Killzone: Mercenary – behind-the-scenes interview, single player details

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Killzone: Mercenary – behind-the-scenes interview, single player details

Lead image SandStormCollision

For a series that’s always been at the bleeding edge of modern FPS design – both in terms of technical performance and muscular gameplay – it’s fair to say that expectations are sky high for Killzone: Mercenary – the first PS Vita entry in Guerrilla’s acclaimed franchise.

Until last week’s reveal, all the studio had shown off was a brief teaser clip at Gamescom last September. However, the wraps are now finally off the game, and you can breathe easy – it looks absolutely stunning, packing all the visceral grit and gristle of its home console brethren into the PS Vita with real style.

Don’t believe us? Remind yourself of the new trailer below..

We sat down with Piers Jackson, who’s leading development at Guerrilla Cambridge (the same team responsible for the exemplary LittleBigPlanet PSP), to find out more about the game, with particular attention paid to its generous single player campaign. Read on below, and come back next week for a closer look at multiplayer. And if you’ve got any questions relating to how the game plays, feel free to ask away in the comments.

Where does Mercenary fit in the full Killzone narrative?

Piers Jackson: Mercenary starts shortly after the beginning of Killzone 1. We commence the game with the battle for Vekta in full flow – you actually start out in a destroyed Vektan city and the opening few levels are all about liberating the planet. We then transition into the Killzone 2 universe and the invasion into Pyrrhus. The story itself wraps up at some point in the Killzone 2 universe.

The game looks phenomenal on PS Vita. Was it a challenge shrinking the full console experience onto a handheld device?

Piers Jackson: In some regards we’ve tried not to shrink it at all – we’ve tried to get a full Killzone experience running on PS Vita. The system is incredibly powerful – we’ve got graphics that are comparable to Killzone 3 running on a handheld.

_bmUploads_2013-01-28_981_constantine karst with smoke and construction elements

How easy was it getting the Killzone game engine up and running on the system?

Piers Jackson: It’s optimised in a lot of locations but the core AI system is based precisely on Killzone 3. We’ve had to replace a few of the audio and rendering systems but the back-end leading into them is pure Killzone engine architecture. We’ve also got certain things in the renderer that are unique to our system – we’ve added reflection mapping on the floor and particle systems can actually be lit as well.

There may be a few areas we’ve had to tone back a bit, but we’re pretty convinced that we’ve come up with something that touches most of the technical features from the main Killzone engine.

You’ve managed to retain that crunchy, weighty feel to the controls that really helped define the game on PlayStation 2 and 3…

Piers Jackson: So much of it is in the acceleration curves on the controllers and, obviously, as we were using the Killzone control input system, a lot of that came over for free. We needed to rebalance it slightly for the PS Vita stick inputs – which are slightly different than the DualShock – but that is the feeling you expect from Killzone; that weightiness. If you don’t have that you’re not making a Killzone game. It was imperative that we kept it.


How do you change your thinking when you’re designing an FPS for a portable system rather than a home console?

Piers Jackson: There are elements in terms of visibility that you have to pay attention to – how far away you’re positioning enemies, and what you’re positioning them against. When you’re playing on a large TV screen you can get away with more. Having said that, we have a really high-resolution screen on the Vita so the characters stand out very well, even at a distance.

Multiplayer is obviously important but I know Killzone fans are really hoping for a meaty solo campaign too. How much content can they expect?

Piers Jackson: We have nine single player missions. On average, on a first-time play-through, they’ll take between 40 minutes and an hour each to complete. So, it’s a lengthy game. It’s got a full narrative too – every mission brief is set up as a full story. There are twists and turns. It’s a very detailed single player experience; it’s not cut back in any way.

How are you encouraging repeat play-throughs?

Piers Jackson: When you first get to a level, there’s a standard play-through mode. Once you’ve completed that you’ll unlock three challenge modes – Covert, Precision and Demolition. Each challenge mode will dictate that you need to play the level in a different way. You may have gone in guns blazing first time, but if you take the Covert challenge you’ll need to be much more stealthy – you can fail it if you get detected.

Precision is usually about accuracy and how you’re taking out the enemy – headshots, melee kills, interrogations. There can also be a timed element to it. We also have gun challenges in there as well, so you may have to play the mission using a certain weapon.

Demolition is largely about exploding things, as you might expect! You’ll have additional requirements in the mission that you’ll need to destroy.


Big action set pieces are a key component of any great shooter. Is it harder to pull those off on a handheld device?

Piers Jackson: We’ve got some pretty hefty set pieces in there. We have a halo drop, as you might have seen – that’s a pretty epic way to open a mission! We really don’t skimp on set pieces. We blow up giant cruisers, we have flight sections – there are all sorts of big moments.

What new gameplay mechanics can fans of the series expect?

Piers Jackson: The shop is the biggest one for us really – the fact that you can go into a level kitted out however you want. You can then purchase new weapons as you go, to tailor the experience as you see fit.

Stealth is another big one – we have light stealth in the game. If you’re being quiet and using silenced weapons the AI will not pick up on you. If you kill a trooper and the body is left lying around and another enemy finds it, they’ll come and hunt you down. We’ve extended the AI to cater for additional play-styles.

Those are the big ones, but obviously the melee system now uses the touch interface. And outside of the core mechanics, I think the fact that we’re showing the Killzone universe from a different angle will appeal to core fans as they get to see the universe in a different light.

You’re the first studio outside of Guerrilla HQ to develop a Killzone title. That’s a lot of pressure!

Piers Jackson: It’s worth pointing out that a good number of our art team have been working on previous Killzone titles so it’s not like the franchise is entirely new to us. When we embarked on Mercenary obviously we worked very closely with the guys in Amsterdam to maintain the continuity, and we’ve had a very tight relationship throughout the process.

But it’s been great. It’s been a rush! It’s a big project, and a very exciting one – it feels great to finally be showing this to people outside the studio.


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4 Author Replies

  • Love the artwork that accompanies the interview. Really hope my fellow Dutchies can deliver where CoD couldn’t. So far, it looks really, really promising, for the first REALLY GOOD handheld FPS. Yes, that’s right, I said handheld, not just Vita. No other handheld has any good FPS, so, this could be a first!

  • It looks and sounds promising. I have no doubts that this will be great on the PSV. But i am still disappointed that there’s no full story line. Oh well. Everything else, such as stealth in a mission sounds really promising too. I am totally stocked for this one, can’t wait for next week when we finally will get more details on the Multiplayer of Killzone Mercenary.

    Can’t wait! :D

  • Liking the sound of the addition of stealth… it does frustrate me in shooters that they all have eagle eyes that can pick you out the second you walk a corner, regardless which way theyre facing etc…

    September is so far away – argh!

  • Will this run at PS Vita’s native res?

  • I like the way of the killzone universe.
    The Mercenary look promising, and this is a very good reason to buy a vita.

    Any info about Sev and Rico story? Killzone 4 will be release in ps3 or “ps4”? When will we hear some info? Is in development or GG looks new wawes?

  • Really looking forward to this. The guys at Cambridge are a very talented bunch so I’m sure they won’t let us down!

  • Looks awesome. Can’t wait to hear about the mp :)

    Hope this can get some DLC, like new maps, new missions and so on.

    Can’t wait till September!!!

  • The game looks amazing !

    One question though, I’ve heard concerns of the ‘weight’ of the camera/aiming being a lot heavier then that of Killzone 2 – any comment on that ? I personally thought Killzone 2 felt great, with Killzone 3 being a lot more ‘mainstream’ with its aiming sensitivity.

    • Well, I think the camera will feel a bit different as it’s on a handheld rather than a big TV. It’s a much smaller screen, so they have to take that into account when calibrating aiming. But it feels very solid indeed – certainly nothing to be concerned about.

  • I’m curious too if this will run on native resolution. Fred you have seen the game, can you comment on that?
    The stealth mechanics will be interesting, I liked the stealth bit in KZ3 campaign.
    Will we see the multiplayer details on Monday next week? I’m really hoping Mercenary gets Botzone.

    • Alas, I can’t comment on the native res issue – I negelected to ask the Guerrilla guys at the time and I wouldn’t want to take a guess.

      Sid, from the US blog, is working on some multiplayer coverage – hopefully we’ll see it next week, though it likely won’t be monday.

  • This game does looks really promising with so much content being revealed I think this could be one of the best shooters for the Vita. And not to mention could even well put Nihilistic to shame with their crappy FPS shooters on the Vita as Guerrilla shows Nihilistic how to make a better shooter. Can’t wait for this game badly. X3

  • Will totally buy this if it supports nat3 online play. Damn isp’s. Not to mention if i like the vita version will likely to buy the trilogy hd collection.

  • This trailer looks great on my iPhone! (looking forward to the game).

    Wait… why am I not watching this trailer on my superior Vita display? Well… I don’t have a bloody YouTube app on my Vita, that’s why!

    Now that Denmark is an “officially supported” YouTube country, can we please have that YouTube app now? Pretty please?

    iPhone has had full YouTube support for ages, I wonder why these things are so hard for Sony?

    But then again I’m still waiting on my refund for the botched Dokuro download I bought. “Support” hasn’t even gotten back to me yet and I wrote to the incompetent monkeys last wednesday…

  • I’m not much of an FPS buff, but I’ve loved Killzone since the first game back on PS2. This looks amazing, and the fact that it’s partially set around the KZ1 period has pushed it much closer to a day-one purchase for me. A cameo from the original KZ cast would just be the icing on the cake!

  • I like the three challenge modes after beat the levels :)
    questions: 1)any new weapons we not seen in previous kz games?
    2)about multilayer, the level up is like kz3? or more easier and quicker to reach the final level?

  • This is the Vita game I’ve been most excited for from the start (although Gravity rush surprised me in a positive way as well), untill a MGS title comes along atleast *tip Kojima* :p

  • Any chance that as a mercenary in this game we can take contracts from the Helghast? Finally play as the true heroes of the series?

  • Will there be a botzone? I really hope so, would just add so much more playability when playing on the go

  • This will undoubtedly be the killer app for Vita (pun intended) to silence the naysayers and reward Vita owners who love the plethora of quality titles already available whilst yearning for a FPS.

    One question I’m keen to ask is if the awesome jetpacks from Killzone 3 will make a reappearance? They gave a more playful, sandbox element to the game and would be brilliant fun on Vita.

    Thankfully the lengthy single-player campaign will ensure the title has plenty of replay value outside of multiplayer, too.

    Galvatron approves :-)

  • This is awesome i hope there’s a bundle…

  • please add cross play, there is plenty of time, pretty please!
    But cannot wait, so stoked for this game….Sorry Son I need your Vita back.

  • This game looks great! I hope the controls stay heavier like I’ve been hearing.

  • This game should become the vita ambassador in the world with Tear Away and Soul Sacrifice, i hope you’ll make good avertisements about them

  • This game is the game ive been waiting for since they annouced the vita.. even the small video that showed “Killzone working title” got me excited for this.

    i also really hope there is references to Liberation if it takes place during that timeline :P

  • Will we get a playable demo soon? I presume that all gear/weapons bought will still be available for use on future replays and new playthroughs? Please respond either by pm on psn or RT this on twitter @imperviusape,Thanks.

  • I vote after this amazing release we give these guys Call of duty to release as the previous release was crap, good trailer footage looking forwards to Killzone so much, was the reason i purchased a PS3.

  • I hate FPS games, this series included, but I would like this game to do well and sell more Vitas to increase the userbase and keep the machine going. Getting a bit frustrated with PlayStation at the moment (and I’m hoping this big upcoming announcement ISN’T the PS4… I’m really not in the mood to spend more money on an ‘upgrade’ just for presumably more polygons and likely more social media integration nonsense. I don’t feel the PS3 has reached it’s limits yet either)

  • Hello Fred!

    Just wondering if you got a feel of how the game runs on the Vita? I love the graphics, but must admit that I remain sceptical as to the Vita is capable enough to render at least 30fps at all time through the game. On the other hand, the developers have made no promises on how the game actually runs… Nice graphics are, well.. Nice, but a game that runs fluidly is preferrable :)

    • The sections I played ran very smoothly. I couldn’t take a guess at the fps rate, but it certainly wasn’t an issue that I noticed.

  • Still looking great and it’s very interesting to get more insight like this.
    My only disappointment is that the story in KZ:M ends during KZ2. I was rather hoping that it would extend further and make up for the rather poor KZ3 ending (the unfortunate low-point of the series) and setup more anticipation for the next sequel. :)

  • How much is it on psvita I’m new

  • Babs : It will be around 45€ , maybe 50.

  • Bij veel van de one persons shooter games, die nu uit gekomen zijn voor de PS VITA, kun je niet op de multiplayer. Dat komt omdat ie dan een melding geeft dat je netwerk type-3 hebt en niet netwerk type-2, zou dit ook kunnen voorkomen bij Killzone mercenary?

  • I’m a massive killzone fan and I’m so happy to hear that the vita version is being given the time to be developed to the standard it deserves unlike resistance and call of duty on the vita which effectivly had about 6 months. Lets hope it the fps on the vita we’ve all been waiting for! I can’t wait!

  • Je ziet aan de trailer(s) dat deze game waarschijnlijk wel een topper gaat worden, het is alleen een erg dom zet dat ze de game pas zo laat gaan uitbrengen (18 September) :-(

  • looks epic. too bad we have to wait till september. hopefully something better than ‘nukehouse’.

  • i can’t wait for killzone mercenary to be released and is ther going to be co op ??? anyway i know the game is going to be great DEATH TO THE ISA

  • will there be a killzone mercenary demo? plz tell me i want one very bad i want 2 see how the game is

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