Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction


Over the years we have seen shooters set all over Europe, and even a few out here in America, but something we are starting to see more and more of in the recent years are games based in Asia. This time around we get a new shooter from the guys over at Pandemic Studios who takes their third person shooter into the world of North Korea. Can Mercenaries for the Xbox be the first great action game of the year or even the best action game of the year? You’re going to need to keep reading to find out the answer!


Pandemic Studios may be best known for their last game, the excellent Full Spectrum Warrior, which throws a heavy dose of strategy into an engaging non-stop action gameplay. Now we get a different look into the action, as we head off to Korea in a much more conventional look (trust me its not a bad thing) at a third person shooter that incorporates so much good its almost great!

The game gives you the choice of three different characters at the start of the game, with all having their advantages and disadvantages. Once selecting you will be thrown into one of the most intriguing parts of Mercenaries, which is its storyline. The game grabs from the very beginning and keeps you locked up tight until the very end. Basically you are given 52 targets in North Korea, in which you need to go after and eliminate. The game does a great job keeping everything moving at a reasonably fast rate, which translates into a very exciting game.

One of the biggest comments made about Mercenaries is that it was supposed to be the war version of Grand Theft Auto. Of course many games have been trying to incorporate open-ended gameplay into a shooter, with limited results. The developers at Pandemic decided to take up the challenge, and let me just say they would have to be joking if they said they didn’t get any of these ideas straight from GTA, as that in my opinion seems to be one of the clear motives behind Mercenaries.

Of course another reason for all of the hype surrounding Mercenaries was all of the weaponry and action that the game was supposed to provide. And let me tell you, this game blows GTA: San Andreas out of the water in terms of weaponry and explosives. Not only do you have a rather large arsenal in your corner, you also get to pick up all sorts of different vehicles, tanks, jeeps, helicopters, you name it this game seems to deliver it all.

The game of course also tries to keep the open-ended sort of mindset intact (like GTA San Andreas) and does that by allowing you to go about the 52 wanted men in any way you choose. This leaves you open to do what you want when you want to do it, but also shows a lot more signs of being linear then we have seen in the latest games of the GTA series.

Although the game does not have as much of the open-ended feel that GTA does, it improves in other areas of the game that GTA doesn’t have and in that I mean the combat in the game is much sweeter then we have seen in GTA. The third person shooting in the game is simply perfect, and really does a great job of making the action in the game quite addictive. And they do that by having such variety in their weaponry and gameplay that everything in the game flows very nicely.

Is the gameplay of Mercenaries as revolutionary as GTA San Andreas? No quite, but on its own merits this is a great playing game that really does offer up quite a bit of open-ended action that at least lets you choose what you want to do and when you want to do it. Plus combine that with a very interesting storyline and you have a very solid playing game.


One of the biggest problems the GTA series has had on the PS2 and Xbox is the graphics which just have never translated into enough to really be satisfied with. So now can Mercenaries improve upon this rough spot for GTA and do better?

Unfortunately for us as gamers and Pandemic Studios the developers, this game suffers from many of the same graphical issues that GTA suffers from. The character models themselves aren’t all that impressive, giving just a rough look to them that does correlate very well into the game. On the positive side the environments and vehicles in the game are much more detailed and offer up a much grander look on things.

But when it is all said and done the game still suffers from some occasional frame-rate issues, especially when there is a lot going on on-screen. So basically when it is all said and done the visuals in the game are still very good just they don’t seem to get over the last hurdle.

Fun Factor

I must say that this is the first game of 2005 that I can honestly say that I have had a lot of fun with. Just so you know I am a huge fan of open-ended action games, and this one just really did the business for me. There is still just so much action in the game and the storyline is so interesting that it’s hard not to just sit back and say wow, this is a fun game. The graphics don’t do anything special or add much to the game but that’s acceptable because the gameplay behind Mercenaries is just a blast and will keep people occupied for hours.


So maybe you’re one who doesn’t like following the crowd and therefore you didn’t purchase San Andreas, well here is an alternative that I would highly recommend. This game offers plenty of war type sequences with plenty of vehicles and weapons to choose from. If you’re in the mood for some open-ended action, Mercenaries is a great purchase for you!

The owner and editor-in-chief of I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.