Pandemic Studios entered the popular free-roaming sandbox genre with Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction. The main ‘hook’ of the game was the ability to blow up virtually everything that you could see. Pandemic even launched an aggressive marketing campaign trying to convince gamers that this was not just another Grand Theft Auto rip-off. The distinct style and destroy everything gameplay was a huge hit and work started on the sequel shortly after the game’s release. Now, three years after the original game, Pandemic brings us Mercenaries 2: World in Flames. The theme is the same, ‘blow everything up’ but new additions such as online co-op and the largest scale explosions we have ever seen make this the Mercenaries we have all been waiting for.
The three characters from the original Mercenaries, Mattias Nilson, Chris Jacobs and Jennifer Mui are back to do some serious damage. Each character has different traits. Jennifer for instance, is a fast runner and Chris can hold more ammo. The traits have only a very subtle effect on the actual gameplay and don’t really change the way you play. Once you have selected a character you are introduced to Roman Solano who is the self professed ’richest man in Venezuela’. He sends you on a mission to retrieve General Carmona who is being held captive by rebel VZ soldiers. When you deliver Carmona safely back into the hands of Carmona you discover that it was all a ruse. After getting shot in the ass during your escape from Solano, you vow for revenge.
It is that revenge that drives the story throughout the game. Solano messed with the wrong Mercenary! Getting back at Solano is a big undertaking, too big to be doing it on your own, so you recruit others to help you out. Your secretary, Fiona Taylor, is with you from the beginning. She helps you establish new contacts and updates you with new information throughout your missions. Ewan is a smart-mouthed helicopter pilot that can quickly transport you to helipads on the map. When you are short of supplies, he is also able to drop supply crates near your location. Mechanic Eva can ‘fix anything with an engine’ and you can call in airstrikes from Misha who may be drunk but accurate, usually.
With a full crew ready at hand, it is time to get your revenge. Not knowing where Solano is, you have to try and track him down by getting involved with the numerous factions that the game is rich. Factions want to work with Mercenaries to drive their own agenda. Working with them you slowly gain information on Solano’s whereabouts. Being in the employ of a faction provides additional helipads on the map, increasing your speed and mobility. Over time, it also gives you access to all sorts of vehicles, weapons and airstrikes.
Embarking on a mission for faction A may conflict with faction B’s goals, causing friction between you the faction in question. This may cause your standing to drop considerably. When you attack a soldier from a friendly faction, he will attempt to call for backup. If you can’t kill this snitch before he succeeds, more troops will enter the battle, seriously damaging your relationship his faction. Once on a faction’s bad side, you can still attempt to improve relations by completing smaller jobs such as killing enemy troops or destroying targets. Bribing works too but can be very costly. Eventually a faction may become hostile to you, preventing you from doing more work for them and denying you access to their resources.
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