Mercenaries 2: World in flames
|Release Date:||September 5th, 2008 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Andy Hemphill (Bandit)|
The first Mercenaries game was one of the unsung heroes of the last generation of consoles. With its combination of sandbox gameplay, clever story and ability to blow almost anything up on a whim, it was an addictive, if short-lived, thrill ride through the wastelands of North Korea.
Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, is the next incarnation of that trend-setting series, and while it has all of the style and substance of its predecessor, it fails in many other ways.
The location for the mayhem this time is Venezuela, a fact that the Venezuelan government weren't exactly happy about, and a fair chunk of the countryside is open for your inspection. The in-game world is huge and diverse, covering everything from huge areas of open water, to jungle, to desert and of course, the huge high-rise buildings and squat shantytowns of a developing country.
Dropped into this mess comes your character, one of three freelance mercenaries who are taking advantage of the conflict sweeping the nation.
Your character choices are: Jennifer Mui- an ex-M16 agent who has the benefit of increased speed, Chris Jacobs, a jack-of-all-trades type gun for hire, who can carry a larger amount of ammo, and Mattias Nilsson, a psychotic and hilarious character who heals quicker than the other two.
The basic plot revolves around your characters' pursuit of Ramon Solano, the dictator of the corrupt government, who hired you for a job, then refused to pay you, breaking the number one rule of any good mercenary- "Everybody Pays."
Of course, the fact that he tried to kill you and then shot you in the arse as you made your escape just adds insult to injury and sends your character off down a path of reward and revenge. The plot, while paper-thin and contrived, serves as only a background to the true heart of the game- causing as much mayhem in as short a time as possible.
As a newly butt-shot mercenary, you character must build a private military company (PMC) and start to track down Solano by taking missions from the five or six factions featured in the game. The factions either like you or dislike you depending on what you get up to, so completing a mission for one might put you in the bad books of another, although it is easy to get become friends with them again if you give them enough money, making this whole dynamic a little pointless.
The missions you go on are pretty standard for the genre- blow things up, rescue certain people, destroy this building etc, etc. Also included are the HVT's or High Value Targets. These are people that one faction have designated as a bounty, and it's up to you to find a way to capture them, or you could just kill them and earn a little less cash for your trouble.
You also need to recruit other mercenaries to your PMC, and you will have to do errands to persuade the chopper pilot, Ewan, mechanic, Eva, and bomber pilot, Mischa, to give you a hand on your quest. Now down to the brass tacks.
Graphically, the game is excellent. The water effects are beautiful to look at and the foliage sways in the wind with a surprising amount of realism. The vehicles, boats, helicopters and NPC's are all nicely modelled and feel right when you hijack them (which you will be doing a lot.) The draw distance is excellent, and driving from one side of the map to the other is seamless and smooth.
The 100 or so vehicles come in all shapes and sizes and are at your disposal whenever and wherever you can find one, and the range of weapons available means that there will always be something to suit every taste. Also making a return is the support system, which allows the mercenary to call in everything from a sniper rifle to a tank, boat or jeep as well as more explosive options such as airstrikes.
The previous game featured an option to call in one of 20 or so airstrikes whenever you need one. This game features the same system, with a few more bombs thrown in for good measure, such as the compact nuke and the huge 'Mother of all bombs' (massive ordinance air blast.)
The airstrikes lay waste to the environment that they hit, reducing buildings to rubble and jungles to smoking heaps of ash, in fact, everything in the game is destructible, a mechanic that serves the game well, because the flaws that sully the game would have scuppered it otherwise.
First up is the 'upgraded' support system: rather than the previous mechanic of just calling in support and then paying a price, Mercs 2 makes you either buy or steal the weaponry before you can use it- if you spy a pile of bombs, you can get your chopper pilot to pick it up and add it to your stockpile, and if you want an artillery strike at a certain location you have to travel to a faction's base and pay for it beforehand- a pain in the rear when you want something blown up right now. What's more, you now need 'fuel' to make air drops or bomb something and tracking down and stealing the supplies can get very tedious, very quickly.
The problems don't just stop there however, the game's AI is terrible, with enemies and friendlies getting stuck all the time, appearing in boulders, throwing grenades at the walls and constantly crashing into things.
This is further compounded by the terrible voice acting- the mercenaries are ok, but the PMC support crew all sound like they are bored out of their skins, and if I hear an enemy soldier say 'It's the merc' one more time as I'm driving past then I'm going to scream.
Your character isn't much better, saying the same line over and over in an endless farce as you mow down the incredibly dumb enemies and your merc carries on making the same dry quip.
But, problems aside, there is one thing that Mercs 2 has going for it- online co-op multiplayer.
If you're plugged into Xbox live and your party is open, friends or strangers can log into your world and join in on the mayhem. Although there are no specific multiplayer missions, having a friend along to use the helicopter gunship's cannons while you level the enemy outpost is priceless.
All in all, Mercenaries 2 is a great idea, poorly executed. If Pandemic had put a little more polish into the box then they would have had a gaming classic on their hands. As it stands, Mercs 2 is still a fun game to play, provided you can ignore the numerous little flaws that plague the game. But in the end if all you want to do is spend time blowing things up in a pretty environment and feeling like a badass, then this might be worth a try.
- Huge open environment
- Nice graphics
- Blow up whatever you want
Not so good stuff
- Very buggy
- You have to steal your arsenal, rather than just pay for it
- Predictable story