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Playstation 3 Review: Mercenaries 2: World in Flames

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Mercenaries 2: World in Flames is the sequel to the original Mercenaries game created by Pandemic for the last-gen consoles a few years ago. The team has come back fighting and has given us a bigger, badder and flashier version of their original vision. The game does many things right and many things wrong, but does this add up to a great game? The answer is yes.

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In Mercenaries 2, you have the choice between three varied, yet identical characters (more on that later). Mattias Nilsson spits out horribly accented one-liners right out of a Schwarzenegger movie, but he also regenerates health faster than the others. Jennifer Mui is the smoking hot female character; she is the smart ass of the bunch and has a much faster land speed then the boys. Last, but not least, is Chris Jacobs, the weapons guy. Chris can hold more ammo than the others and carries himself in a more mature manner then the other two.

While it is nice to have three choices, these characters are my first issue with the game. No matter which you choose, the story remains exactly the same. While this is not a deal breaker, it certainly hurts the replay value of the game. Without three separate story arcs, there is no compelling reason to replay the campaign.

Speaking of the story, or what little there is of it, the paper thin plot revolves around your Merc (whomever you choose) doing a job for a big baddie called Roman Solano. Once the job is complete, Solano and his sidekick try to eliminate you, but all they succeed in doing is shooting you in the rear end while you escape. This is ultimately your reasoning for taking him down, as not only did he not pay you (a big no-no for mercenaries), but he shot you in the ass. With this motivation, you start on a storm of destruction across Venezuela.

It definitely ticked me off that there was no unique storyline for the three diverse personalities, but hey, this game is all about blowing things up and the scenario delivers that in spades. You see, Venezuela is in the midst of a rebellion centered on oil rights; the Venezuelan army is trying to hold things together, but many factions are in the mix trying to get a slice.

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You have Universal Petroleum, the Chinese Army, the Allied Nations, the Rastafarian Pirates and the People's Liberation Army of Venezuela. Each faction has its own goals and missions to back those up. Completing these missions inevitably gets you closer and closer to Solano and your end goal.

As you start your mission to kill Solano (and make lots of money), you will compile a team to join your Private Military Corporation (PMC). You start with your friend and tech head Fiona, who will generally help keep your operations running. Next, you hire away the hotshot helicopter pilot, Ewan, whom Universal Petroleum was using for missions. Following that, you are sent to entice a mechanic, Eva, to join your cause. Finally, the drunken Russian aircraft pilot Mischa joins your cause once you help him out.

This is the second area I had issues with in Mercenaries 2; these characters are all outwardly VERY interesting if clichéd. Mischa, for example, is always drunk (‘you’re drunk’, my merc said. ‘I am always drunk’, Mischa replied). This makes for some humorous moments…once. The characters are all completely static once they join you; sure, they have some short dialogue scenes and some custom missions for rewards, but there is no further development or true interaction.

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Okay, enough about the characters and ‘story’. How does the game play? Well, aside from some glitches and graphical oddities, this game is immensely fun to play. The controls are easy to master and intuitive enough to give you the fine control you need when in a hairy situation. The sheer wanton destruction you can cause is truly, truly amazing. Absolutely everything, and I mean everything, is destructible if you have the right tools and let me tell you, it is great fun to blow stuff up in this game.

What helps make the game fun is the freedom you have in approaching every situation. If you want to get in under the radar, you can steal a car from the faction you are infiltrating and they will not fire on you as long as you are subtle (why would you want to, though?). If you want to come in guns blazing, there are airstrikes, tanks, artillery launches, gunboats, commando teams and guns a plenty to further your destructive tendencies.

Speaking of vehicles, standard ones can be obtained with a simple click, a la Grand Theft Auto. Others, like tanks and helicopters require, a quick time event (QTE). Get close to the vehicle and start the hijack; you will be prompted for the easiest QTE you have ever experienced. It is much more difficult to get in the right spot to start the process than it is for the sequence. While it is appreciated that stealing a tank is a breeze, it is just odd that it is so easy. Let me tell you, though, tanks are fun, as they make a big mess out of whatever you aim at.

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Further enhancing this ability to lay waste to all you see is the new engine Pandemic cooked up for Mercenaries 2. The engine, while not perfect, does a great job of portraying cities, landscapes, vehicles and people (both civilian and military). There are some rough textures, and at times, the actual animation is not the best I have seen. Regardless, the game does look great as a whole, and you have not seen anything until you have witnessed an enemy compound go up in flames from a well-placed airstrike.

The fire effects and explosions need a special nod here, much like a Michael Bay film. Mercenaries 2: World in Flames is all about the pyrotechnics and they are spectacular. The explosions just feel right, the bass from the audio, the rumble effect, the visceral damage you can see and the wonderful looking flames all add together to become magic on-screen.

Now, to my complaint as far as audio is concerned; while the sound effects, music and dialogue sound great, there is a huge, huge flaw in this game. All the varied factions, NPC’s and civilians have a very limited set of canned phrases and will repeat them ad nauseam. “It’s the mercenary,” “we’re under attack”, and “who’s driving that vehicle” are among the most common. By the thousandth time hearing those words, generally out of context, I was ready to burn the whole virtual country to the ground…maybe that was the goal? Unfortunately, I just think it was a poor/limited design choice, one that if thought through, could have added a lot of depth to the world. Instead, it is plain annoying to hear people talk in this game.

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Bugs are plentiful in this game as well; none of them were game breakers for me, but enough that it was annoying. Dumb as nails A.I. faction soldiers who, instead of taking a building I have cleared, mill around OUTSIDE of the compound. Tanks that get stopped by small obstructions but can level cars, bushes that seem to halt all movement or A.I. enemies that literally ignore you even while you are shooting someone next to them. Ultimately, these are all forgivable things because the world is so huge, so full of targets and opportunities to explore and of course lots of things to blow up real good.

Multiplayer in this game is very, very interesting. Every time you launch your game, you are creating a server instance. There really is no concept of a single player vs. multiplayer mode as every game is both. You can choose to have your game available to anyone or just your friends list (which is nice) and literally at any time, anywhere, someone can join you and participate in the missions you happen to be engaged in. The first time someone popped in and joined me with no intervention I was surprised; the system was so seamless. Even better, you both get the full reward offered for a mission; even though you shared it, there is no penalty for tackling it with partners. Once we were done he said sayonara and was gone. Once again, I was playing single player…that, my friends, is awesome!

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As far as I can tell in my many multiplayer outings in this game, lag was non-existent and the drop-in drop-out mechanic was smooth as silk. The sheer coolness factor of the system is surprising. The co-op in this game is what I keep coming back for whenever I pop this into my PS3. Even though it is only limited to two people, it is a great deal of fun to have a real person backing you up as you destroy everything in sight.

If there is one drawback to the multiplayer, it is that co-op is your only option; there are no base defense games, no capture the flag and no weird energy ball volleyball type games. So, if you are tired of playing through this game and world in it’s normal mode, then the co-op probably won’t keep you going for very long. Luckily, as mentioned, the wanton destruction is so much fun I don’t see any issues with the multiplayer as is.

This is a weird review to write. On one hand, Mercenaries 2 has so many issues that normally it would make me throw the controller and give up, but in the context of this world they don’t really matter. Plain and simple, Mercenaries 2: World in Flames looks great, plays great (most of the time) and is really, really fun. The drop-in, drop-out co-op is the deluxe icing on the cake and adds so many cool moments to this game. If you are in the mood for a no holds barred, action filled destruction marathon, Mercenaries 2: World in Flames is the game for you.

Mercenaries 2: World in Flames is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Language, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco and Violence. This game can also be found on: PC, PS2 and Xbox 360.


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About Michael Prince

Looking at all things Geek - news, rants and updates from the worlds of gaming, tech, blu-ray, novels, and music.