Saturday, August 30, 2008

Mercenaries 2: World in Flames

Game: Mercenaries 2: World in Flames

System: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, PS2

Release: August 2008

Mercenaries 2: World in Flames is an action packed third person sandbox shooter made by Electronic Arts and Pandemic Studios. Taking on the same characters as the first game players choose between Jen Mui, Mattias Nilsson, and Chris Jacobs. Once again each character has a unique ability. Mui runs fast. Nilsson heals more rapidly, and Jacobs can carry additional ammo. This time the mercenaries find themselves in Venezuela. The game begins with the chosen hero taking on a contract from the billionaire Ramon Salono. After completing the job he attempts to double cross you. This is a bad idea. Mercenaries apparently hate dead beats that don’t pay up, and really dislike getting shot in the ass. The basic revenge plot guides you on a path of obliteration that ultimately leads to big bucks and a disappointing ending.

Destruction is a major influence for the overall gameplay. Every building, vehicle, bush, and tree can be decimated. Don’t like that sky scrapper? Blow it up! Forest in the way? Burn it down! The only objects that cannot be destroyed are rocks and already destroyed objects. You can’t turn rubble into dust.

So everything can be smashed, cracked, and ruined. How then does one bring about this destruction? Like the first Mercenaries tons of tanks, cars, helicopters, and air strikes are at your disposal. Unfortunately the Russian Black Market is no longer available. Players must either find items out in the field, or purchase them from faction outposts. Throughout Venezuela there are plenty of vehicles to hijack that usually entail a short yet sweet God of War like mini game. Resources can also be extracted from various locations once the helicopter pilot Ewan is unlocked. If players don’t feel like scavenging, then they can check out the shops of five different factions—Pirates, Guerillas, Chinese, Allied Nations, and Universal Petroleum. Each offers various unique items and also provides contracts. The faction items cost money to buy, and everything requires fuel to deliver. Supplies that are in your “Stockpile” are distributed right into the heat of combat by your recruited helicopter and jet pilot.

I can’t stress enough, the vehicles and air strikes are what make this game fun. GTA4 dose not have this many tanks and helicopters. No game has this variety of support items. This adds to the replay value. Beat the mission using a tank? Try it again in a helicopter, or completely devastate the area with a Carpet Bomb. The unique feel that each item has is truly impressive.

So the game is a blast, but it is no where close to perfect. The visuals are impressive at first, but those with an eye for detail will notice issues. Floating objects abound once base structures are destroyed, and two-dimensional trees are the standard animation at high elevations. Also the character models and cut scenes are not up to next-gen standards. Finally, the mission structure is rather limited for the next- gen versions. The PS2, oddly, has deeper more diverse contracts that actually take advantage of the entire map. For the other consoles and PC, outpost and delivery missions are the norm. Only about 40% of the contracts take advantage of the games strong points. The remaining filler will only be completed by diehard fans and perfectionist. These issues, and more, are not huge but take away from the overall experience. It would have been great to see that extra level of polish, and more contracts that do not involve capturing outposts or delivering supplies in pick-up trucks.

The other major short coming for Mercenaries 2 is the co-op limitations. Players can pair up to take on the various armed forces throughout Venezuela. This looks great on paper, but once the client joins a host the annoyance will begin. There is a tether system that limits the distance allowed between players. This means that you cannot be on one end of Maracaibo while your buddy is on the other. The limit is set to five hundred yards, but could have used a boost up to a thousand. Players are also not allowed to take there weapons or stockpiles into another persons game. The only thing a client gains from joining a friend is money. All of the cool toys are dependent on the progression of the host’s game. Finally, resolution and rendering issues that occur in co-op are yet another ding to the already sublime graphics.

Mercenaries 2 is a fun game. Being able to destroy just about everything in Venezuela in numerous ways is entertaining. There are, however, many issues that hinder the replay value of this title. Co-op is limited at best, and only provides a way for players to make more digital dollars. The lack of polish deters from the otherwise awesome visuals, and repetitive missions combined with an uninspiring plot fail to deliver. Despite these issues many people will enjoy this game, and find it a nice change of pace from GTA4. Mercenaries 2: World in Flames receives a 3.8 out of 5. Hopefully future down-loadable contact will help flush out some of this games potential. More conceivably the game will make enough money for another attempt at perfection with Mercenaries 3.

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