Mercenaries 2: World in Flames Review
Switching hands from LucasArts to Electronic Arts, Pandemic's epically destructive Mercenaries brand has finally arrived onto the next-generation consoles with a sequel that stars the original cast of three. But if you're not playing in the next-gen world, EA took the liberty of having a PS2 port put together. Unfortunately, as I'm sure you can see by the score already, it's one port you're better off staying away from.
The year is 2010, and you're thrown into Venezuela, where gang-lord Roman Solano hires you, a mercenary, in order to carry out some contract work for him. When you succeed with your job, Solano refuses to pay and attempts to kill your character. Obviously, your character escapes with no damage, but now it's time for some vengeance. Solano and his army of followers overthrow the Venezuelan government, and take control of it. So the game picks up here, and as one of three characters, you'll have the ability to ally yourself with a Private Military Company as a means of taking down Solano and his army.
As mentioned earlier, the original cast of Mattias Nilsson, Christopher Jacobs, and Jennifer Mui return to the sequel and reprise their roles in playable form. You'd think that with three different characters, you'd be treated to three totally different experiences. Unfortunately, dialogue is largely the same for all three players, hurting things quite a bit, and making it rather pointless to have three playable characters. Additionally, the plot is the same for each merc too.
The PlayStation 2 version of Mercenaries 2 does absolutely nothing to excite the gamer. Where as the PS3 game blends open-world gameplay with traditional action elements very well, the PS2 version doesn't. For starters, gone is an over-the-shoulder perspective for aiming and firing at your enemies. Why? It's one of the most important features in an action game today, and Pi Studios didn't keep it intact? Second, why do the enemies respawn without end? Whose idea was this?
Third, if you're making a port, why would you restructure the missions and have them play out unlike the next-gen game? It's not like Mercs 2 on the PS3 is doing anything super fancy that it'd just be impossible to do on the PS2. So I don't understand why we got these watered down levels, that are so absurdly tedious, with A.I. that is even dumber than the PS3/X360 version, on top of controls that are annoying without a proper aim button. Pi-Studios has even reworked the gameplay mechanics by implementing a life-gauge that requires health packs, as opposed to the self-heal method where you stop and recover. Then, of course, there is the absolute absence of multiplayer - at least the next-gen versions offered co-op, the PS2 game has nothing.
The point of Mercenaries 2 is to join factions as a means of earning points and getting to Solano. Factions will offer you money per job available, and the faction that offers the most should be your pick. Additionally, picking up jobs isn't limited to allying yourself permanently to a faction, as you have the choice of doing contract work on an individual basis or long-term. Depending on who you ally yourself will ultimately decide on which faction wins the war when the game ends. Your skills rely on the standings and outcome of your group. Furthermore, you have the ability to do some recruiting and create your own Private Military Company.
The conclusion I can come down to with Mercenaries 2 for the PS2 is that it's simply a rushed game that feels like a last minute port job. The A.I. is horrible, the mission structure is poorly done, the presentation is third-rate, the controls are awful, there is no multiplayer, controlling vehicle is sloppy, and there is very little variety between characters. Whatever redeeming features Mercenaries 2 has are completely overshadowed by the elements that ultimately break the game.
Presentation is lacking polish, as the in-game cut-scenes are horrifically ugly to look at. The next-gen versions have terrible image compression that's riddled with artifacting everywhere, the PS2 version has those very same cut-scenes ripped from the PS3/X360 game, but with vaseline smeared all over them. I don't tolerate anything but superb clarity when it comes down to cut-scenes, as we're not dealing with a 650MB medium anymore, but rather a storage capacity of nearly 10GB. There's no excuses here. Furthermore, even for a PlayStation 2 game, Mercenaries 2 looks rather poor. There are more than a fair share of visual oddities, such as bland texture details, poor animation, bland environments, pop-up and draw-in everywhere you look, and character models that aren't exactly loaded with detail.
The only marginally redeeming quality here is the audio, which is still a mixed bag. While the soundtrack and sound effects sound pretty good, the voice acting is a bit on the bland side. Mattias' character, specifically, has very unusual delivery, as much of what he says sounds either slurred or awkwardly said. Then there's the all-too cheesy dialogue, which is a fault of the writing, and not so much the voice actors, but the audio suffers nonetheless. If you can get over the not so great voice acting, the rest of the audio sounds rather solid.
All in all, don't expect anywhere near the same caliber title from the PS2 version of Mercenaries 2. This is one of the sloppiest ports I've played in a long time, and you're better off saving your money towards a PlayStation 3 if you're looking for a next-gen experience. Mercenaries 2, even on the PS3/X360 is a flawed game, but Pi Studios basically crippled this one with awful gameplay elements, poor controls, and lousy visuals. Avoid at all costs.
9/16/2008 Arnold Katayev