Preview: Killzone Mercenary

As the PlayStation Vita's (PS Vita) library continues to mature, one genre remains lacking: first-person shooters. Two previous titles -- "Resistance: Burning Skies" and "Call of Duty Black Ops: Declassified" -- failed to live up to critical and commercial expectations. From what was demoed at a recent PlayStation event, "Killzone Mercenary" is shaping up as the definitive first-person experience on the platform.

The latest entry into the Killzone franchise, "Killzone Mercenary" continues the series' reputation of jaw-dropping graphical power. Developer Guerrilla Games, which has crafted the previous entries in the series, has done a remarkable job pushing the PS Vita to another visual benchmark, leveraging the Vita's power to faithfully recreate the world veterans to the series have grown accustomed to. From the familiar color palate to the distinct weighty feel of the controls, "Mercenary" is Killzone through and through.

Speaking of the controls, like with most Vita titles there's a bit of a learning curve. Acclimating yourself to the sensitivity of the Vita's dual analog sticks can take a little time, but once you get a feel for it, "Mercenary's" shooting mechanic becomes very familiar. But, like other Vita titles, adjustments had to be made for other combat mechanics. Pulling off stealth takedowns are mapped to the touch screen. Mimicking the onscreen cues will trigger vicious melee animations. Grenades and Vanguards are also controlled by touch-screen input.

The latter are special tactical items that can cause havoc to your enemies. Some of these items are the Matis Drone, which is a player-controlled drone that can stealthly kill enemies, the Sky Fire, which is a remote-controlled air strike that you control by tapping on the screen, and the Porcupine, which is a rocket launcher that is also controlled by the touch screen. The Porcupine was set by default during my play through and was a blast (no pun intended) to use because of the more tangible nature of the action. It also breaks up any sort of monotony that can occur by strictly using the face button to perform kills.

"Mercenary" employs a monetary system, which rewards you with cash each time you rack up a kill. This currency allows you to unlock new weapons and Vanguards that you can then equip to use in battle. The twist is this currency can be used for either the single-player campaign or multiplayer. So if you want to tackle the campaign before getting your feet wet in multiplayer, you won't feel like you're at a competitive disadvantage because your unlocks from the single player carry over to the online action.

The multiplayer was also demoed at the event. Up to eight players can take part in any one of three modes -- Mercenary, Warzone, Team Deathmatch. Mercenary is a free-for-all mode while Team Deathmatch pits two squads of four against each other in a race to rack up the most kills. Warzone should be familiar to anyone who's played multiplayer in "Killzone 2" or "Killzone 3". Warzone blends both Mercenary and Team Deathmatch, as the objectives randomly change during the match. The game will also ship with six maps.

"Killzone Mercenary" is shaping up as a must-own for any Vita owner who loves first-person shooters. The visuals are what you expect from a Killzone game and offer another example of some of the power of the Vita. The single-player campaign, which the developers said can take around eight hours to complete, seems to be a worthy entry into the Killzone universe, and the multiplayer should add hours of action once the campaign is completed. "Killzone Mercenary" is slated to be released on Sept. 10 and is rated "M" for mature.