So far, nobody has really nailed a first-person shooter on the PlayStation Vita. Resistance: Burning Skies was decent enough, but a formulaic single player campaign and lackluster multiplayer held it back. And then there was Call of Duty: Declassified, which we can just skip right over altogether. Next up to the plate is Killzone: Mercenary, and from what I played at E3, this one might finally do FPS on a portable right.
At the back of the Sony E3 booth this year are a line of Vita consoles running 8v8 multiplayer for Killzone: Mercenary. After two rounds with the game, I feel pretty confident saying that, so far, Mercenary looks and plays like its console counterparts. There aren't as many environmental effects or explosions, but everything else is basically a one-to-one transition. In terms of both looks and gameplay, I was pretty dang impressed.
For those concerned about the controls, the developers were wise enough to give the players some choice. Running can be accomplished by double-tapping and holding the back touch screen, or by holding down the circle button (which doubles for crouch is tapped). Weapon switching and grenades can be handled with small, but well placed icons on the lower right of the front screen, or you can use the D-pad if you'd prefer. Everything else functions basically how you would expect it to.
There's some sort of a card system at play here, as my teammates had symbols for, say, the two of hearts next to their name. My guess is that this ties into a sort of perk system, but that's only speculation at this point. When one of my comrades died, a card was left where there body hit the floor. I picked it up and a disembodies voice told me that some high-tech sounding gadget had been deployed. Whether or not that had anything to do with the card I just picked up is uncertain.
The map we played looked, like everything else, like what you would expect to see in a Killzone game. It's small enough to keep the action close, but plenty big enough to give the eight players some tactical options, complete with perches, multiple routes and elevation changes, hallways, tunnels and choke points.
Shooting also felt nice, especially the shotgun. That bad boy kicks like a mule and sounds like an explosion going off. I like my virtual guns to feels hefty and powerful, and the arsenal available certainly provided on that front. As for your soldiers, you can pick from a variety of loadouts that offer the usual suspects when it comes to shooters, including dudes decked out in gear that was perfect for sniping, getting in close or moving quickly while spraying the surroundings. I don't know if those were standard or if players will be able to fine-tune their equipment, but there should be something present for just about every play style.
If you're still aching to see the FPS genre done right on the Vita, Killzone: Mercenary looks like our best bet yet. With Shadowfall coming alongside the PlayStation 4, here's hoping or next two trips into the world of Killzone will be adventures worth remembering. Look for Killzone: Mercenary on Sept. 10.