Mercenaries 2: World in Flames

Mercenaries 2 is a game of contrasts. Of yin and of yang. Of dizzying highs and spirit-crushing lows. Join me on a journey through this most explodey of landscapes, in search of the game within, to answer the most burning question of all:

Is it worth your money?

Travel the world, meet new and exciting people, and explode them.

Right from the off, I would say that how much you enjoy this game will be determined greatly by your choice of character. I don’t mean the different statistics they have (Matthias: faster health regeneration; Chris: can carry more ammo; Jen: runs faster) or even whether you like looking at a woman in an improbable leather catsuit. It’s the incidental dialogue. There’s not a great deal of it, and you’re going to hear it an awful lot during your stay; there is little intelligence in the context-sensitivity, and as you run past that exploded enemy tank for the tenth time you will almost certainly be informed of how the bad guys have a tank and you could maybe steal it or blow it up. My tip: don’t choose Matthias.

You will also need to get used to Fiona, your partner, support operative and ever-present voice-in-your-earhole, telling you things you already know and which she has already told you several times. As far as I can tell this is impossible to switch off, although there’s a patch coming up which may make it less annoying.

So. The plot. You have helped a bad person overthrow the government of Venezuela and take control. In return for this, he betrays you and attempts to have you killed. During the escape, one of the many assault rifle rounds whizzing through the air hits you in the ass. Cue endless repetition of “the merc who got shot in the ass” from practically everyone you meet. Anyway, you vow revenge, blah blah, death, explosions, everyone pays, etc.

Much of the gameplay involves doing work for the various factions within the game, which earns you money, reputation, and the option of buying shinier toys from their shop. The twist, of course, is that most of the work you do for the factions will involve going against the other factions, who seem to take a dim view of you blowing up all their stuff and will radio their boss to inform them that the merc, yeah, the one who got shot in the ass, is there doing unpleasant things to them. If they complete their call, your reputation with their faction will drop and reinforcements may be despatched to your position. Happily, this problem is easily solved by killing absolutely everyone in the area, concentrating on the ones making calls as a priority.

There are also side missions from the factions which will also earn you a bit of extra cash and some more toys. They usually involve driving a vehicle of some kind from one place to another via the most awkwardly indirect and bullet-and-explosion-filled route imaginable, and come in three increasing difficulty levels. Your support crew also have side missions for you, which are similar, but generally involved fewer people shooting at you. There’s also a sidequest involving the collection of spare parts in the world, which enable your mechanic to provide you with a variety of not-exactly-military-spec vehicles. I recommend the Panzercycle.

Tanks very much.

What the game is really about is blowing stuff up. And arranging things so that you may buy more spectacular methods of blowing stuff up. And then using those to blow up more stuff. The plot is largely incidental and almost a distraction from the main appeal of the game; the only real reason to advance it at all is that the later factions have all the really cool toys. You meander across the countryside, flinging airstrikes left and right with careless abandon, pausing occasionally to use a helicopter to winch up a jeep and drop it on someone’s head. This is where the game is at its most fun, and the more destruction you’re causing, the more fun it is. Add co-op to this mix and the fun goes up even more. The game does co-op the way more and more games are doing it, and the way it should be done: at any time, a friend can join your game, and help you blow the hell out of stuff.

But (and there is always a but) this game is as buggy as the main hall at the International Mosquitoes Convention on Free Blood Night.

Whether through slapdash QA or just rushing the game for release (although as it was delayed for almost a year, the latter seems unlikely) there are glitches everywhere. Look at the credits and count the number of names listed under QA; I guarantee that by the time you’ve played through to the end, you’ll have encountered at least one unique glitch for each name. Most of them are just annoying, but there are a few game-breakers in there, with reports of saves being corrupted and of being randomly switched to a different character when loading a new game. I did not encounter these during my time with the game, but I encountered plenty of others.

It’s a shame, because once you get past the glitches and the occasionally random physics there is, as mentioned, a great deal of fun to be had; sure, the AI is pig-stupid, but they’re just cannon fodder to be obliterated in your next huge round of explosions. The problem is that the glitches are so plentiful and so often experienced that you may well find it hard to get past them to the creamy centre of fun beneath. I like it despite its problems, but because of its problems, it’s not a game you should buy unless you know you can live with them.

Graphically it’s OK. Not great. Decent draw distance, slightly naff textures, significant and noticeable pop-in. Sound is reasonably good, with decently meaty explosions offset by not-too-impressive vehicle engine noise. Not much to choose between the PS3 and 360 versions; they’re more or less the same, including glitches, with the exception of the now-obligatory five-minute install period on the PS3 and associated slight improvement in load times.







Leave a Reply