Mercenaries 2 on PS2: How bad is it?

We pit the port against its current-gen cousin and PS2 predecessor to find out

Mercenaries 2: World in Flames is probably the biggest game of this summer, and while it's irksomely glitchy, it's a lot of fun - on the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, anyway. However, a few days before the game's Aug. 31 release, we received the following question from one of ourforumposters:

Seems like an obvious answer, right? Of course the PS2 version, made for a console that’s been obsolete for three years, isn’t going to be as good as its current-gen cousins. That doesn’t mean it can’t be a good game on its own, though; after all, it’s a fully destructible sandbox war game made using the same game engine as the first Mercenaries, which was fantastic. So we loaded up our PS2 copy of the game (which we’d ignored up until that point for a variety of boring reasons) to find out - and almost immediately, we were bitterly disappointed by what we saw.

Above: Uh... huh

Mercenaries 2 isn’t just a scaled-down port of the PS3/360/PC version – it’s a genuinely crappy game. To be fair, Artificial Mind and Motion - the developer that handled the PS2 conversion - seems to have done its best to re-work the enormous game for the PS2’s capabilities. Environments have been scaled back, missions have been remade from scratch and the game’s seamless, open-world structure has been preserved. But they apparently didn't have enough time to finish, because what could have been a great PS2 action game is ugly, foggy and so outrageously glitchy as to be almost unplayable.

For starters, Mercenaries 2 on PS2 has the worst pop-in we’ve ever seen in our lives. No, that's not hyperbole. Here's a prime example:

Above: Wait, isn't there supposed to be a bridge here?

Above: Oh, THERE it is!

For the uninitiated, “pop-in” is what happens in 3D games when things that haven’t been rendered yet pop suddenly into view. It happens a lot in most games with small detail items, like vegetation, and sometimes even manifests as large objects that suddenly appear in the middle distance. But Mercenaries 2 may be the only game we’ve ever played in which huge, significant objects don’t appear until you’re right on top of them, and sometimes not even then. Never mind that the sky keeps changing color for no discernable reason. Observe:

Next, let’s take a look at how it differs from the PS3 game. Obviously, we can’t expect it to be anywhere near as pretty, but take a look at the following and tell us if you don’t think AM&M could have done a little better.

Here’s what your first step onto dry land looks like on the PS3:

And here’s the same shot on PS2:

Explosions also play a huge role in Mercenaries 2, and you’ll see a lot of them throughout the course of the game. Here’s the first big one you’ll see in the current-gen version:

And again on PS2:

Then there’s the small matter of the cutscenes, which were for some reason scaled down into black-barred, low-res versions for the PS2 release. For example, here’s a still from the PS3 version of the game:

And the same still from the PS2:

And the full scene, with a side-by-side comparison:

Again, a canned video on PS2 isn’t going to look as good as PS3 machinima – but why the black bars? The PS2 has never had a problem with rendering out full-screen, DVD-quality video, so why does this look so ropey?

For the record, this is what cutscenes looked like in the original Mercenaries:

Speaking of the original Mercenaries, our colleagues at IGN- one of the few outlets to actuallyreviewthe game as of this writing- went so far as to say that the PS2 Mercenaries 2 “looks worse, plays worse and is just plain worse than the groundbreaking original,” which some commenters immediately scoffed at.

For once, IGN, we’ve got your back. Mercenaries 2 on PS2 is worse than its amazing predecessor, and we've got images and video to prove it.

Above: Mercenaries:Playground of Destructionon PS2

Above: Mercenaries 2: World in Flames on PS2

Look closely at the video below, and you’ll see that the original features smoother textures, more coherent action and actual rolling fog instead of just a vague haze that obscures the horizon. Also, pay special attention to how long it takes just to pause or bring up the PDA screen in the sequel – those moments aren’t edited:

Yes, yes, we know – PS2 owners are Luddites who should upgrade their aging console setups, and no "real" gamer gives a damn about how bad a game is on PS2. (Apparently, Electronic Arts agrees.)But if you’re going to port the summer’s biggest game to a still-popular console and charge 40 bucksfor it, it needs to be at least as good as its years-old competition. Otherwise, it’s just insulting.

Sep 5, 2008

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