Santa brings presents after Christmas.
If you're an action shooter fan, then you'll be impressesd
with the bundle Kris Kringle leaves in your Xbox...after
you go to the Mall and pay for this game and place
it in there yourself, of course. From the moment I
ordererd my first carpet bomb during the demo, I was
hooked on Pandemic's wildly entertaining single player
explosion-fest. The final product is nothing short
of awe-inspiring. It's filled with an incredible 52
missions, and dozens of side missions which culminate
in 40+ hours or more of game time, which is almost
unheard of in this genre.
the popular "Grand Theft Auto" school of
design and littering the playfield with a plethora
of vehicles - both ground and air - for you to enjoy
at your leisure while keeping the action intense,
Pandemic Studios has a sleeper hit on their hands.
While this one may have slipped under your radar,
it won't stay that way for long. Either the entertaining
commercials will catch your eye or you'll begin to
hear the buzz around this one. In any case you won't
be able to ignore this one for long as it just begs
to be played.
one of three suitable "mercenaries" who
loans themselves to different factions - Allied Nations,
South Korea, Russian Mafia, and the Chinese - your
goal will be locate the top 52 rogue militants in
North Korea. North Korea stands on the brink of a
global war and you'll have to capture the 52 as a
measure to stop the escalating tensions. Each rogue
is given a title related to a complete deck of cards
and you'll traverse the North Korean landscape in
an attempt to bring them all to justice.
you can't imagine the implications of working for
four unique political factions, let me tune you in.
When working for one of them, you will inevitably
step on the toes of the others. Balance is key to
the success of Mercenaries and you can view the stats
on exactly whom you're in favor with and whom you're
pissing off. Try and keep them all generally happy
and remember that all is fair in love and war - if
they need you, they'll forgive and forget rather quickly.
you're a Merc, you'll be doing this all for the good
of your wallet and not for the good of your mother
land; take that Sam Fisher. Bigger jobs pay bigger
bucks which means you can spend your hard-earned dough
on more explosive weapons and air strikes. Did I just
say "air strikes?". Let the destruction
single most addictive quality to Mercenaries is the
"Playground of Destruction" subtitle, but
it's not always about wanton destruction. While some
missions give you some leeway as to how you'll take
down the objective, others require more strategy and
thus selecting the right approach and the right weapons
for the job is completely necessary to succeed. Obliterating
an entire city can't be ignored on the coolometer
and frankly this game raises a new bar on this type
of mechanic. MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf and Otogi 2
also allow completely destructable environments, but
neither game can hold a candle to Mercenaries as far
as I'm concerned. When a skyscraper is razed in Mercenaries
it is something to behold.
either the mercenary of your choice or the vehicles
and aircraft at your disposal has been fine tuned
for excellence. The left analog stick controls movement
while the right analog controls camera. As Chris mentioned
in his hands on preview, calling in airstrikes is
done in realtime which can make the game more difficult.
I found this to elevate the tension and I welcomed
it. I personally dislike games that pause the action
while they let you fumble around looking for the right
weapon. Sometimes you'll succeed in calling on extra
help and sometimes you'll get a rocket in the face.
Such is life as a merc, I guess. I was very impressed
with the physics of the vehicles. Floaty
AI runs the gamut from moronic to sneaky and devious
(later in the game). Most of the time they will just
try and overpower you with sheer numbers. Some of
them will stand in the open taking fire, while others
will run for cover. Later in the game you'll even
experience the AI at their best when the team work
AI program appears. They can be pretty crafty, but
that's why Pandemic allows you to call in a carpet
bomb. Take that team work!
Havok engine is used to great effect and buildings
and people will crumble most effectively. Visually
the game isn't the sharpest and most detailed game
to appear on the Xbox and some might find the use
of fog and simple textures slightly disappointing.
However the trade off is in the HUGE environments
where almost any structural object is capable of being
shaken to the ground with incredible smoke and fire
effects to drive home the realism. There is also some
framerate issues when too many things appear on screen
but I doubt anyone will find huge faults with these
minor quibbles. Don't get me wrong and think Mercenaries
is an ugly dog of a game as that is definitely not
the case. Chances are you'll be having so much fun
you won't notice the odd hiccup here and there.
won't be able to choose your own tunes for this adventure,
which is a perk of the Xbox system that developers
seem to be supporting less and less over time, but
what is available actually works to great effect.
You'd think that screaming metal guitars combined
with heavy bass and drums would be the order of the
day as you waged your own man war but instead you'll
hear military-esque marches, ambient choral arrangements
and even some classical melodies. It would have been
nice to have chosen to destroy North Korea with your
own background music playing, but if you give it a
chance the music really does compliment
Mercenaries gameplay is strictly single player and
there isn't any multiplayer options to speak of. Not
even split screen. A co-op mode online or over a LAN
would have been welcome for the sheer fun of it and
multiplayer would have been insane. Considering Pandemic
recently developed the stellar Star Wars Battlefront,
the gaming community knows that they can pull off
great multiplayer gaming. To be perfectly honest I
feel like an ingrate evening mentioning the absence
of multiplayer because the game is so well designed
in all aspects. Let's leave it at this: Maybe Mercenaries
2 will feature it.
sounding trite, Mercenaries is the best game I've
played all year....and it's only January 11th! That
being said, Pandemic has set the bar for action games
in 2005 and from what I've seen coming down the road,
Mercenaries has a good chance of taking home some
awards later this year. The play and replay value
of the game is currently unheard of in the shooter
genre and it's safe to say this is one game not worth
renting; the late charges will kill you. Mercenaries
is 2005's first "Must Have Right Now" title.