Killzone: Mercenary may have brought me back into the online multiplayer fold. I just put the beta down and rushed to my computer to write this. That kind of glorious faith restoration. Not only does the game play really well for a beta but there is one amazing thing about it, no one I've encountered uses a mic.
Up until booting up the beta I was in self imposed exile from online multiplayer. I'm not naive about the general idiocy of the Internet but a person can only tolerate so many racial slurs and so much homophobia before calling it quits. So after a particularly horrific session of The Last of Us online I had enough. I logged out and tried to remember the good times.
Killzone: Mercenary brought me back, mainly by being free and partially because I wanted to see if a Vita game would be good.
Not only does the game deliver, it delivers well. It's a beta so my gripes about the game teaching you literally nothing about the controls or the objectives aren't substantial. The game plays really well, I didn't feel any lag, and it looked good, really good.
It actually took me a moment to realize that no one was swearing at me or cursing me out. When I did realize it, it felt really good. Though I'll never be able to thank my teammates for looking out for me I'll never hear anything derogatory about my play. The game is small enough that squad tactics didn't play a substantial part of any of the sessions I was involved in and I don't miss the chatter. In fact I really enjoyed it. Besides the fact that people are mean spirited online I really didn't miss hearing all of those annoying lobby chatter tropes we're all so familiar with.
I understand that I could always go and mute all of those people. I could find a setting in every game to turn off incoming mics. That being said, there was something really special about going through so many rounds and feeling good about myself and humanity. Turning off the sound feels like ignoring that there's a problem not turning the other cheek.
As for the game itself it's a really strong beta. It took me a moment to understand what was going on but once I got into the settings menu and learned the controls I was off to the races. In fact, the easiest way to think about how to play KZ:M is to imagine that the Vita is a controller with the screen in the center. There's a few touchscreen relevant controls but not many and I've never been fully convinced touch control adds anything.
The small teams make the online fast and shrinks the size of the war. Where some games tout massive numbers of players KZ:M does sort of the opposite and I like it. I'm playing with a small team on a small map. I rarely had to hunt for enemies and I was rarely on my own in combat. Make no mistake, I don't love it because there's no chatter, that's icing on the cake.
I love shooters in general but was incredibly hesitant with KZ:M. If it had not been for the guy at GameStop singing it's praises I probably would have waited till I could score a bargain basement price. Now I will definitely be getting it, probably at launch, and will definitely be online.
UPDATE: In the future I'll try and put updates at the top but since this is more of an editorial as opposed to a preview it goes down here.
Since posting I've learned that there is indeed chatter available in the game, however, it is mainly squad chatter and only seems to come into play when you're in a party. Not sure how many people are currently or will ever take advantage of that but it seems like a good way to keep the people who ruin it for the rest of us somewhat isolated.