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%26rsquo;s been obsolete for three years, isn%26rsquo;t going to be as good as its current-gen cousins. That doesn%26rsquo;t mean it can%26rsquo;t be a good game on its own, though; after all, it%26rsquo;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%26rsquo;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%26rsquo;t just a scaled-down port of the PS3/360/PC version %26ndash; it%26rsquo;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%26rsquo;s capabilities. Environments have been scaled back, missions have been remade from scratch and the game%26rsquo;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%26rsquo;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, %26ldquo;pop-in%26rdquo; is what happens in 3D games when things that haven%26rsquo;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%26rsquo;ve ever played in which huge, significant objects don%26rsquo;t appear until you%26rsquo;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%26rsquo;s take a look at how it differs from the PS3 game. Obviously, we can%26rsquo;t expect it to be anywhere near as pretty, but take a look at the following and tell us if you don%26rsquo;t think AM%26amp;M could have done a little better.

Here%26rsquo;s what your first step onto dry land looks like on the PS3:

And here%26rsquo;s the same shot on PS2:

Explosions also play a huge role in Mercenaries 2, and you%26rsquo;ll see a lot of them throughout the course of the game. Here%26rsquo;s the first big one you%26rsquo;ll see in the current-gen version:

And again on PS2:

Then there%26rsquo;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%26rsquo;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%26rsquo;t going to look as good as PS3 machinima %26ndash; 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 %26ldquo;looks worse, plays worse and is just plain worse than the groundbreaking original,%26rdquo; which some commenters immediately scoffed at.

For once, IGN, we%26rsquo;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%26rsquo;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 %26ndash; those moments aren%26rsquo;t edited:

Yes, yes, we know %26ndash; 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%26rsquo;re going to port the summer%26rsquo;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%26rsquo;s just insulting.

Sep 5, 2008

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.
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