|System: X360, PS3, PC, PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Pandemic Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug. 31, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Adam Brown
The original Mercenaries was a very ambitious title. It took the open-world structure of Grand Theft Auto, added more militaristic gameplay elements, and made the player feel like Rambo incarnate. It was clearly ahead of the curve when it was released, and its success was more than deserved. Understandably, many gamers have been eagerly awaiting the sequel's inevitable release on this generation's new, more powerful hardware. Unfortunately, even with the leap in console power, Mercenaries 2 (M2) ends up feeling somewhat archaic.
The first thing you will notice is just how rough the game's visuals are. This is especially true for the game's many character models. The main characters in the game all look more like wet plastic dolls than actual human beings. M2's environments also look decidedly out-of-date, with tree leaves and bushes being made up of crisscrossing flat layers of sprites and some of the worst-looking water you've seen this generation. There is also an incredibly short draw distance; making things like grass, objects, enemies, etc. constantly pop into existence mere feet in front of you and without warning.
Sure, the visuals of M2 aren't where they should be at this stage in the game, but it is pretty easy to overlook some of these flaws since they don't really affect the gameplay (except for the randomly appearing enemies). Fortunately, this game still succeeds in making you feel like an indestructible one man army. Players can use a wide variety of weapons, vehicles, and airstrikes to remove anything that stands between them and their goal, be it human, vehicle, or building. While you do get some decent weapons right from the start, the game's real gems will need to be unlocked by completing missions and making contacts.
M2 starts out with you helping a devious man, Ramon Solano, overthrow the Venezuelan government. You are quickly betrayed by Solano, who tries to kill you and even fails to pay you for services rendered. As a mercenary who lives by the words "everybody pays," payback is the only option you have left. This story isn't incredibly compelling, but it is loaded with a good amount of humor and serves as a decent enough excuse to continue blowing things up.
To advance in the game, players will need to help out various factions by completing whatever dirty work they offer. Many of M2's missions will have you taking over bases for these organizations and, in turn, getting cash and access to more powerful tools of destruction. Aside from the main missions, you will also be able to hone your many skills in a wide assortment of challenges, destroy buildings and kill specific targets for your employers, and steal a plethora of cash and munitions scattered throughout the Venezuelan landscape.
Because all the factions you are working for aren't friendly with each other, they understandably keep their distances. This is where a major problem with M2's gameplay rears its ugly head. If you want to complete a mission for a faction, you must first find whichever base has the available job and then travel there to actually begin the mission. The same goes with buying supplies, weapons, vehicles, and airstrikes. Having to traverse the game's vast amount of real estate for these reasons is completely ridiculous. All of these things could have been made much less painful by allowing players to use their PDA to achieve the same ends or, at the very least, by providing access to these things at your own home base. While you can call for a helicopter transport to take you to these different areas, it takes far too long and unnecessarily wastes your resources.
Once you actually start a mission, several things become immediately apparent. The first is that your guns are incredibly inaccurate. Essentially, unless your weapon is rocket powered or a sniper rifle, hitting your target from more than a few feet away is a frustrating chore. More times than I can count, I've spent several clips worth of ammo trying to kill one enemy who I was directly aiming at, as my bullets hit virtually anything but their target.
The next problem you'll encounter is just how counterintuitive using air support can be. The first drawback is you can only have three airstrikes, vehicle drops, or ammo drops equipped at one time. If you want to use something that isn't equipped, you will need to make your way through a series of time consuming and clunky menus to find it. Once you finally have what you'd like to use equipped, actually using it can be exasperatingly difficult. While being shot at by countless enemies, players will need to hit up on their D-pad, then hit up or down until they find what they want to utilize, and finally press the execute button to actually use the item. Keep in mind, if you press the left analog stick or get knocked down at any point during this lengthy process, you'll have to restart it from the beginning.