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Mercenary Ops preview – Hands-on with the free-to-play online shooter

There aren’t too many third person shooters for PC out there, so when we hear "third-person", "cover system", and "shooter" in the same sentence we instantly think of Gears of War. In this case, we’re not that far off. Mercenary Ops is inspired by the beloved console series and gives players a little bit of everything they'd want. To shake things up, the game mixes an addictive character progression system, competitive multiplayer, zombies, horde, and a co-op mode, turning this into one bullet-ridden cocktail.

Characters can be completely customized from their gender to their weapon loadout. Although the game’s setting is in a fictional near-future, weapons consist of the standard modern weapon types like AK47s, P90 SMGs, sniper rifles, and shotguns. Each one can be modified with attachments like scopes, silencers, and other stat-boosting equipment. In addition to weapons, characters have perks that allow them to use abilities like med kits, self-destruct, and faster movement. 

There seems to be plenty of room to allow for some diverse play-styles. Aggressive players are able to outfit their characters to be speedy close-quarters savages, while others can spec to be steady long-range snipers and pretty much anything in between. Of course, not all weapons and equipment are available right off the bat, players will have to play through the game’s various modes to earn some cash and unlock new items. While you can pay real money to unlock items, the developers assured us everything is unlockable without having to pony up the dough, and the rarest weapons are not purchasable.

Multiplayer rounds feel like a Gears of War match with small maps, melee finishers and constant roll-dodging. The controls have a very simple layout, mapping traversal actions like rolling, sprinting and snapping to cover to the space bar. Rolling from cover to cover takes precedent over running and the small map we played kept the action fast-paced and intense. Special neutral weapons spawn on the field providing incentive for players to jump out in the open in hopes to snag a devastating RPG or grenade launcher. Players can even stomp on wounded players to get a finisher bonus and a gruesome kill animation. GOW players will also recognize Mercenary’s active reload feature. Pressing the reload key at the right time will reward the player with a perfect reload and provide a damage bonus to their next clip.

There are also some nice touches that make the environments interactive. The map we played took place on a train that would alternate between a brightly lit outdoor environment and a dark tunnel - which threw us off a few times. When passing through a tunnel, players standing on the upper level of the open car could easily fall victim to low hanging signs. So, not only do you have to pay attention to the opposing team shooting bullets at you, but also the surroundings.

We also had a chance to see the mission-based co-op mode. Up to eight players are able to jump in and team up against hordes of enemy NPCs while completing mission objectives. The rewards get a little bit better than just earning experience points and money here. Some massive boss battles with giant robots and undead monsters change up the action, which kind of reminded us of our old school shooting days with Contra. Memorizing patterns and attacking glowing red weak points is your way to victory. If your group is successful in completing your mission, you’ll be rewarded with loot drops including items you are unable to unlock otherwise.

Mercenary Ops is launching this summer as a free-to-play game with seven multiplayer maps and five co-op missions with even more maps coming after release. The closed beta opens June 20, so be sure to visit the Mercenary Ops Facebook page to try your luck at winning a beta key.

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