The holiday rush for video games has not begun yet, but its growing closer and closer. It is at the end of summer and the beginning of fall when gaming companies seem to pump out some of their strongest titles on the market. A game that I truly thought would start this all off was Mercenaries 2 from Pandemic Studios. The original game took the sandbox style gameplay made popular in Grand Theft Auto titles was brought to the original game and the second continues this trend with a far more robust and deeper online experience. So were all these expectations met for Mercenaries 2 on the Xbox 360 or was this a game with a lot of talk and nothing to back it up?
My initial thoughts on the new Mercenaries game was that it was going to hit one of the two extreme ends of the game rating spectrum. Either it was going to overwhelm gamers with an amazing immersive experience or try to do to much and be a complete flop. I was a bit surprised to find myself in the end somewhere in the middle of the two spectrums.
The basic idea behind Mercenaries 2 is over the top action. If there was a better way to describe it I would have, but really thats what it all comes down to. Like any great Steven Segal movie you take on the world either by yourself or with a shortlist of help with the numbers usually favoring the opposition. Using a lot of different elements to your aid, like supply drops, bombing raids, and all sorts of other helpful things that you can call upon in times of need.
So one of the things that really grabbed my attention right away was the destructible nature of the environments which was really fantastic. There is a lot of destruction going on in this game, you will be blowing up a lot of buildings, driving through all sorts of terrains and the environment does a near perfect job of responding in a way in which would be appropriate. More then anything Mercenaries 2 just does a great job of making all the action come to life.
One of the issues that you can instantly saw the developers try to fix was the sense of knowing what to do next. This is always a big issue with any game that uses a sandbox style approach and they counteracted this by using a home base feature and having the ability to look up your objectives on the pause menu. The only issue with this is that it still isn’t necessarily enough. Sometimes the missions don’t make complete sense, or there have been times where it is the hunt to find the specific enemy that you know is on your map but location this individual can be problematic. These are really small issues that in the grand scheme of things doesn’t really make a big difference.
The game has a story but it really doesn’t have an overbearing importance on the game itself. What does however is the co-op support which is really in my opinion the main draw for this game. Cooperative play is really the latest trend in console gaming as of late, competitive online play has always been big but it is in the last few years that co-op gameplay has really taken off. You can join in with a friend at anytime throughout the game and just pick right up. The game does an amazing job of allowing the same great gameplay from offline play to work just as well online. Although there isn’t any multiplayer options per-say playing with a friend is actually a great deal of fun and does add a lot to the experience.
There are some drawbacks to the gameplay. For one the gameplay AI is dumber then a doornail. There are far to many times in the game where enemies will literally stand there staring at you while you point a pistol at them point blank. There are other times where the game doesn’t respond as well as you would like it to. Damage can often be a bit sporadic things that should cause you to die often don’t and minor mishaps consequently take a lot of life away. Sticking with the Steven Segal theme however once again similar to all of his movies you rarely die in this game. Its not that the game is easy per-say but you can regain health rather quick and when you learn to use your resources dying just doesn’t become a natural occurrence. The only other complaint I had was that there was far to much driving from point A to point B for a minor task, this can get tedious and given that this is such a large open world it can take a lot away from the experience.
With all this being said this is still a humongous achievement for the guys and gals over at Pandemic. The gameplay is still top notch even with some of its shortcomings.
The game is set in Venezuela and boy did Pandemic do the city some beautiful justice. The frame rate for such an action heavy experience is near flawless with it holding up 99.9% of the time like a true champ. The biggest issue I had was a lot of pop-in visuals especially when moving via an aircraft. I also thought that the blur effects throughout the game did manage to take a little away from the experience as well. The game in general is at its best when things are blowing up and really that’s what it’s all about anyways.
This is not the most polished experience on the Xbox 360 this year, but it is one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had. Comparisons can be made to a lot of different games and genres but when it is all said and done this game succeeds on its own right. I am not huge on cooperative gameplay it has never been my most desired feature in a video game, but I also think that having this type of gameplay in a huge sandbox game offers a great deal for the experience and if you have a good friend who likes blowing stuff up with you then its even more enjoyable.
I would have loved to have given Mercenaries 2 a top tier overall score but there are just a few too many unpolished areas that unfortunately hold it back from that highest of levels. The game in general though is just a whole lot of fun. And if you are a normal guy who loves a good action game or flick then there is no reason to not check out this game, even with its short falls it has enough to offer to make any gamer happy.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. 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.