E3 08: Is Mercenaries 2 better than GTA IV?

Own a mansion
Niko Bellic's rags-to-slightly-better-rags story was compelling and realistic, but some people never got used to the fact that the best home he could hope for was a tacky loft apartment in a shitty neighborhood. Games are fantasies, after all, and who wants to play through a fantasy that's so close to reality?

If you fall into that camp, then you'll probably be relieved to hear that, as a nation-stomping soldier of fortune, you'll be able to acquire much better digs than a crappy shack on the outskirts of Caracas. At one point in the story, you'll attack a fortified mansion owned by Ramon Solano, the Venezuelan usurper who betrays you and mounts a coup d'état. Once the place has been cleared out, you'll be able to use it as a base of operations. You'll have to share it with the other members of your PMC, of course, but at least it won't be lonely.

Explore scenic Venezuela
Remember how much fun it was to go tearing around through the wilderness in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas? Remember how there wasn't any wilderness in GTA IV?

If Liberty City's lack of wide-open spaces left you disappointed, then Mercenaries 2 should perk you right back up. Far from confining players to a single city, Mercenaries 2 takes you out into the lush countryside of Venezuela to hunt down your enemies and find over-the-top ways to kick their asses. There's a huge variety of terrain types to tool around in, from the gleaming streets and run-down slums of Caracas to the mountains, jungles, villages and huge bodies of water that lie outside its limits. It all looks beautiful, and with the sheer number of weird vehicles and destructive opportunities at your disposal, exploring it should be a lot of fun.

What's more, Mercenaries 2's facsimile of Venezuela is a lot larger than the first Mercenaries' huge mockup of North Korea - four times larger, in fact - and it'll all be seamlessly connected. And in addition to a handful of in-game representation of real-life cities and towns, the game will also feature some of Venezuela's most notable natural sights, including parts of the Andes, the Amazon jungle, the Orinoco River and Angel Falls, the world's tallest waterfall. Finding interesting ways to explore and wreak havoc on your vehicles with it all should make roaring down San Andreas' Mt. Chiliad on an ATV look tame by comparison.

Play with a buddy
We have few complaints with GTA IV's multiplayer modes - they're deep, they're fun and they've been responsible for some of the most memorable online sessions we've ever participated in. But they lacked one thing that would have made them perfect: online, drop-in-anytime co-op play. You know, like Crackdown already did in early 2007.

Where GTA IV ignored co-op during the single-player campaign, however, Mercenaries 2 embraces it. At any time during the single-player campaign, you'll be able to have a friend drop in and help you rip shit up as an army of two.

"I have to say that it makes the core Mercs experience even more fun," Warner said. "Beyond the gameplay, we endeavored to make to most seamless, quick-to-join and trouble free co-op experience available, and I'm happy to say we’ve achieved that."

The potential for destruction - and for unpredictability - with two players is staggering. Having someone dependable to man the turret on your Humvee is a given, but what happens when you're not the only one in the game world is able to call down airstrikes or detonate fuel supplies? It has the potential to create all kinds of chaos, which really seems to be the core of what Mercenaries 2's fun is all about. We'll know for sure as we edge closer to its release, still holding firm for August.

Jul 14, 2008