Reviews are Baffling
Mercenaries was one of my favorite games last generation. Open as GTA 4 with better weaponry to play with. It really didn't get much better. But, technical limitations killed it as the game was fairly ugly and had almost no view with fog being used so much one would think one was playing N64 Turok.
Mercenaries 2 has had, to be gentle, a troubled development cycle. Delayed for a year because the framerate was, apparently, abysmal (It was called "Mercenaries 2: World in Frames" for a reason). So, Pandemic was given some time to go back and fix some things up. How did it work out?
To be honest, it worked out extremely well. It was one of the more enjoyable experiences on the console. More engaging than GTA 4 --- in fact, for me, it's been the game I've played the 3rd most on the console (behind Oblivion and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance). Venezuela is a very good backdrop for a game.
As before, you play as a mercenary who has to do missions for factions with groups that oppose one another. It is a delicate balancing act and pissing off a faction can lead to some rather aggressive attempts to snuff you out if you enter their territory. Get on their good side and you can get the REALLY fun stuff to play with. You have to decide how much to work for a faction and the only really workable strategy is to do one mission for each of the factions at a time.
And there are a lot of factions. You have the People's Liberation Army, United Petroleum, Pirates, China, and the Allied Nations.
The missions are, blessedly, varied. You can kill several high value targets per faction, destroy specific targets, kill enemies, or do other assorted missions for your assorted paymasters. And the toys you get to play with are an absolute blast to play with. My personal favorites were the Carpet Bomb (a satellite based mass bombing or a site) and the nuclear bunker buster --- the last weapon you get in the game and a beautiful weapon to use. The explosions are the best I've ever seen. When a gas tank explodes, it is a blinding flash that will stop your character in his/her tracks.
The game has received subpar reviews and, legitimately, I don't see why. You always have things to do. The game is not brutally difficult, but you can make it through if you're careful. The Carpet Bomb is a bit of a game changer for me (you can wipe out an area while hiding between a rock where your enemies cannot do much to you), but the weapons are just more fun to play with than they have any right to be.
This is a game you won't regret playing. A blast in every sense of the word.