Mercenaries 2 - updated hands-on

Aug 21, 2007

Here in the heat of the South American jungle, the air is thick and oppressive. Exotic birds flit between the trees. Wildlife rustles on the floor. It’s a beautiful scene, marred only slightly by the two whacking great tanks blowing the treads off each other.

Not for long, though. A signal beacon flies away from a shadowy figure in the trees and a stealth bomber shoots overhead and drops a biblical payload on the scene, wiping out a huge area of jungle. As the air fills with ash, the figure steps into the sunlight, picking his nose. It’s Mattias Nilson, star of the original Mercenaries, EA’s first crack at the free-roaming destruction genre. And he’s back, mom-distressing bad habits and all.

For the uninitiated, mercenaries live every day as if it’s their last. They travel to the most hellish political black-spots in the world, killing for whomever offers the biggest pile of cash. You might get a bullet in the head at any time, but you might also get really, sickeningly rich. We still wouldn’t advise you try it, though.

Having already had a bash at exploring this world with the first game, developers Pandemic are keen to try again on the next generation. This time, the action has moved away from schoolyard squabbles to all-out war, from the Korean demilitarized zone to the Venezuelan jungle, and so the plot has grown up accordingly. This time, it’s all about black gold.

Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in South America, and since the oil market’s collapse in the early ’80s, it’s been in constant political turmoil, rife with corruption and military coups. Pandemic have used this as the starting point for a story deeper and more involved than before, involving a drug lord named Ramon Solano. He’s orchestrated a coup, but more to the point, he’s made it personal. After hiring Mattias for a mission, he tried to kill him, destroyed his reputation in the mercenary world and, worst of all, refused to pay. It’s payback time, but before you can take down Solano, you’ll have to build your reputation back up again, starting your own Private Military Company with your rock-hard operator buddies.