|System: X360, PS3, PS2, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA / Pandemic Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Pandemic Studios||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 D'Marcus Beatty
March 20, 2007 - The original Mercenaries was a sleeper hit among action aficionados. Its open-ended, explosive gameplay was surprisingly fun and had incredible depth and replayability, making the franchise an instant hit among fans of the genre. So when the sequel was announced for PlayStation 3, gamers were understandably excited. Then Pandemic decided to share the love and revealed one of the worst kept secrets in recent gaming, that Mercenaries 2 would also find its way to the Xbox 360. One thing that few were expecting, however, was the additional announcement that Mercenaries 2 would be released on PC and the PlayStation 2.
Mercenaries 2 once again places gamers in the role of a titular mercenary as they accomplish assorted assignments for various employers. The setting this time is Venezuela, and apparently the number of possible employers has changed also. Like the original Mercenaries, the player can procure contracts from different (and sometimes opposing) factions to earn insane amounts of money. This money can, in turn, be used to purchase one of the numerous vehicles or support options available in the game. Mercenaries 2 promises over 130 vehicles this time around, including tanks, jeeps, civilian cars, and helicopters. They've even added motorcycles and speedboats this time around, two vehicles that were sorely missed in the first game.
The number of factions that can employ the mercenaries has increased as well, going from four to at least five or six warring factions. These include, curiously enough, an oil company and a guerilla faction opposed to the oil company's greedy methods, among other, yet unrevealed factions. Pandemic has pledged to flesh out the secondary characters more than in the original, so hopefully we'll see some truly interesting contacts.
Pandemic has made a number of changes for the sequel. One of these involves the vehicle-jacking. Instead of simply stealing the vehicle at the touch of a button, the player now has to finish a button-mashing minigame a la God of War to successfully hijack any vehicle in the game. If the player is unsuccessful, the character is repelled and thrown from the vehicle. Another interesting change is in the enemy AI, who will attempt to reclaim stolen vehicles. Pandemic has also done away with the Deck of 52 bounty hunting system for a simpler, more streamlined way to keeping track of marks. Also new to the inventory of weapons is the grappling hook, which will allow the character to reach airborne vehicles and hijack them like a real world Batman.
One of the bigger changes to the gameplay is hinted at by the subtitle World in Flames. Pandemic is trying to utilize fire effects in unique ways to aid the mercenaries in accomplishing their goals. One method involves creating a path of gasoline by firing at a vehicle's gas tank. The gasoline can then be lit on fire, creating a wall of flames that can repel followers and trace its way back to the leaking vehicle, creating a fuse of sorts for a makeshift bomb. In addition to this, the old fashioned original Mercenaries options are still available, allowing the player to call in various types of remote support such as carpet bombings, air strikes, weapon and vehicle drops, and various others.
So far, the only confirmed returning mercenary is Mattias, the Swedish merc with the gruff voice. There hasn't been much revealed about Mattias' teammates yet although we do know that Eva, one of the new mercs, is a former bail bondsman. Fiona, the contract handler from the last game, will definitely be returning to give mission briefings after the player accepts contracts.
Mercenaries 2 will also have cooperative play, allowing two players to complete missions by working together or working separately. This mode works with an online buddy or through split screen, and two mercenaries can work together through a number of inventive ways to achieve their goals, such as distracting enemies and allowing a partner to sneak around and flank foes. An interesting element of the co-op play is that a player can desert another to claim the entire reward for themselves, which could expose some potential backstabbing buddies when the game is released.
Even at early stage of production, Mercenaries 2 is gorgeous. The developers are really taking advantage of the next-gen power. The game uses Havok physics and the buildings and structures will all crumble differently depending on how they are destroyed. Debris from explosions will fall and scatter realistically, adding an incredible sense of realism to the game. Pandemic also promises that nearly everything will be destructible, including the vehicles, structures, and even the various trees and plants in the woods.
Mercenaries 2 is still quite a ways off, with a nebulous release date of fourth quarter 2007. However, it is already shaping up to be a fantastic gaming experience, building upon the fun and explosive foundation established by the original. Look for Mercenaries 2 hopefully sometime before the close of 2007.
CCC Co-Site Director