Mercenaries 2: World in Flames Reader Review
That's the phrase continually blared out from many video game fanatics. So it's quite an odd feeling when I find myself picking up a game from a since deceased developer for close to tuppence in a second-hand shop and the first thing that happens is getting literally shot in the arse.
Mercenaries 2 is an odd one. To talk about 'story' is... the wrong word. There is a sequence of events that happen in a chronological order, sure. There are occasional cut scenes recapping previous events in a celebratory fashion. There is even a clear beginning and ending. However, Mercenaries 2 manages to appear to have less depth of story than Tetris.
I'll tell you about it then: It begins, as I said, by being literally shot in the arse and betrayed by a former contact. The game is you chasing after him and attempting to kill the bastard. OK, fine. We've got a clear cut bad guy here. Now here is where things get overly complicated...
To get to him you have to pass through several different factions with unique motives to get information. Universal Petroleum, for example, want to get rid of the Amazonians (presumably they were stealing their oil). The Amazonians, on the other hand, want to get rid of Universal Petroleum! What a catastrophe.
When attacking one faction, they become hostile. Attack them enough, and they will hate you and attack you on sight. Working for one faction is very likely to cause another to become hostile towards you, and there appears to be only two ways around this.
One is to go out and take out "High-Value-Targets" for the hostile faction. They will like you more and eventually allow you to do missions for them. Or, you could take the easy way out and give about 10% of your money to them as a bribe and then find out they magically forgive you. This shows the clearest flaw in the game to me, which is the lack of challenge.
Most missions give you upwards of $1,000,000 an hour or two into the game. When the most powerful airstrike you'll ever need is around $200,000, money quickly becomes the least of your concerns. Even though, this is what the game spirals around. You buy your weapons, transport, upgrades, and nukes with this rare commodity. And above all, you are a MERCENARY. You work for MONEY. When you've got enough money, you bugger off and kill some other defenceless civilians with your artillery barrages.
But you end up not even needing the money. Many missions supply you with free airstrikes when you press 'accept,' and then pay you stupid amounts anyway! I literally had enough to buy fifty nukes by the end of the game, and still have had money left over for an attack helicopter.
In fact, it really is disgustingly easy. I charged through the game dying only two or three times because of my lack of skill. The other three hundred would have been because of the insurmountable problem of the bugs.
When the only way to hijack an enemy vehicle is to complete a short quick-time event sequence, it would be nice to at least be able to activate it. Running around the barrel of a tank being shot at from all directions and the button indicating to open the quick time sequence never popping up is possibly the most infuriating moment of gaming history...
But the bugs don't end there. I was just exiting a faction mission after spending my hard-earned dosh on some C4 drops, when I walk outside and my usual mohawk-hardnut Swedish badass has turned into a British-Chinese skinny girl. I shrugged it off as my newly adopted character shouts at an aggressor: "Hey, you on the 50-Cal! How do you like airstrikes?"
There's another great thing about this game. The one-liners. When I was still permitted to play as my Swedish nutter, him shouting "I yearn for a mission that's boom boom and boom." I'm joking, the dialogue is absolutely atrocious. Smashing into another car and hearing "Tag, you're it!" Makes me smile the first time, but the seven thousandth repeated time I heard that made me want to nuke a city. So I did.
I've given this game enough flak (no pun intended) and so it's high time I started praising it. But I'm finding it difficult. This game falls down almost everywhere. The story was awful, there was no challenge at all, the dialogue is shocking and the bugs are annoying.
I said almost everything though. Mercenaries 2 is ridiculously fun. When you have ten nukes in your back pocket that your drunken jet-pilot drops onto a monolithic structure murdering several hundred Venezuelan civilians and American soldiers you laugh at how over-powered you are.
Entire armies are laid waste to by a monster truck with a hydraulic 'jump' function splattered with C4. Using an Anti-Aircraft boat to take out the supports of an oil rig while it crumbles into the ocean taking down all of my enemies appeals to me.
Using a grappling hook to grapple to a helicopter up high, hijacking it and then using eighty rockets to lay waste to a large settlement of people feels... good.
That is why I am not going to be too harsh on this game. Sure, it is technically awful. By no means is it a feat of epic proportions to poop out this game from any game studio these days. But Mercenaries 2 really does get its claws in you.
How can it be art? If you consider Banksy's antisocial graffiti to be art, you can consider this raucous ride a creative masterpiece. Art does not have to be high-brow, intellectual or have a deep meaningful significance. It can just be enjoyable.