Mercenaries 2: World in Flames Review
I don't think I'll ruffle any feathers by saying that the original Mercenaries, and by extension, the Star Wars: Battlefront games, are rather simple experiences that give gamers exactly what they want - great multiplayer and the sheer joy of killing and destroying simply for the sake of killing and destroying. Yeah, each of the games has some story thrown in here and there, but like most puzzle games, the meat is all in the gameplay. I won't sit on a high horse and say these games aren't fun, because they are. Lots of fun. But as we get further and further into the age of the PS3 and 360, this type of one-dimensional shooter feels more and more dated. Other games manage to pack all the destructive punch of Mercenaries or Battlefront, but with beautiful graphics, great sound, interesting stories and new twists and takes on the old "ready, aim, fire" mechanics. That's where Mercenaries 2: World in Flames comes in. Seven or eight years ago, this could have been game of the year. But in 2008, the same old, same old shooting feels just that - old.
If you've played the original Mercenaries or any of the Battlefront games, you'll pick Mercenaries 2 up and be an expert before you make it through your first single-player level or multiplayer match. It might sound simple, but when you start the game, you pick one of three mercenaries (duh), each of who have different special powers and attributes, and within 30 seconds, you are on the battlefield blasting away. Cutscenes will explain that you've been had and a client skipped out on his bill. What's a gun for hire to do? Blow up everything - and everyone - in your path as you try to reclaim your lost cash. It's kind of like that Mel Gibson movie Payback, except less interesting and devoid of Lucy Liu. None of that matters, though; all you need to focus on is killing every single enemy you come across with a wide variety of weapons and vehicles.
Most reviewers would, at this point, go into everything good and bad with the overall game. I'll get there in a minute. Before we get into any of that, I want to devote a special paragraph or two to something in Mercenaries 2 that I have been waiting to see done correctly in action/shooting games for as long as I can remember. Other, better games have toyed with the idea, but Mercenaries 2 is the first game to get the physics just right. What am I referring to? Explosions, my friend, explosions. Every game has ‘em, but this one nails down the real-life FORCE that each and every explosion puts out.
In most games, when you blow something up, that is the end. You won, whatever you blew up lost and you move on, right? Not in Mercenaries 2. The explosions are present, but they are represented as explosions should be - extremely damaging to everything, and everyone, nearby. There is a brief mention of this mechanic in the game's opening stage, but you won't understand how important it is to stay away until you happen to be caught in a blast. Not only with the force of the explosion damage your character, pieces of whatever you destroyed will rain down from the sky, hurting, and sometimes even killing, you. To put it simply - it is about darn time that games got this right. In recent games like Battlefield: Bad Company, Metal Gear Solid 4 and others, the environment is very susceptible to damage, but none of that damage will ever damage you. For as "blah" as the rest of the game turned out to be, this no-brainer of a concept is simply awesome.
Now that I got that out of the way, let's start with Mercenaries 2's high points. The single player campaign, though short, does have some very fun segments that stand out as set pieces against the rest of the game. Multiplayer, though it really isn't my thing, is a lot of mindless fun that will keep the hardcore playing for weeks, if not months. Also, since the control scheme is lifted from every other game like this, it feels natural, easy to master and quite responsive. Unfortunately, that is pretty much where the positives begin and end.