game is a relief. There are even options for joining in on the people in your Party Chat! Its not at all a revolutionary feature, but one I'm glad will be in the game. With that settled, onto the core experience shall we!
Map: As I said before there is only one map for the beta, Shoreline, but it seems to be a pretty good one. Refreshingly asymmetrical with multiple levels so that there are no chokepoints to camp on. In the Warzone game mode it is 4 vs 4, ISA vs Helghan. That's a little small but the map is the right size for it so it never feels to sparse, and fans of Halo will be right at home with that anyway. This map has one small standout "feature" in particular that I thought was kind of cool. Through one major tunnel is a giant rotating fan blade that cuts you off. It has 4 blades close together on one side, and 2 on the other. In a way it is similar to the windmill from Halo 2's Zanzibar/Halo 3's Last Resort, except because it is an asymmetrical fan and at such an important location (a whole hallway with no real cover), it becomes a bit exhilarating to attempt to hop through there as soon as possible so you don't get killed from either side while waiting for it to come back around. As I stated before, this map has multiple levels which, at least for the beta's sake, means its a good map with which to use a variety of weapons. Though I have no doubt that they chose a map that fits the beta and shows KM off best, it sets a good precedent for future maps.
Gameplay: The gameplay itself is no far cry from Call of Duty. No shield, regenerating health, aim down sights, etc, etc. The thing is though, KM does it REALLY well! Enemies died quite fast, sometimes even faster than CoD, but I always felt like I had a fighting chance to win on the times when someone got the jump on me. And at least half the time I would manage to win in such a duel! Honestly its hard to explain that without playing it yourself, but suffice to say that the gameplay seems very fair for the most part. One of the objectives for the game mode available in the beta is to activate some kind of a data post which is more than a matter of holding Square or standing in its vicinity. There is a tad bit of a puzzle involved. When you first activate it you must tap a circle with some triangles arranged in it. Then you must quickly look to the sides of the screen to find which triangle pattern matches and tap that. Then there is a second one with even fewer triangles arranged making you have to really rush to select the correct one before the timer runs out and you start over. Honestly this, this is genius. It damn near brings about sweaty palms knowing that you could be killed while doing this, but unlike the traditional convention of simply holding a button down for X number of seconds, you know that you can constantly improve yourself to go even faster and be done sooner so you can get the hell out of dodge.
Following in that vein is the melee system. Get within range of someone and tap Triangle and you begin a melee sequence where you must swipe the screen in a certain direction to get the kill. The thing is though, the enemy also gets a shot at this and if they beat you, then they get free allowing them a chance to shoot you. This system is so refreshing to the normal way of twitch stabbing that I honestly can't wait for every game to incorporate this and get overused so that I can get sick of it too. Also, catch someone from behind and the same thing happens, but if you do it this way then when they are dead, all the enemy positions are temporarily revealed on the map. And speaking of the map, you can tap it to zoom in or out to get a better range of view. Hardly amazing, but good to have nonetheless.
I do have a couple of caveats with the multiplayer though. First is that it constantly has an icon on the screen you can tap to change to your secondary gun. Except that you can also use the D-Pad for this. Not to worry, you can disable that in the menus! Great! Right? Well yes and no. While it does take that icon off the screen, it also takes every touch icon off the screen. So that you can pick up ammo by tapping triangle, but you'll never know when you're over ammo to take! Because of this I had to turn the damn icons back on and clutter up the GORGEOUS game. Second, you get experience (called Valor) for everything. Killed a person, EXP! 3 kill streak, EXP! Picked up ammo, EXP! Sheesh, I didn't think that last one was all that hard to do but alright. This means near constant pop ups on your screen telling you every little thing. Thankfully you can take this off too but it is still an annoyance. However, the kill feed is readable while being small enough to not be a blot on such a beautiful screen. My BIGGEST issue with the game though, and this is the one that matters most to me, is just how LONG these matches are. They often last 25 minutes and though this doesn't seem all that long to console games (most of which are only 12-13 minutes anyhow) is that this is a portable game and these matches are just absurdly long for playing a portable system. Hopefully the other locked out gametypes aren't nearly as long as this. My biggest gripe with the multiplayer is the spawning. It isn't uncommon to spawn with your back to someone and die right away. Hopefully this is just an issue in the beta.
Classes: There are 5 customizable classes with only 1 unlocked at the start of the game, and the rest become unlocked at various different ranks. The customizable options consist of armor, primary and secondary weapons, equipment (such as grenades), and your Van-Guard (a killstreak of sorts though I haven't figured out how to really unlock it). All these items are unlockable with in game cash that you earn as your experience. So far all the options seem relatively fair and balanced, but who knows what will get abused when the full game releases. For now I'd say that all the options are good.
Graphics: Not much to say here except that the game looks absolutely FANTASTIC! I never would have dreamed that I could hold something so good looking in my hands. Yet, I bet 5 years from now I'll be playing Last of Us on a handheld. Weird.
Controls: The controls are very snappy and don't feel overmapped. Only the Circle button gets overused what with using it crouch and sprint. As far as sprinting goes though, this is the first Vita game I've felt to truly use the Rear Touch Pad in an intuitive, non-gimmicky way. You can use it to sprint by tapping and then holding the touch pad. It works remarkably well, and due to the tap-then-hold functionality, I have yet to accidentally start sprinting to my death. More Vita games need to understand how well used the touch pad can be. Also, when/if you go to play this, immediately notch your control sensitivity all the way to the max. The default is way way way to slow to be worthwhile.
Small annoyance that I have, all the menus are touch screen only, and holy hell is that annoying. There is no good reason for that and that doesn't seem like something just to limit to a beta so I am really worried that the full game will require that as well but hopefully it will eventually be patched to not require you to use the touch screen.
I give the beta a 9 out of 10. Its damn good and incredibly promising. Everything about it feels well polished and is seriously shaping up to be a hell of a game. It is free for PS Plus users.