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Mercenaries 2: World in Flames review

Solid
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AT A GLANCE
  • Highly ambitious
  • Fun co-op play
  • Bold and beautiful violence
  • Shaky execution of missions
  • We've played this before
  • Doesn't look fully this-gen

Whoa. This is a next-gen game? The first impressions of Mercenaries 2: World in Flames aren’t going to be dislocating anybody’s jaws in amazement. Do not adjust your sets and all that, but this looks like a buttered-up PS2 game on first booting up. But then a friendly airstrike kicks in, and that subtitle, World in Flames, comes alive. At least fire and destruction and choppers fire-balling into big trees are properly this-gen.

It’s hard to see exactly why Mercs 2 has been held back for well over a year. The core gameplay has hardly been altered since we played this last July; the missions, general game structure and mechanics were all in place, and they were pretty polished too. Instead, the online options have suffered the cull, with play ‘limited’ to online co-op and nothing else. It was too tricky to have the original idea of fully free-roaming multiplayer implemented – as it caused all sorts of problems with the rest of the game. When you consider the size of Mercs 2’s theatre of operations, full co-op is a hefty achievement. At first it was going to give each player total freedom, but in a map some 64 square kilometres big, that would have been unworkable, so now players are tethered together.

There is considerable slack to the leash though, and many of the missions are tailor-made for a twin assault. Early on there’s an opportunity to impress the president of Universal Petroleum, the ruthless mega corporation hellbent on taking over Venezuela, by rescuing one of her executives from Venezuelan Liberation Army kidnappers. It involves choppering in radio beacons to three enemy bases and clearing out any opposition. At such an early stage in the game it’s pretty tough – we had to restart a couple of times. With another player things were considerably easier. We stormed the gate of one base, blowing watchtowers and gun emplacements to bits, while he blew a hole in the wall with C4 explosives and sneaked in around the back to destroy the barracks.

In retrospect, it was quite odd in that mission to find a UP base and a VLA fortress right next to one other. Perhaps rival military factions get preferential tax breaks if they set up shop in the same neck of the woods. Must get a bit hectic when rival squaddies go out for lunch. One thing’s a constant in Mercs 2 – each side frequently takes shots at the other. A feeling of a country being torn apart from the inside permeates the game. The occasional building is raised to the ground and civilians  run around panicked. When you’re presented with a seemingly living city, the times when the rules get broken become all the more glaring. Chaos in a war-torn environment is fine, but random behaviour grates. Civilians darting in front of your vehicle are a right pain in the arse, and this even happens when you take it slowly, giving you a $5,000 fine. Sometimes, Forces friendly to you will also inexplicably get under the tracks of the tank you happen to be driving, blowing themselves (and you) up, while incurring the wrath of that faction to boot. Still, for the most part, that thin veneer of realism just about holds.

Once in the swing of the game, the idea is to get as much work as possible from each of the warring factions without pissing their enemies off so much that they go after you. This is a delicate balancing act, the trick to which is alternating – providing, of course, that you want a more rounded game. You could always just side with one faction for the majority of the game – but then you’d be missing out on blowing the shit out of everybody. And that’s half of the appeal knocked out in one fell swoop.

Missions vary from picking up VIPs to chasing down dissidents and getting them out of the way so that guerrilla warfare or oil piping is not impeded. In general they follow a similar pattern. You’re given your mission, you search around frantically for something to get to where you need to be in, you skitter through one of the many townships trying not to crush civilians (doing so incurs a whopping $5K fine – the cost of paying off news crews to keep it quiet) and then when you get to your destination, you generally blow the living Jesus out of the area with a combination of handily placed tanks, discarded rocket launchers and called-in airstrikes.

There’s no place for stealth here, just like the first game. Mercs 2 is brash, loud and ultimately, a great antidote to Metal Gear Solid’s finesse. Subtlety is nowhere to be found here. The head scratching extends no further than trying to decide whether to order a full-on tank strike over an armoured car supply drop. Aside from the main missions, there are numerous pick-ups to be found and smaller, well-paid odd jobs scattered about the place. You’ll come across huge crates of cash and tanks of fuel lying around. Make sure and grab the cash.

Once you’ve completed a certain part of the game, you get to recruit a chopper pilot whom you can call in to airlift such goodies away. Be careful who you pinch it from, though. We made the mistake of chucking a smoke marker down by a fuel tank in a UP compound, thinking that as we were in their good books, they wouldn’t mind if we helped ourselves to some of their supplies. Wrong. A quick call to check that we weren’t supposed to be doing that, and all of a sudden they let me have it. So we jumped in a car and bolted, as you do.

But the longer you spend immersed in Mercs 2’s world, the more you become aware of its shortcomings. Dialogue repeats annoyingly fast. Vehicle handling is a little twitchy. The main problems are the missions themselves. They’re just not involving enough to really grip you. This is a massive game world with loads to do, yet you’ll never find yourself spending hours playing it. You’ll dip in, get bored and then go back later. The Co-op mode is fun and certainly helps draw you back into the game, but World in Flames won’t set your world alight.     

Aug 31, 2008

More Info

Release date: Aug 31 2008 - Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, PC (US)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, PC
Genre: Action
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Pandemic Studios
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Language, Use of Alcohol, Use of Tobacco, Violence

We Recommend

35 comments

  • Vivapwnata - December 7, 2008 8:56 p.m.

    I am actually disappointed, I thought this game was gonna kick so much ass, but I guess it's alright. This isn't out of harshness, but I used to play mercs 1 for hours on end, and now I am sad about the storyline especially. Took them long enough to come out with the cheats. PS-I'm surprised there are no REAL terrorist bastards you have to kill(snicker snicker)
  • conal130 - November 3, 2008 7:49 p.m.

    i bought Mercs 2 about a month ago, and i have NOT been disappointed, i've completed it and all, and got the costumes etc. but i go on it simply to blow the sh!@ out of towns and people. i would easily give this game a ten, not a nine because of the dialogue, but for anyone looking for a fun, free-roaming, run 'n' gun shooter, this is for you.
  • darkjoker08 - September 7, 2008 1:10 a.m.

    gta4 owns compared to this
  • Trekologist - September 4, 2008 1:04 a.m.

    I bought this game, and I'd have to say that these guess were a bit harsh on it. Sure it may get repetitive, but it someone names one game that isn't, in some degree, repetitive... I didn't see Halo 3 getting a score this low, and it was basically the same deal as this. It's very fun with excellent mini-game hijackings, and a huge area to blow stuff up with. The graphics, are very well done, and I don't see how they could say that. Maybe this reviewer was pissed because he didn't like the first one, or maybe he had to spend his own money to but the game, either way, this review seems biased and harsh. If you're opinion on this game that some of you have yet to play has been changed because of one lowly internet review, then go back to whatever cave you came from and just let the whole world tell you what you should feel.
  • Gotxxrock - September 3, 2008 10:57 p.m.

    Yick... This is what happens when small independent game companies sign on with EA. Their games become shit. To sum this entire game up... "Meh"
  • sithdude - September 3, 2008 4:36 p.m.

    well, remember, a 7 is still good, but why did it take so long to make the game. i play it alot and there are still many glitches in the gameplay. What the heck were they doing with all those months??!! whatever, i still think its a pretty good game, but the main story is really short. atleast i can still go after acheivments, but if u have it for the ps2 or pc i cant imagine how bored u are already with the game
  • JRW3 - September 2, 2008 3:23 a.m.

    Uh-I was really looking formard to this game, but thanks for giving us a warning before buying it.Another reason not to preorder
  • lfcaron8 - September 1, 2008 9:39 a.m.

    well it's not better than gta IV.....but i'll still go buy it i think anyways all the right good games Gears 2,left 4 dead and such all come out on or around my birthday so im covered for those ;)
  • Crossleft501 - September 1, 2008 5:40 a.m.

    I actually went out n got it today...it's a lot of fun but the dialogue gets kinda annoying like they said and idk what they're talking about with the graphics cuz it looks just fine to me esp the explosions :P in all seriousness tho I'd reccomend it as at least a rental and lets be honest...its the first game thats come out in like the last 3 months that hasn't sucked...what else do you have to do?
  • Predator428 - August 31, 2008 11:45 p.m.

    Well thats disappointing, I was really looking forward to this game. Ah well.
  • GoldenMe - August 31, 2008 7:12 p.m.

    Weird. So I won't be playing Mercs 2 either. Guess I'm saving for Left 4 Dead. No way that game will get less than 8.
  • Bazookatier - August 31, 2008 6:20 p.m.

    It's unfortunate to hear that, I played Mercs 1 on Xbox for hours. I have to go rent it to see for myself. Me and my bro will probably enjoy the co-op anyway.
  • dan1419 - August 31, 2008 4:56 p.m.

    nd they sed it was gna be better den gta IV... very unlikely :P
  • conal130 - November 3, 2008 7:50 p.m.

    oop sh!@, sorry about the above, i wouldn't give this a TEN because of the dialogue.
  • Amatarasu - September 14, 2008 2:21 a.m.

    i say this is better than gta! well that's just cause i realy love goin agro with nukes...BUT STILL!!! if you don't at least rent it,your a douchebag who needs to be killed with fire....or a nuke....mmmmm...nuuukes
  • NaThAn0001 - September 6, 2008 12:37 p.m.

    i read this review and was really dissapointed then i saw a vid of the gameplay on ign (no disrespect gamesradar im a loyal fan and member lol) but seriously the graphics are'nt bad they arent the best iv ever seen but they are well and truelly this gen
  • NaThAn0001 - September 6, 2008 12:15 p.m.

    shit, i wanted this game so much... its rubbish that the developers can get away with last gen graphics, but maybe it will make up for that with the total explosions,bombs etc.
  • YaleBox v2 - September 3, 2008 1:13 a.m.

    I loved mercs one and if mercs 2 is the same, i would give it a 8.5. I have seen the graphics, played the game, and played 2 player. The game could have more depth, (more weapons/veichles) but its a game, and like people, no game is perfect.
  • NintendoNerd655 - September 2, 2008 8:37 p.m.

    hey.... 7's a good score. I'll at least rent this game, if not buy it.
  • Marioninja1 - September 2, 2008 6:05 p.m.

    Damn, oh well, if Left 4 Dead or Fallout 3 gets a 7 out of 7 I will personally go to the studios and slap all the makers in the face...and maybe stop by The makers of Duke Nukem Forever too, it's about 11 years old now, so I migh visit them to see how things are going...

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