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  • A Look at All of the First-Person Shooters Available on Vita

    August 12th, 2018GamespotUncategorized

    This is the first entry in a series of articles I’m going to write that will look at all of the games available in a particular genre on the Vita. The articles will highlight all Vita-native games, as well as any backwards-compatible PSP and PS1 titles that can be downloaded in English (i.e. from the EU or NA stores), as well as some commentary on how well those games run on Vita and whether they fill any missing gaps in the library.

    When the PlayStation Vita was first revealed to the public as the next-generation portable, fans were understandably excited at its prospects – after all, this was the first handheld console that offered dual-analogue controls, allowing proper precision aiming when playing shooter games on the go for the first time. While the genre had done fairly well on the PSP with solid releases like Coded Arms and Medal of Honor: Heroes, gamers were hopeful for a new era of quality FPS games on the new hardware.

    That didn’t quite pan out in reality, as aside from Sony’s own efforts the genre was woefully ignored on the handheld. However, as I discovered by writing this article, there are a good few alternatives available through backwards-compatibility, meaning that although it isn’t the portable FPS machine some had hoped it would be, there are still a lot of great games to try out regardless.


    Vita-Native Games

    If you’re looking for a first-person shooter on Vita, your first port of call should absolutely be Killzone Mercenary, Guerrilla Cambridge’s magnum opus and one of the final AAA offerings Sony made for the handheld. Arguably the prettiest game available on the hardware, the flashy graphics disguised a mechanically brilliant FPS with tonnes of replayability thanks to the ability to approach levels however you want (brute force, stealth, and so on). It also has fully-fledged online multiplayer with a variety of game modes (including the brilliant ‘warzone’) that – as of the date of publication of this article – still has a healthy userbase (and if you don’t fancy playing online, DLC is available that offers the ability to play offline with bots).

    There’s little else out there that captures the sci-fi thrills of Killzone, but one game that at least attempts this is Resistance: Burning Skies. Touted as the first true dual-analogue handheld FPS, the game received a bit of a critical beating upon release due to the limited online and straightforward campaign, but it’s worth revisiting today as the gameplay has held up well and it at least tries some new things with the Resistance IP – even if the online is a ghost town these days.

    One title that isn’t worth revisiting is Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified, a sloppy cash-in rushed to market by Nihilistic Software (the same company behind Resistance). Its issues are well-documented – erratic AI, terrible level design and some poor checkpointing, heavy asset reuse, and just a general lack of content. The online also has its fair share of problems, including an abysmal respawning system, but as the only Vita-native military shooter (and thanks to the popularity of the IP), it seems to have maintained somewhat of an active userbase if you're looking to play with others.

    While Call of DutyKillzone and Resistance deliver very traditional linear FPS campaigns, Borderlands 2 offers something different – an open-world, MMO-esque, quest-heavy main story that focuses on saving the alien world of Pandora. It’s a brilliant breath of fresh air in the Vita’s library, not least thanks to its biting sense of humour and wide selection of loot, which means you’ll always be itching to try out a new gun. The handheld port does have its share of performance issues, and these were picked up on by reviewers, but otherwise it’s a brilliant time.

    Other than these four titles, the Vita’s native library is largely devoid of entries in this genre. Games such as Paranautical Activity sort of count as an FPS/roguelike hybrid, although the choppy performance and slightly wonky design make it difficult to recommend. A similar disclaimer applies to One More Dungeonwhich also stretches the definition of ‘first-person shooter’. Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD also features shooting elements, but plays much more like a traditional third-person adventure the majority of the time.

    As a final note, one of the all-time greats of the genre – Duke Nukem 3D – is available on Vita, but only if you grabbed it before it was pulled from the store. The fact that it was pulled is a massive shame as it’s a really well-done port of a classic title.


    Backwards-Compatible PSP Games

    While the library of Vita-native FPS games may be lacking, you can definitely make it up by adding downloadable PSP titles. The fact that for many of these you can re-bind the controls to take advantage of dual analogue inputs makes them infinitely more playable than on the original hardware and almost like a completely new experience.

    The best of these is undoubtedly Medal of Honor Heroes, a World War II-themed shooter offering a meaty single player story (bringing together many of the heroes from previous entries) and – despite the online mode no longer working – also includes an offline multiplayer mode you can play against bots. Sadly this was removed from the sequel (Medal of Honor Heroes 2 – also Vita-compatible), but if you’re looking for more handheld shooting then it does offer another enjoyable campaign. The big caveat with both of these is that they’ll only work if you have a US PSN account, meaning EU gamers are out of luck.

    Another PSP FPS which is only compatible on North American Vita accounts is Call of Duty: Roads to Victory, which is available via a download code offered with copies of Black Ops Declassified (to help soften the blow of how terrible that game was). It’s at least a more competent shooter, modelled on the pre-Modern Warfare WWII era of CoD and without the heavy focus on spectacle and set pieces. It's worth a try if Medal of Honor didn’t quite scratch your itch, although reviews point out issues ranging from un-originality to random crashes and technical problems.

    If you’re after something a bit more squad-based you’d be better served by the third-person SOCOM games, but there are other options available. Brothers in Arms: D-Day is yet another WWII-set FPS which sets itself apart due to its slower action and focus on a platoon of soldiers that you can order around to flank enemies and execute strategies. A more modern-era alternative is available in Rainbow Six Vegas, although bizarrely the PSP port doesn’t allow you to issue commands to your teammates like in the console versions, making it a somewhat redundant, if fleetingly enjoyable FPS.

    If you fancy a move away from realism, sci-fi shooters are also available, including the much-loved Star Wars Battlefront II. The PSP port does an admirable job of condensing down the PS2 game onto a handheld, although various concessions had to be made, ranging from the removal of the story mode to certain maps not being included. The muddy graphics also haven’t stood the test of time, but the core gameplay is so solid that this rarely matters (and galactic conquest mode is still an absolute blast).

    The first major exclusive FPS to land on PSP was Coded Arms from Konami. It received a storm of attention at the time for its beautiful graphics and interesting randomly-generated levels, even though reviewers were less keen on the final product. The game is available on the North American PSN Store and is Vita-compatible. Even though it doesn’t quite hold up by today’s standards, it’s worth revisiting to see why it’s regarded as a cult classic by some after all these years.

    While Coded Arms offered a unique experience on the PSP, N.O.V.A definitely didn’t – a straight-up Halo clone through and through from masters of the art of rip-off, Gameloft. While it features more linear levels and a whole lot less charm than its inspiration, it can still provide a decent distraction and its budget price (it was released through the PS Minis program) doesn’t hurt its attractiveness either if you’re really itching for a portable FPS fix that mixes things up from the norm.


    Backwards-Compatible PS1 Games

    Before Call of Duty became the de-facto console FPS, Medal of Honor ruled had the roost following its debut on the PS1 way back in 1999 (the series would share a love affair with Sony consoles for the next three generations). The original title, alongside its sequel Medal of Honor Undergroundcame to the PlayStation Network in 2009 and were made Vita-compatible in 2012. Although they’re obviously relics of the era they were developed in, they make for nice nostalgic throwbacks that are also relatively cheap (although, just like with the PSP titles, they’re only available in North America).

    Your only other option through the PS1 library is Rainbow Six, Ubisoft’s team tactical shooter that transitioned from PC to consoles in 1999. While the N64 and DreamCast received faithful ports with a few cut corners, the PlayStation version was a wholly different game that played as a straightforward FPS, having you switch between the different members of your team but never issuing commands. Between this and the PSP entry Vegas, it seems there’s no real way to experience the true Rainbow Six experience on a portable and this seems like a big missed opportunity.



    Despite being the first handheld console with dual-analogue controls and claims to offer console-quality experiences on the go, the Vita has an embarrassingly bad library of FPS titles for fans of the genre. With that said, it still houses arguably the best portable shooter ever made in Killzone Mercenary, as well as a wonky port of one of the more recent genre greats in Borderlands 2, providing just enough to satisfy gamers.

    Dig a little deeper into its backwards-compatible library, though, and you’ll find a whole host of experiences worth revisiting. From the WWII immersion of Call of Duty or Medal of Honor to the sci-fi thrills of Coded Arms or Star Wars Battlefront, there’s something for almost everyone thanks to the PSP. These experiences are made infinitely better by the fact that their controls can be re-bound on Vita to take advantage of both analogue sticks, making it feel like this is the true way they were meant to be played.

    It might not rival the library of something like the Xbox 360 with its lineup of BattlefieldCall of Duty, BioShock, and Halo, nor has it benefited from a spree of third-party ports like Switch with DoomPayday, and Wolfenstein – but the Vita still has access to a cracking selection of first-person shooters, especially for a handheld. Hopefully some of the suggestions here have piqued your interest, but if not then at least give Killzone Mercenary a go – it’s well worth it!

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