|System: PS2, X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Pi Studios / 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||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Pete Richards
As Mercenaries makes its current-gen debut with World in Flames, PS2 owners don't have to miss out on the destructive fun. Those who liked the mission-based sandbox style of the first Mercenaries installment will also enjoy the havoc of blowing up fully destructible environments in this title, though it's not without its flaws. Visually, Mercenaries 2 leaves much to be desired. Functionally, this seemingly watered-down PS2 version also has several gameplay issues that may annoy some players.
When playing Mercenaries 2, you have the option to choose between the three returning characters from the first title: Chris Jacobs, Mattais Nillson, or Jennifer Mui. The character models are the same comic book style as before, now wearing different uniforms, and their unrealistic look is somewhat complementary to the over-the-top action of this game (Mattais is cool!). After choosing, you are quickly thrust into the first mission, where you'll have to destroy enemy barracks and recover a hostage from Venezuelan forces. After completing the mission, you find that you have been betrayed by contractor Ramon Solano, who attempts to kill you before you narrowly escape. This is when the opening credits roll and the storyline sets up much like a film, as Solano becomes the dictator of Venezuela in an attempt to take control over the country's oil supply. Amongst the civil and political unrests, many different factions are formed throughout the country. Your job is essentially to become allies with as many factions as possible, while you seek to take out Solano and complete side-missions found throughout the large Venezuelan map.
The plotline is simple enough and everything from the cutscenes to the introduction are extremely well done. The main problem with Mercenaries 2 is apparent before you even choose your protagonist. As the start menu pans along a Venezuelan city street to give the player a sense of the environments and graphics in the game, it is initially unimpressive. Trees look poorly rendered and motionless, and streets look pixelated and jagged along curbs and sidewalks. Venezuela makes for a unique backdrop, especially while free-roaming and driving through both city streets and the countryside - it's a shame the graphics don't help accentuate the exotic location. There is a hazy hue that seems to saturate everything in sight, limiting the distance of your view and making the environments appear somewhat dull. The game lacks vibrancy in color and, graphically, it simply feels outdated. Without question, the biggest disappointment about Mercenaries 2 for PS2 owners will be the unappealing graphics that seem to have been simplified for the console.
On the plus side, almost everything on the map is completely destructible, which is what made the first Mercenaries so appealing. Buildings can be leveled to their foundation in a large cloud of smoke and debris. Walls and barracks can be destroyed the same way. Concrete becomes cracked after being struck with a mighty blast, and the over-the-top physics of cars flying into the air when being blown up make for humorous visuals. Taking a tank out on a terror spree is one of the most fun aspects of the game as you bring Venezuela completely to its knees. Buildings stay smoldering for several minutes, as do cars, before they disappear, so you can admire your work from the cockpit. When on foot, your C4 bombs do a good job of leveling large structures, as does a rocket launcher. Taking a helicopter on a tirade is a whole other element that makes the game worthwhile. My biggest complaint about the environments is that for some reason trees and shrubbery are among the only things that are completely indestructible, which makes absolutely no sense. While roaming on foot or behind the wheel, sometimes you will find a shrub that completely blocks your path, making it impossible to get through. You can lace a tree with C4 and hit the detonator as many times as you want, but it won't topple. I'm not exactly sure why the developers seem to think a shrub is mightier than a brick wall, but it is a very noticeable flaw.