Jun 17, 2013

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E3 Hands-On Preview: Killzone Mercenary Multipalyer

E3 Hands-On Preview: Killzone Mercenary Multipalyer

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One of the hardest things to do on a portable system like the PS Vita is a smooth online first person shooter. Guerilla Games is attempting that with Killzone Mercenary and from what I’ve played of it, it’s the closest anyone has become to making a true FPS multiplayer experience on a portable system.

I played four matches of the classic team deathmatch mode (4v4) on one of their six maps, Inlet. This map is pretty small and is littered with debris and structures to navigate through. There are a few areas where you can get onto platforms that overlook the main battle area below, but players also spawn up there so you can’t sit and camp too much from above. The small map means more action and that you have to have tight controls.

For the most part Mercenary controls pretty well. The way Sony had it set up at E3 had me using the normal controls along with the touch screen. The touch screen allowed you to interact with items such as picking up ammo, switching weapons and activating your killstreak. I was told that I could use the button controls to switch weapons, but that wasn’t an option at E3 for some reason.

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The biggest concern was sprinting and aiming. Sprinting is handled by pushing the left stick forward and then hitting circle. It doesn’t take long to get used to it and makes sense since that button is only used for crouching. Aiming felt natural with the left and right shoulder buttons dedicated to aiming down the sights and firing. What took the longest to learn was switching weapons using the touch screen.  I’m so used to hitting triangle (or Y) to switch weapons that having to move my thumb over to hit the screen felt awkward. Hopefully you can switch it over in the retail version.

Outside of the awkward switching of weapons, everything else felt pretty fluid. It was a bit clunky at first but as soon as I started to get into fire fights the game felt natural and like some of the other Killzone titles I’ve played on consoles. It’s hard to gauge how well the TDM actually plays because there were a wide range in skill; from the Sony reps to the average gamer to those who have never played a Killzone game before. I can say, from what I did play that TDM felt much like it always has, with a bit of a twist.

At various points in the game a cargo drop will be sent down which can be captured by any team. This gives you a massive boost which allows you to get your killstreak right away. What this also does is creates a situation where players will have to work together to capture it and stop the other team from doing the same. This means you can’t always camp in one spot, you will need to occasionally move around. While I like this small feature being added to TDM, I think the small size of the map doesn’t allow for as much camping as it is. That said, no one was really doing that at E3, but there are times where you could get on the platforms above people and sit there for a nice 5 kill streak.

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The debris all over the map isn’t new to a Killzone game, but does cause some navigation issues especially since most of us had never played this map before. A lot of people were getting stuck on debris, especially while sprinting. The good thing is if you are sprinting and you’re running towards cover you can quickly hit circle to slide into cover. This actually helped in some situations where I saw enemies in front of me and needed to remain unseen.

I was able to test out most weapons and classes, and just like other titles in the franchise, some are just better than others. With multiplayer set to 8 players, I’m assuming most maps will be small just like this one. That means that some weapons won’t be as useful as others. Sniping however, is still a one shot kill and very powerful. The difference is you can’t always be invisible as that is now tied to a Killstreak. Speaking of which, it was hard to tell whether a killstreaks will change the game that much because not too many people got them, but not being able to be invisible all the time is a welcome change already.

Overall Killzone Mercenary Multiplayer was a lot of fun on the Vita, not to mention it looked incredible. Easily one of the best looking games for that platform. The key to its success is going to be contingent on the population of the servers. It worked well at E3 because there were always people playing, but if there’s going to always be less than the max players, I can see the multiplayer mode struggling. With smaller maps I’m thinking free-for-all is going to be one of the better modes to play. Hopefully population count won’t be an issue because from what I’ve played, it’s one of the strongest FPS multiplayer modes I’ve seen for a portable system.