I'm a-shoot some people in the face!
At Sony's Vita event in San Francisco I played Killzone: Mercenary, the highlight of which was shooting people in the face! Then, after a few minutes of moving through incredibly well-realized urban environments, I shot more people in the face! Then a short while later… I used the front touchpad to perform a brutal melee attack, and stab a guy in the face-ish area. You might be getting the idea that I enjoy the tradition of playing the Killzone franchise to shoot people in the face, and you'd be correct.
In Killzone: Mercenary you play a mercenary (shocking!) named Arran Danner who starts off on the side of ISA during the events of the original Killzone, and later takes missions from the Helghast, as if he were, I dunno, a guy who fights for money or something. The demo mission I played part of was an escort mission where the subject seemed to be invulnerable to harm, which immediately earned the game about 1000 points in my book. Mercenary has been developed by Guerrilla Cambridge, formerly Sony Studios Cambridge, who had provided support for both Killzone 2 and 3 before being rebranded to bring Killzone to the Vita. So the developer is already familiar with the franchise and, if anything, looks to deliveran even stronger game. Aside from the nine standard campaign chapters, there are three special missions that are unlocked with each chapter.
Weapons and unlocks from the campaign are unlocked for multiplayer and vice versa. With 6-8 hours in the campaign, plus the 27 additional missions before even talking about multiplayer, there's a lot of value to be had in the game. That's a lot of shooting people in the face!
Killzone has been among the best-looking series of games on the PS3. One could point to Uncharted 2 and The Last of Us for visual fidelity, or Ni No Kuni’s stylized anime cel-shading for art direction, but at that point you’re really splitting hairs. The series' ability to construct urban and industrial wastelands, bathed in rust and decay, has some of the highest visual fidelity in games of the current gen. Killzone Mercenary doesn’t look that good… It looks better.
Perhaps it’s due to the Vita having the processing power of the PS3 but with a smaller screen, or perhaps it's due to the work of developers Guerilla Cambridge on porting the series’ engine to the device; or maybe it’s that this is the fourth game in the series produced at this level of quality (including the reskinned version of the original game for the PS3), but Mercenary is just plain gorgeous. It got that same rust-world look, but it just looks that much more refined here. See, when I shoot into the face of glowing-eyed Helghast soldier, it's nice to see that it's the highest quality face I can be shooting into.
It sports a better-looking map/radar system and HUD in general. The optional touch-based controls are simple and intuitive (a step up from the Sixaxis motion controls of prior games) and seemed to be not dissimilar from the touch integration I saw in the Killzone: Shadow Fall live demo at E3.
It makes for better, more intuitive brutal melees (the game’s intentionally harsh melee system) which has been optimized for more brutality than those in previous games. This has been added to in multiplayer; where an opponent can counter a brutal melee if attacked head on. If performing a melee attack from behind, the player will “interrogate” their multiplayer opponent, starting an animation in which the player is vulnerable to attack, but when completed will give their team the map locations of all enemies for a short time.
When I play the Killzone games, I mostly shoot people in the face. This one I'm gonna have to play just because it's so goddamn beautiful. And the face shooting. (Did I mention the part where faces are shot by me? That was a big point.)