Three years after Pandemic Studios released Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction, they return with Mercenaries 2: World In Flames. Three years is plenty of time to perfect a sequel and hopefully make it better than the first. We’ll take a look at how Mercenaries 2 stacks up against the previous Mercenaries game and how it stands up in today’s gaming ladder.
The first Mercenaries game Playground of Destruction took place in Korea, both North and South. The game relied on factions and how you played out the game depended on which factions took to your side. Much like the first Mercenaries, Mercs 2 (Mercenaries 2: World in Flames) still holds somewhat the same gameplay but is now set in Venezuela. Unlike the first game that had the “Deck of 52”, 52 targets which had to be eliminated in order to continue, the sequel dismisses that idea and incorporates HVT’s (High Value Targets) along with side missions.
Now for a closer look at the game itself. You start by selecting one of three mercenaries to use, Mattias Nilsson, Christopher Jacobs or Jennifer Mui. Each merc has a special in game ability each one is explained upon character selection. The character you select now works for the PMC, which is your own Private Military Company whom you recruit mercenaries to help and work for you. In total there are three merc to hire; a mechanic, who can build custom vehicles; a chopper pilot, who can extract, pick up and drop off; and a bomber pilot, good for executing those ever so necessary air strikes. After selecting your main character you can jump straight into the game.
As mentioned, unlike the first mercenaries, there is no “Deck of 52”. Instead of the 52 concept, it’s now a small list of HVT’s, each faction has 10 HVT’s for you to eliminate. Along with the HVT there’s also destruction targets, each faction has several key targets, which must be destroyed in any way necessary, whether it be C4 or air strikes. Doing these small missions can increase your reputation with another faction along with your bank account. Another way of increasing your rep you can do side missions for each faction, which unfortunately become very repetitive and you find yourself constantly asking “Didn’t I do this mission already?” These missions range from capturing an outpost to babysitting; pretty much all they range from. Once you help capture an outpost new missions are unlocked. Also with each outpost captures a shop unlocks where you can purchase vehicles, weapons and fuel upgrades.
As for the weapons, vehicles and anything else, Mercenaries 2 has plenty of it. In total there are approximately 170 vehicles, a few dozen weapons, and plenty of air strikes to keep you busy for a while. Each weapon has a different effect from emplaced guns to tanks cannons and handguns. Vehicles have different speed and armor attributes along with different mounted weapons. The accuracy on veteran weapons are poor and others are incredibly accurate, trying to keep to the real world. Every faction has there own weapons and vehicles so if you need a vehicle you can go to a factions hide out and borrow one.
As for the factions there are five factions plus the VZ. The VZ are always hostile against you, there are no missions for the VZ so just make sure you watch out and kill them whenever you see them. Other factions include; Universal Petroleum, People’s Liberation Army of Venezuela, Allied Nations, People’s Liberation Army (of China) and the Jamaican Pirates. Each faction has different abilities to help you out along the way. Factions are pretty simple to work for, just be sure to do the missions and they’ll be your friends. But keep in mind, factions will have you do missions that will upset other factions. So if you work for the UP they’ll have you doing missions against the PLAV, so when the PLAV see you cruising around town they’re going to shoot you until you’re dead. But once you start doing missions for them and become friendlier they’ll help you. Another neat feature is depending on which faction is your ally they will jump in a vehicle with you when you honk the horn and will shoot enemies that are harming you.
As in the previous mercenaries you can have items, such as vehicles and weapons delivered to you. In Mercenaries all you had to do was pay for item in your stockpile and it was delivered. But now in Mercs 2 you have to first pay for the item, which will then be added to your stockpile, and then you have to add it to your drop down list, order to have it dropped off and then its there. Also you now have to watch your fuel, you can find fuel throughout the terrain but if you don’t have any fuel and/or money it can’t be delivered. This becomes pretty annoying when something is required ASAP but you have to pause the game and do the whole process just to get a box of ammo and weapons dropped off.
Mercs 2 also now features an online co-op mode, it’s the same as the normal game but now players from all over the world can jump in and join you in a mission or just to have some sand box fun. It’s a nice change from the single player mode but if the person on the other end has a terrible connection or has other plans for the mission it can just become annoying and pointless.
As for the graphics and sound, well unfortunately this game isn’t all that satisfying or pleasing. The games graphics are sub-par in today’s standards. Movement is very simple and bland offering nothing special when all the resources to do so are out there. Gunfire is very arcadish and feels almost like the first Mercenaries. Although not everything is terrible, the environment is fairly impressive offering a mix of everything. Mind you it’s not perfect, trees move very awkwardly when helicopters fly close and they break like they’re made of cardboard.
The explosions are decent, but unfortunately become very repetitive, almost like one design was used and that’s it. As for the sound it’s also pretty unfortunate. Gunfire feels the same, all having a toy gun sound to them. Even the sniper rifle doesn’t feel like it could take out someone with a headshot. On the plus side unlike Mercs 1, Mercs 2 actually has gears in the cars. If you remember Mercenaries, when driving the cars had endless gears, well they finally changed that and now the cars have about 6 gears. The best part of the sound is the explosions which makes blowing stuff up so satisfying.
Overall Mercenaries 2: World in Flames is disappointing. There are a handful of noticeable bugs and glitches in the game, both in the cinematics and gameplay. It’s funny to see a character moving around the screen awkwardly, and to see your car sunken into the road, but then you remember this is next gen gaming and this shouldn’t be happening. As mentioned, the sound and graphics aren’t great, they aren’t terrible but they’re not great. The gameplay feels extremely repetitive and gets boring quickly. It’s a good thing there’s the option to either do missions and HVT’s so there’s some variety. The driving mechanics that were used are very weak and makes evasion driving tough. The AI isn’t smart at all, but having some inaccurate and weak weapons in your arsenal compensates that. The storyline is terrible and makes no sense, if there even is a storyline.
So all this is really unfortunate seeing as Mercenaries Playground of Destruction was so good. Mercenaries 2 has a rushed feel to it, and it shows. Personally the whole idea of the “Deck of 52” was a great idea, and ditching it was a bad idea. If you don’t mind a repetitive game that has little to no sand box fun value for an open world game then this is for you, Other than that, with a $60 price tag a rental is much more worth it. Or you could always spend a lot less and pick up Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2 on Xbox live.
Gameplay: 6, Graphics:7, Sound:7, Innovation:5, Mojo:4.5 Final: 5.9 / 10
Reviewed by Chris Gagne | 09.17.08