Mercenaries review
Break down the walls...and anything else in your way

The good:

-Everything is destructable: immense fun
-Very easy tank and flight control
-Huge sprawling landscapes, which although may seen empty, truely come into their own during the missions
-The extremely innovative and excellent support option
-Amongst some of PS2s best graphics
-Good voice acting
-Excellent weapons
-Survival Mode
-Death is not a chore like in GTA, you will still have your basic kit and your M9
-The endless explosions!

The bad:

-Some rather dodgy vehicle physics
-Flying high can be hard, due to the foggy air
-Some missions can be a bit samey
-Dodgy autoaiming
-Lack of help/vagueness
-Screen flashes for vehicle damage
-HUGE loading times


Last year a game named Freedom Fighters was released and became an instant hit with the reviewers and gamers alike with its unique gameplay, excellent graphics and addictiveness. It became the years biggest sleeper hit.

This year, Mercenaries seems to bear resemblance to the Freedom Fighters sequel that it seems will never arrive. It does resemble certain games, namely San Andreas, but to me it doesn't resemble anything very closely. The Freedom Fighters resemblances are in there, but truely Mercenaries is a truely unique experience.

The game boasts geo-mod technology, which was first introduced in the FPS Red Faction 2. This technology allows anything to be destroyed. And it is destroyed in the most spectacular of fashions. Cars will soar through the air thanks to a well placed C4 charge, buildings will crumble thanks to some well aimed rockets as people run for cover, cities themselves will be destroyed if you call in a nuclear strike or a stealth bombing. It is some of the best fun I have ever had in a videogame.

The fact that I mentioned calling in a nuke and a stealth bombing brings me onto this games next unique feature: support. If you are stuck in enemy territory (North Korea, although it could be any of the other four factions), call in a favour from the Russian Mafia, and they'll drop you the vehicle you need in a helicopter to make a quick (and disguised) getaway. Low on health? Call in your allies to drop a health crate and some ammo for you. Need a bit of support with some soliders that just won't leave you alone? Call in an airstrike, that is sure to destroy the enemy, and anything else in that immediate range. And the best thing is that you can see all of these things take place. You can see stealth bombers fly high overhead, and seconds later a deadly barrage is coming down. It is a truely immersive experience.

I have a huge list of the good in this game, with excellent weapons, wonderful graphics that even surpass Freedom Fighters, and survival mode, which Hitman: Contracts players will recognise as the slow-mo blood red screen kicks in, which is often your saving grace in this game.The voice acting and characters are all spot on.

But why is this game not a straight 5 rating? Because it has its flaws. Cars handle like they are on a consistently slippy slope. It doesn't contract too much from the gameplay, and after about an hour of playing you get used to it. But if later you go back to play something like GTA you will see just how sloppy the cars truly are. Not only that, but even simply crashing your car casues a screen disturbance of an extremely annoying flash and a damage indicator. This can be extremely confusing if being chased by enemies. All the cars good for it would seem is blowing up...luckily thats as much as I normally do to them. Tanks and air travel is the way to go for me!

However, air travel in itself can be difficult due to Mercenaries permanent fog. After a certain height, you're lost up there. It doesn't detract too much however from the overall flying experience, which is extremely easy to learn and use.

Some of the missions can be a bit samey, with just killing people, hijacking a vehicle, capturing someone from the "deck of 52" etc. Luckily they all go about it a different way, and unless San Andreas has completely ruined your perspective on how samey all other games missions are, then you should find it fine.

The autoaiming could use some work. It is manual aiming, but once you successfully target an enemy and begin shooting the reticule locks on. Unfortunately, it is often behind the enemy, as they do have a habit of running and then camping. Luckily, this feature can be overriden by simply controlling the aiming yourself, which is very easy.

Often I find this game can be confusing at parts. You get intel on the cards, but can you only get them through a mission or just randomly? The answer is randomly, but with no option of marking the HUGE map, it can be hard to find your cards. This is only a minor niggle however, and a lot of people will catch on pretty quickly.

For those of you however who only care about hardware performance, this games really pushes the PS2. It crams a lot in, and as such the loading time is absolutely massive. Not often, but huge. Turn on your PS2, leave the room for 5 minutes, and when you return the game will just have loaded the start up screen. It can be disappointing, considering the fact that San Andreas, which has an equally gargantuan map, got away with only one loading time at the very beginning.

Overall however, do these problems make Mercenaries unplayable? A shameful rip-off? A game not even fit for the bargain bin? No, never. These are minor flaws in one of the most fun, immersive and unique gaming experiences out there. There is no complete alternative to Mercenaries as far as I'm concerned, as not even Freedom Fighters was as unique as this game when it was released. And quite frankly, no company better even try for a while to rip-off this game. Because I'm still having fun with it, and still will be for a long time. Motorhead once sung about the Ace of Spades, and right now I'm about to go and search for him!

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