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Mercenaries 2: World in Flames - hands-on

It rules being your own boss. Taking as much darn time off as you please, scoring a sweet BMW on lease, hiring a busty peroxide blonde as your PA, putting your hand in the till... and ordering full scale air strikes to reduce your enemies to ashes. Ker-blammo! Yep, welcome to the dazzling world of Mercenaries, the game where Everybody Pays. (Even you, should you choose to part with your hard-earned to buy it later this year).

Thankfully, we’re more than happy to go out on a limb and say that Mercenaries 2: World in Flames will probably be more than worth laying down some dirty moolah for. In our latest encounter with Pandemic’s deliciously violent sandbox shooter, it’s patently clear that Mercs 2 has come on more leaps and bounds than a giant, super long-legged mutant kangaroo since we last got our greasy paws on it. Back then, we’ll admit holding back from voicing a few concerns that the action wasn’t quite as polished as we’d have expected from a Grade A title (and the ubiquity of mercenaries in FPS’ doesn’t help), but that extra time and a shedload of EA dosh have eased our minds. This is the real, explosive, deal.

All screens are from Xbox 360

Rather than spoil any missions, Pandemic have been keen to show off Mercs 2’s ‘freeplay’ mode, which is non-contractual messing about to score bonus cash, equipment and resources. Laughs ensued as Matthias brazenly pinched a sleek powerboat from its moorings and powered across an ocean, accompanied by wave effects straight out of Wave Race. Mmmmn. Hitting dry land, it was time to lay waste with an RPG to the Chinese faction’s military installation, for the sheer hell of it. As we fired rockets and lobbed grenades at approaching enemy vehicles with childlike abandon, the carnage was unlike anything we’ve seen in a game before. Particle. Effect. Heaven. And, yep, before you ask - we have played God of War 2.

Sheets of flame roared up to the heavens, plumes of thick black smoke rolled out in a manner so realistic it almost set off a coughing fit. There are also some really cheeky tricks you can pull to wreak max pain, such as attaching some sticky C4 to the side of a vehicle, hopping in and then - masquerading as an enemy grunt - steer your four-wheeled bomb into an enemy installation before diving clear, depressing the trigger and grinning stupidly at the ensuing fireworks... explosive stuff.

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