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Review: Mercenaries 2: World in Flames - PC, PS2, PS3, Xbox 360 - 6.1

11 września, 2008

Mercenaries 2 is utterly and completely ruined by its army of bugs...

Mercenaries 2 is the video game equivalent of a terminally-ill dinosaur. If the core game was released in the last generation, it would have been praised for improving on Mercenaries 1\'s gameplay. Coming out this generation, it just feels old and played out. This isn\'t helped by the myriad of other issues that further muddle its fun and consistency.

The game starts off by letting you pick from one of three mercenaries and takes you through a C movie plot involving an attempted military takeover of the country of Venezuela. The mercenaries are double-crossed and consequently involve themselves in the war. It is apparent that the story isn\'t Mercs 2\'s strength, so its good that they allow you to skip the cutscenes.

The first hour is essentially a glorified tutorial, introducing you to Mercs 2\'s various weapons and explosives. It\'s fun, but only because it feels refreshing playing around with the environments and destroying things. As you advance through the plot, the game\'s various faults begin to become apparent. The weapons, which are a core focus of the game, just don\'t feel satisfying regardless of whatever platform you\'re playing on. They feel weak and inaccurate. Annoyingly, it is actually easier for you to hijack vehicles than it is to use your big guns.

As time passes, your PMC will grow and you\'ll recruit a helicopter pilot, jet pilot, and mechanic. Their usefulness varies wildly, with the helicopter pilot\'s ability to drop off supplies proving far more valuable than the jet pilot\'s limited airstrikes and the mechanic\'s usless treasure-hunting "skill".

Digging deep into Mercenaries 2\'s claim of "open-world" gameplay. There are multiple factions, but you rarely find conflicting objectives, they just rotate through the factions. All of the missions are of the "capture the outpost" variety, in addition to some High Value Targets that the various factions give you. The Target missions are less useful than it seems, as you might get another faction pissed at you. The outpost missions simply get monotonous: Kill everyone and call in a capture crew.

The open-world design isn\'t as forgiving as I would like it to be. For a game that promotes destruction, you are extremely limited. You\'re penalized for harming civilians, and can easily piss off entire factions who are the lifeblood of your PMC in terms of funds and story progression. Overall, the world is a mess: the GPS misguides you; friendlies shoot at you; enemy AI is plain terrible in terms of engaging you and recognizing that they might accidentally be shooting at allied targets.

The amount of bugs present is simply inexcusable: turrets float in mid-air, hostages kill themselves, allies shoot you, helicopters disappear with you inside, enemy troops are dropped on rooftops and get stuck, civilians throw themselves in front of your vehicle, the game crashes constantly, etc. We wonder what Pandemic did with the year-delay that they spent on the game.

Co-op is a great idea, but ultimately fails to make up for the rest of the game\'s faults and comes with problems of its own. You\'re forced to revive your buddy if he gets "killed" within a time limit, and you often find yourself too busy or far away to help. Bugs are an even larger problem here, so the mode ultimately falls flat.

If that wasn\'t enough, Mercs 2 also disappoints with its visuals. Besides the vehicles, the graphical presentation of the game is very inconsistent and mainly weak. Explosions, the game\'s focus, look lazily animated. Clipping is a huge problem with the free-roaming world, and this is only the most obvious of the game\'s lazy visual design, which includes repetitive enemy designs and pre-rendered backgrounds.

If Mercenaries 2 was released in an optimized and mostly bug-free state, it might have been praised as a fun game that satisfies your lust for explosions. Alas, what we have recieved is one of the most sloppily developed big-budget games of this generation. Skip it.

Score Breakdown:

Gameplay: 6 – A decent idea, but the open-world gameplay is simply destroyed by the huge range of bad design decisions and game-stopping bugs.
Presentation: 5 – A mess: the game is ruined by glitches and lack of variety in the environments.
Graphics: 6 – Besides vehicle designs, the graphics are simply ugly. Explosions are disappointing, enemies consist of one or two character models, objects in the distance are constantly clipping in, etc.
Sound: 7 – Nothing remarkable, but nothing too bad, although the voice acting errs on the side of mediocrity.
Value: 6.5 – The campaign and co-op are a chore to play through, you\'ll beg your friends to play something else.

Final Score: 6.1 – Mercenaries 2 is utterly and completely ruined by its army of bugs.

Marcin Skok
"The Gaming Corner"