If you played the original Mercenaries, you might recall it was a "brilliantly enjoyable all-action extravaganza of blockbuster proportions" where you got to "blow stuff up", "blow the living hell out of it" and "blow the living hell out of it some more". Developer Pandemic wasn't exactly shying away from appealing to gamers' basest instincts when it made one of 2005's more entertaining sandbox games, and the prospect of visiting another playground of destruction is certainly a tempting one.
And with the pre-release hype starting to crank up ahead of its pre-Christmas release on 360, PS3, PC and PS2, we got to chat with Pandemic's Scott Warner, the lead designer on the EA-published title.
Eurogamer: Can you give us any more information on how the ability to set up your own military contracting company will work? Will it involve any management or strategic elements, or is it just to expand your support options?
Scott Warner: Mostly the latter. The private military company serves more to customize the player's options than it does in any direct management or strategic capacity. This said, there is a light strategy layer in the game involved with acquiring and outfitting the right support for the right situations.
Eurogamer: What level of environmental damage are we going to be seeing this time around, and how will impact the gameplay? And will destroyed structures respawn?
Scott Warner: With the exception of terrain and water everything in Mercenaries 2 can be destroyed. Most objects in the game will respawn over time but some key places and things, once destroyed, will remain destroyed throughout the course of the game as a testament to the player's destructive capacity!
Eurogamer: Peter Stomare is returning - are there any other actors lined up for voice work that you can reveal?
Scott Warner: We've only announced Mr. Stomare so far but we have plenty of high quality VO talent lined up for the characters in the game.
Eurogamer: How closely have you modelled the game on the real Venezuela ? And how large will the overall play area be?
Scott Warner: The game is very much inspired by Venezuela . We worked very hard to capture the look, feel and flavour of that part of the world but it's not a city-by-city or street-by-street recreation. Obviously we have to strike the right balance between getting the environment as real as possible while making plenty of concessions in order to be able to compact a giant country into a game world that is feasible to create for and explore but I hope that anyone who knows a thing or two about Venezuela will feel as though we did our homework.
Eurogamer: Any particularly tasty new additions to the arsenal that we should know about?
Scott Warner: We've added quite a few new vehicles, weapons and air strikes. The player will be able to pilot boats throughout the water areas of the Mercenaries 2 which is an entirely new class of vehicles added to the Mercenaries franchise. The Daisy Cutter and MOAB air strikes bring a whole new dimension to support options in the game: you'll able to use either of these to clear out large sections of foliage cover! All in all there are hundreds of new vehicles and dozens of new weapons and support items!
Eurogamer: The ability to freely commandeer vehicles has become taken for granted in these sandbox titles - what prompted the switch to the hijacking mini-game?
Scott Warner: Our action hijacks from Mercenaries 1 were intended to be special, cinematic moments that matched the over the top action movie vibe that we were trying hard to achieve but once you learned the timing for a particular class of vehicle it was fairly easy to dispatch what was intended to be a formidable vehicular foe. The interactive minigame sequence allows us to scale the difficulty of the action hijack sequence so that hijacking a Helicopter Gunship is much harder to do that a turret-less Little Bird!
Eurogamer: Online co-op has been confirmed - will we also be getting PvP deathmatch scenarios?
Scott Warner: Unfortunately Mercs 2 will only feature a co-operative mode, although you're certainly welcome to emergently turn the game's robust mechanics into a deathmatch against your friend at any time!
Eurogamer: Has the political hoo-hah surrounding the game died down, and are you prepared for it to reignite when the game is released?
Scott Warner: Given that we try to strike a blend between setting our game in real world, plausible scenarios and over the top fantasy this sort criticism is always to be expected. This said, Mercenaries 2 is a work of fiction and any resemblance to real world people or situations is unintended.
Eurogamer: Will there be any optional side missions away from the main story?
Scott Warner: Most definitely. More than 50 per cent of the objectives you'll have in Mercenaries 2 involve ancillary tasks for various factions in the world. A relatively small portion of the tasks in the game are compulsory.
Eurogamer: Which new feature/development are you most excited about?
Scott Warner: Definitely online cooperative play. Being able to play with my buddy in an open world action game is a pretty new frontier in video gaming and I'm glad that we're trailblazing in this regard. Two player action in the world of Mercenaries will our emergent "what, not how" game philosophy to a whole new level!
Eurogamer: What's the story with the game engine this time around? Did you completely re-write it for next gen machines?
Scott Warner: The technology and tools for Mercenaries 2 has been completely rewritten from the ground up as to specifically support big open world action games. Open worlds games are massive and complex collections of code and data - without the proper technology or tools creating them can be a nightmare. From our experience on the first game we were able to identify many of the needs we would have our of tools and tech this time around and now that we're in full production that research is really paying off big time.
Eurogamer: Any potential for handheld versions this time? If so, would you outsource those to another team, and would it be the same game, or a re-tooled cut-down version?
Scott Warner: Anything's possible! At the moment we're only concentrating on the versions of the game we've announced but I'd love for us to work on a handheld version of Mercs!
Mercenaries 2: World in Flames is due for release in the fourth quarter of 2007 on PS2, PS3, 360 and PC, and will be published by Electronic Arts. Check back soon for our first hands-on with the game.