At this point in Vita's life, first-party names like Killzone are seen as the handheld's would-be saviors. Mercenary isn’t that game, but it has some great ideas that just miss the mark.
You’re Arran Danner, hired gun with an awful name, but surprisingly not Mercenary’s worst – that honour belongs to the inimitably gung-ho beefcake, Anders Benoit. As the name of your profession suggests you switch between ISA and Helghan forces, but Mercenary never makes anything of the potential this structure offers.
Its short 4-hour campaign could have been an interesting to-and-fro between perspectives, but instead it plods along with unambitious missions and a series of crowbarred plot developments that have no weight. The characters are flat, and although the game lets you replay contracts with different objectives to mix things up, it still falls short.
That said, the kill-for-cash structure affords you the freedom to continuously buy distinct new weapons. You earn more dosh for murdering in quick succession, pulling off environmental kills and landing headshots, which creates an exciting rhythm. Experimenting with new weapons is a lot of fun, and great, responsive use of the Vita’s dual-stick controls, triggers and intuitive use of the touch screen make Mercenary an entertaining FPS to play.
Multiplayer is also interesting, but getting into games is often a chore and I was disconnected in over half the matches I played. The game is functional enough that bog standard modes are a decent time-sink, but it doesn’t have the longevity to make it an essential experience.
The fact Mercenary has such strong on-paper ideas only makes its lack of ambition even more disappointing. It’s a smart, fun shooter, with the exact structure needed to slim triple-A FPS down to pick-up-and-play portability, but it never comes through and capitalises on its potential. It’s not Vita’s savior, but it’s proof that savior can definitely exist.
Played for 5 hours: finished the campaign and played online. Click here to read about VideoGamer.com's new review policy.