E3 08: Is Mercenaries 2 better than GTA IV?

Physics porn
OK, those "more interesting things" we just mentioned? They take the form of optional wagers, which every recruit will be able to challenge you as soon as they're hired on. Inspired in part by YouTube videos of players stacking vehicles in the first Mercenaries, these minigames are driven by the game's powerful physics engine, and they're almost all completely insane.

An example of a low-key challenge involves stacking vehicles with a helicopter winch in an attempt to place a small toolbox exactly five meters off the ground. Higher up on the extravagance scale is a high-speed race along a winding mountain road, in which you'll need to hit checkpoints while blowing up targets with a turret. Meanwhile, the most ridiculous one we saw tasked players with aiming a satellite-guided missile at a field full of oil barrels (which burn for a couple seconds before detonating) and trucks, with the goal of setting off a chain reaction that completely destroys everything in sight.

According to Warner, other challenges include a skeet-shooting exercise involving emplaced turrets and flying cars. "One of your recruits has set up emplaced weapon challenges all over the grounds of your PMC, and your job will be simply to blow the hell out of a lot of stuff in a very short period of time!" Warner said.

"The sections where you need to destroy cars are actually the most precision-orient moment of the challenge," he continued, "but consider that by precision, I mean 'you need to blow up cars flying through the air with a recoilless rifle!'"

Warner also said there will be around eight recruit-driven wagers in all, but that players are encouraged to think up creative and destructive ways to bounce things around the environment throughout the game. "it's not hyperbole," Warner said, "to say that our whole game is a physics-driven challenge!"

Order up anything, anytime, without cheating
Once GTA IV's cell-phone-driven cheats were made public, they quickly became a boon to players who needed a vehicle, weapon or health refill to get them through tight spots. However, the cheats were limited to a few select items - you couldn't use them to whistle up just anything. They also carry the stigma of being cheats, making them anathema to players who want to make their way through the game with no unfair advantages.

Mercenaries 2, however, keeps the air drops from its predecessor, enabling you to open a PDA menu and order whatever it is you need - whether it's a car, tank or special weapon - and, seconds later, have it delivered to your feet by a friendly helicopter. The catch is that - at first, anyway - it has to be something you've added to your personal stockpile, which you can do by tagging the things you find in the wild for "extraction" (read: theft) by your PMC.

You can also build up your cache of support items by doing jobs for the various factions fighting for control of Venezuela; as you complete tasks for them, you'll be rewarded with fresh items to throw on your stockpile. Get in good with them, and they'll eventually start selling you stuff directly, which you can then order for instant delivery. Of course, this costs money, but hey - at least now you've got something to spend that money on besides guns and ammo.

Call in airstrikes
One of the other things we loved to spend money on in the first Mercenaries was the game's variety of tactical airstrikes, which ranged from surgically precise (and fantastically expensive) to big, clumsy and indiscriminately destructive. Mercenaries 2 promises even more diversity, with almost 20 kinds of airstrikes to choose from when you're pondering exactly how best to soften up a target.

It all depends on your situation - are you pinned down by fire from an armored battalion? Do you need to flatten an enemy camp before mopping up the survivors? Or are you just ruining things for the fun of it? Whatever your circumstances, there's a bomb that will annihilate whatever obstacle you face and make you feel like a wolf among lambs.

When asked about airstrikes, Warner took a moment to tick off his favorites, which include "the tank buster (a strike that will blow up most tanks around you within a short radius), the cluster bomb (a 'cluster' of explosives that, when dropped, will annihilate a bunch of soft targets in the area and keep the buildings intact), and the MOAB (a multi-ton explosive that resembles a nuclear explosion when it detonates)!" Sweet.