No Meaningful Connections
The original Mercenaries was one of my favourite games of the last generation. There wasn’t a huge amount of press for the game, or a lot of hype, and it was refreshing; to see an excellent, free-roaming game that wasn’t trying to tie itself into Grand Theft Auto just doing it’s thing. Mercenaries 2: World in Flames is the sequel, a game I was admittedly really looking forward to.
Unfortunately, it’s just not as endearing as the original. Nowhere close, really. It’s a game that’s full of promise, for sure; run across a war-torn Venezuela and participate in a topical oil economy plot by, well, blowing up a lot of dudes, and buildings owned by them. The game holds up that end of the deal, on paper; you get lots of rocket launchers and machine guns to use, as well as having the ability to call in a bunch of different air strikes and jet bombing runs over targets (as long as you have enough gas to make it all happen).
So off you go, doing some story missions for clients like the American-run Universal Petroleum, knocking off certain people or protecting VIPs from harm’s way as you blow up basically everything, whether out of necessity or curiosity. Like its predecessor, though, the game has an unbearably slow start that consists mostly of basic shoot-outs. By the time you get to the reinforcement firepower and can use it consistently, it’s well past an hour in. With a game that’s otherwise paced quickly, this feels like ages.
Even once you get to the most explosive materials in the game, though, there’s the undeniable feeling that something critical is missing. That’s because the game lacks polish in just about every area of its design. Although the rich jungle environments occasionally inspire, they have a noticeable grain to them, and a lot of the destructible environments look pretty poor. Level a building with explosives, for example, and the rubble will just consist of a lumpy slab with a blurry texture painted over it.
The gunfights don’t quite mesh, either, and the feeling of connecting with your targets feels totally off. The enemies are so faceless and devoid of personality that you may as well be shooting at nothing. Instead, you’ll find yourself sticking mostly with the air strikes, which result in pretty explosions but essentially have you tossing in a smoke grenade or pointing a laser and then running away from the fight. Which, when you think about it, is sort of an anti-game.
There’s nothing offensively bad about Mercenaries 2; it’s just a fair bit dull and boring, in spite of its glorified and often impressive explosion effects. It’s a fairly long game, and you can play it online in the form of two-player co-op, which does make the game more exciting. However, it’s just delaying the realization that this sequel can’t stand up to the shooter competition, past or future.