Killzone: Mercenary will be the second invasion of the Helghast on a Sony handheld. This time, they conquer the PS Vita. But instead of the traditional ISA vs. Helghast storyline, Mercenary places the player in the combat boots of a gun-for-hire who will work for either side, and who will do whatever it takes to get rich and then get out. While the story line is still largely a mystery, Sony has released an open beta available for download on the PS Vita which gives players a decent preview of how the game handles on Sony’s groundbreaking handheld.
The Mercenary beta is limited to one type of multiplayer. Warzone Multiplayer mode is longer than the traditional team death match. Players are divided into two teams, ISA and Helghast, and are tasked with accruing points by completing five objectives, each with separate time limits. The faction with the most points when the final clock stops wins. When playing Warzone mode, the first objective is to collect players’ valor cards, which they drop when they are killed. These look like standard playing cards, and players receive rewards for completing certain sets—royal flush, four of a kind, and other hands familiar to poker players. The second stage of Warzone mode, called Hacker, tasks players with gaining control of VAN-guard capsules. To do this, players have to expose themselves to enemy fire by standing in front of one of these capsules and completing a small hacking mini game, in which they have to match shapes in order to unlock the pod, which grants them extra perks and armor for a short time. This mini game is not timed, but speed is encouraged since players are incapable of defending themselves. After Hacker concludes, the Interrogation rounds starts, in which players are tasked with wounding enemies and then carrying out QTE-like interrogations. This is the most troublesome of the elements of Warzone for disabled players, since it not only tasks them with executing a QTE on the Vita’s touchscreen, but also requires precision when engaging the enemy so as not to kill them but wound them. After this round concludes, there’s another round of Hacker, and then a final round called Body Count, which is a no-frills team death match multiplayer. Accomplishing each specific goal in each individual phase accrues points, and the team with the most points at the end of the match wins.
Beyond that, it was surprising how easy the Killzone beta was to pick up. Even players who are not used to getting kills when first jumping into a game’s multiplayer should be able to do comparatively well with Mercenary’s format. The one negative thing is that SCE Studios Cambridge has eliminated the class-based warfare that allowed players to choose medic, assault, engineer, or sniper. Instead, players earn money for everything they do on the battlefield, from picking up ammo to killing enemies, from interrogating enemies to saving fallen comrades’ valor cards. As a result, players will not be able to pick a character that is accessible for them right off the bat. They will instead have to grind through match after match to unlock enough funds to customize their character as needed.
If a player has a physical disability that affects something other than fine motor, they will be happy to know that everything in the heads-up display is communicated using at least two forms: audio and visual. As a result, the game seems like it will be fairly accessibility for both players with hearing disabilities and sight disabilities.
The only players who probably struggle with this title are players with fine motor disabilities. This is because there is no controller customization. But in my own case, I was surprised how easy it was to pick up the multiplayer component of Killzone: Mercenary and do much better than I expected—scoring a couple of kills and points each match, and even being fortunate enough to win a couple of the matches I participated in.