Contra and Metal Slug have stood the test of time as a couple of the best co-op shooters. So, how does this newly upgraded version of Mercenary Kings compare to the classics? Get your trigger finger ready and let's head to battle!
For the unfamiliar, Mercenary Kings is a retro-inspired run 'n' gun arcade-like experience that can be enjoyed with up to four simultaneous players. However, it's not your ordinary arcade shooter as there's a nifty character growth dynamic that adds a layer of satisfaction to every successful mission. You'll find yourself crafting all sorts of weapons, upgrading your armour, and even creating biological enhancements that you can try and conform to your play style. The basic gameplay has you carry out missions while doing some light 2D platforming and exploring, shooting, and using an array of items such as explosives, rations, and such. Shooting will require you to reload frequently which happens automatically yet you can time a button press in order to make it happen faster. Overall, the gameplay is super-tight, easy to pick up and play, and it's even more enjoyable with friends.
Version differences: what's new in the Reloaded Edition?
Considering the vanilla Mercenary Kings released on PlayStation 4 a few years back, you may be wondering what's new in this Reloaded Edition. Basically, there are 2 new playable characters (a female soldier named Frigg and a robot named C-Zar), a new exosuit mission, improved loading times, more balanced gameplay, and new guns and knives.
One thing that Mercenary Kings accomplishes almost as well as the Metal Slug series is its gorgeous visuals. The character sprites are perfectly rendered and animated whether they're a friend or foe. Speaking of which, a lot of the enemies can be quite silly and will surely put a smile on your face. I especially enjoyed the girl driving the giant drill which I'm sure is a reference to a Mega Man enemy. Anyway, the 16-bit era music is super-catchy and it'll get you tapping your toes as you work through each mission.
As I've already touched upon, there are plenty of upgrades to unlock. You do so by amassing a wealth of materials and money then handing whatever's required over to the NPCs at the home base who will gladly create whichever items you can afford. You acquire materials and cash by completing missions as well as finding stuff within chests and from defeated foes. Enhancing your character enough can make them play completely differently which makes for a very rewarding character customization dynamic.
Note: if you already own the vanilla PS4 version
If you purchased the original Mercenary Kings on PlayStation 4 (like I did a few years ago) then you can upgrade to this Reloaded Edition for free! Not only that, once you "purchase" the free PS4 upgrade, you'll also gain access to the Vita version since it is a cross-buy game. You can now enjoy the game both on your TV and on the go at no extra cost!
Finally, I'll be a bummer and touch on a few downsides of Mercenary Kings. First, the AI consists of simple and predictable patterns so once you play for a while, you can easily exploit your enemies merely by recognizing them. It still won't be easy but I wish there was more complexity to their movements. Next, playing by yourself is far less enjoyable due to the general slow pace of the gameplay. Therefore, make sure you have some local and/or online friends to play with before heading to battle. Lastly, the missions themselves could use more variety. Most of them involve collecting certain items, rescuing folks, or destroying specific things. One mission involves controlling a mech which is cool but that's simply not enough to break up the mostly similar campaign missions.
Mercenary Kings is a modern classic run 'n' gun game and this Reloaded Edition will hopefully allow more gamers to experience its multiplayer mission-based mayhem. Tribute Games lives up to their name yet again.
- + Tight run 'n' gun gameplay that you can enjoy with a few local and online friends
- + Fantastic character sprites and music
- + Rewarding upgrades to unlock
- - AI is too robotic and predictable
- - Playing solo isn't as enjoyable
- - Missions could use more variety