Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction
You probably know LucasArts either from the recent Star Wars games, with the excellent KOTOR, but the older gamers amongst us rather talk about the honorable past of this company. In a time long ago, these guys threw beautiful adventures like Full Throttle, Day of the Tentacle and Sam&Max on our pc’s. Now, however, they’ve noticed that GTA:SA and its predecessors couldn’t only get the appreciation of the press but also sold like condoms in Ibiza (or so I heard saying). In this review we’ll check out whether their attempt to equal this success with Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction has worked
As I said in the introduction, Mercenaries can best be described as a somewhat more linear version of GTA in North-Korea, a setting that leans very close to the current realistic situation in that country. A new dictator, General Song, has taken the lead in a not so peaceful way, and managed to get the distrust of the ever-alert AN (Allied Nations) on his shoulders. Since these latter like a hip and trendy way to dispose of their enemies they’ve called Bush’s supplier and had him make a 52 cards deck.
That way every soldier knows all too well who to capture and who to give an airvent! Mercenaries like you of course jump on that like rabbits… euhm… other rabbits, and it doesn’t take long before you’re dropped with as only goal to earn hard dollars by pinning down (more money) of killing (a little less money) the 52 targets.
ExOps (your employer) decides to only send 1 person and the choice is yours to take an American who can take a hit, a Swede with an obsession for the harder work, or a stealthy, beautiful girlf from Hong Kong. Too bad my favorite character (“the naked chick with the big guns and unlimited ammo” as I like to call her) was again not present! No tears to be shed however as you’ll get your kicks in another way in this game.
As said, the gameplay consists a bit out of GTA-like action where you can use all vehicles (think Humvees, choppers, trucks, tanks, etc) to accomplish your missions. On top of that, friendly troops will come to assist you by for instance handling the machine gun. However, most of the time they’ll “help” you by throwing themselves in front of your wheels, by wandering through your line of fire like Donald Duck or just by acting like complete morons. Ethically, I don’t give a rat’s ass that these guys die (they shouldn’t be so dumb) but the fact that you need to pay quite a bunch of money because of that makes it a lot worse! Also the enemies aren’t the smartest by the way: often you can quickly run to them while they’re shooting a full clip at you and still be able to knock them down with your fists.
The end goal is to find your targets in enemy territory, get rid of their protectors and either shoot them and take a picture as proof, or knock them unconscious and take them along with a helicopter. Exciting and nice for a couple of times, but after 52 times this becomes extremely monotone, even if it helpt to get your ultimate target. The non-stop action, the biggest pro of the game, is at those times the only thing that keeps you going.
To give some variation, you’ll find smaller missions like a race against the clock, escorting a journalist, look for stolen goods and Weapons of Mass Destruction, … that can give you some extra cash. Just to be clear: these latter are really present in the game; we’ve known them not to be… The cash can be used to get new equipment of request a bombardment.
The whole plays pretty nice. The action is constantly present, explosions follow each other up, you can blow up stuff, drive over things, and the fact that you can man anything that moves remains fun. The difficulty level is very low and hte presence of the different factions (AN, China, South-Korea, Russian mob) definitely add to the overall game experience.
You’ll have to make sure these factions remain your friend to be able to finish certain missions or to buy certain weaponry. If you make an error however, and get someone angry at you, you can quickly make up. The simplicity of his dimension is to be praised but unfortunately the game suffers from this pick-up-an-play level; the missions quickly become too repetitive and who looks for more depth won’t find it.
The graphics are nice and especailly the explosions and the way everything gets shot to pieces are very well done, amongst others because of the over-the-top physics and constant stream of new events you won’t know where to look first. Concerning surroundings and textures some things could be improved but in the end it’s never really disturbing and we can’t really be negative about them. The loading times are also limited. I liked the sound, with especially decent voice-overs and powerful effects like explosions. The soundtrack could have been a bit more varied but this is after all an action game.
Less appealing are the bad controls of the vehicles. A humvee wanders over the road like Bambi when her momma was still alive, the layout of the buttons could also be improved and on top of that, invisible obstacles can end your joyride. What I already said but like to elaborate on is the difficulty level. Not only because of the A.I. but also due to the fact that you loose health really slow, it’s very easy to reach the different objectives. It also helps that at certain times you become untouchable, like when you strangle someone. This also makes that the replayability isn’t all too big, despite the different characters. You can play how you want and don’t really have to look at “their specialities”. Also I would like to point out that there’s an auto-aim that would hit even when you’re on the toilet with your thumbstick…
Mercenaries is a chaotic ride at the carnival, an over-the-top action games that borrows a lot from GTA, without adding too much, but does succeed to create its own style. Some downpoints like the A.I., the absence of depth, and the more limited freedom than GTA unfortunately make this game not without flaws and it will probably mostly be loved by those people looking for explosive fun without any added value. If that’s what you’re looking for (and without a doubt, a lot of people are!), don’t hesitate as the game succeeds very well in that aspect. If you look for more: make sure you don’t expect too much.