Reviewed: September 12, 2008
Released: August 31, 2008
Mercenaries 2: World in Flames is the long awaited sequel of the old PS2 and Xbox game from 2005, published by LucasArts and developed by Pandemic, the folks responsible for this “next-gen” sequel.
You probably saw the commercial recently featuring the hilarious “Oh No You Didn't!” song (available for download on Pandemic's website). The commercial was great. But would the game actually live up to the hype?
The basic idea of Mercenaries 2 is “do unto others before you get done unto”. When you start up the game you get to pick from two male (Mattias Nilsson or Chris Jacobs) or one female (Jennifer Mui) main characters. This will effect the cutscenes but results are the same. You are on a mission, you get double-crossed and shot in the buttocks.
The premise of the game is you are part of a “private military company” that takes on contracts from various less than upstanding citizens of Venezuela (aka gangs). You decide which factions to do business with and when. There are plenty of 'one off' jobs and other missions with multiple objectives. You have to choose carefully who you do business with – chose the wrong faction and word will get around. Before you know it, you have enemies you've never even met! Doesn't all this sound familiar?
Mercenaries 2: World in Flames has plenty of areas to explore and explode. You pretty much have free reign to go around cities, lakes, mountains, jungles and other nicely rendered scenery. To have some fun you have over 130 vehicles from civilian cars to boats to tanks and helicopters equipped with canons and rocket launchers. It can be explosive fun, but some things are just wrong. Come on... I find it a little silly driving a jacked up monster truck around a war zone.
Unfortunately the missions get repetitive very quickly with similar objectives and an endless stream of stupid AI enemies. Additionally, when you are jacking a vehicle such as a helicopter or tank, you get a mini-game where you have to press certain buttons overwhelm your enemy. Not exactly a big or fun challenge.
The AI in this game needs a lot of work. The majority of the time you can stand out in the open and aim your kill shot without much worry of getting hit…at least for a few seconds. It's actually easier just to run up to the guy and punch him. If that sounds easy, it's because it is easy. You can rip right through most missions in less than 20 minutes.
You can play online co-op in Mercenaries 2, however I seriously doubt you would play online very long. Not only are their clipping problems with distant trees and buildings, but it seems like going online just makes it worse. I find it hard to believe that simply going online would push this game or the Xbox 360 console to its limits, but the level and amount of issues here is beyond frustrating.
Pandemic usually makes outstanding products. Why didn't they see Mercenaries needed more debug time? An additional month or two of work still would have put a much better Mercenaries out before Christmas, but I guess that would have put it up against Clancy's EndWar and Call of Duty: World at War. Mercenaries 2 would have lost that battle for certain.
The graphics for Mercenaries 2 are above average but not outstanding. Again, much of this game feels like I’ve played it before in one of the other 50 shooter games. OK, I'm exaggerating a little, but it certainly feels similar to the jungles in Far Cry and a few other games. Mercenaries 2 is a lot better than Far Cry though. Running into palms causes a graphical impact reaction in the plant. The edges of the leaves even have the transparency of the real plant. When a helicopter flies in to drop resources for you, the trees respond to the wind from the rotors and the dirt blows all over the place.
Explosions are another marked improvement. Calling in air strikes on various targets unleashes a house-shaking explosion with the accompanying visual eye candy. Be careful where you stand or you might get rolled over by large concrete building pieces.
I had several instances of graphical bugs. There are numerous clipping problems – especially when entering vehicles. However the biggest problem I had was trying to play online. Several times my character entered into the game as if he was under water and there was no way for me to get out. Given the fairly quick development cycle of these games, I’ve come to expect a few glitches here and there, but this particular bug was pretty extreme and certainly should not have made it out of testing.
For the most part the sounds in Mercenaries 2: World in Flames is about what you would expect in a shooting game. House rattling explosions make surround sound a must for any gamer. Going through the wealth of weaponry really brings out the sonic goodness of a big thumping subwoofer.
Unfortunately the repetitive voice acting gets old quickly. Listening to Mattias say how much he likes tanks and rocket launchers over and over makes one want to put in Mass Effect to hear some decent voice acting.
Mercenaries 2: World in Flames is repetitive and has way too many graphical problems to be fun. The game is fairly easy to stumble through, but is so frustrating that it's probably rare for people to put in the time to finish it. It's unfortunate because the premise of the game seems like it could have been a lot of fun. But Pandemic skipped a few rounds of play testing and now we are made to suffer the consequences.
Mercenaries 2: World in Flames has 40 achievements totaling 1,000 gamer points. The achievements are the usual mix of simple items you complete just in normal gameplay and some specific things you may have to go back and deliberately achieve like destroying 200 objects from the gunner seat in co-op. There are some interesting achievements in Mercenaries 2, but again, your frustration level may outweigh the achievement satisfaction level.
Granted, the video game market is certainly rife with shooter games, but Mercenaries 2 is a little bit different than most. A friend described Mercenaries 2 as sort of a GTA in Venezuela… and I would have to agree. This isn’t a standard shooter, but it also feels a lot like the jungle of Far Cry. It’s also has significant portions more in line with a good action/adventure game. Is it worth $60? Close, but I have to say wait a few months when the videogame market isn't so full of new and exciting games. By then, Mercenaries 2 should be discounted a bit and well worth a look.
Mercenaries 2: World in Flames certainly lives up to its name. It's as if Pandemic made a game just to show of “hey look at the cool explosions we can do!” It's too bad the AI and graphical glitches bring such a promising game to a frustrating halt.