[Review] Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction

ESRB:T
ONLINE:N/A
INSTALL:N/A
RELEASE DATE:June 15, 2006
PLATFORM:Playstation 2, Xbox
PUBLISHER:LucasArts
DEVELOPER:Pandemic Studios
ONLINE PASS:N/A

Story

This is not the game’s strong point. It’s not bad, but it’s not the best story ever conceived either.

You are a mercenary, sent in by Ex-Ops to Korea to restore peace, prevent World War III., and try to reunify the two warring countries after North Korea’s former President [Choi Kim], is killed by his son [Choi Song], who then seizes control of the country.

The story is told mostly through in game dialog. there are no real cutscenes other than those you see at the very beginning of the game, after you take out the “Aces”, and after defeating Song.

Your mercenary [3 to choose from] will be enlisted by the various factions — The United Allies [The UN], China, The Russian Mafia and South Korea — located in the country. As you accept missions to take out the “Deck Of 52” [A wanted list of all the various criminals connected to Song, and Song himself], the story unfolds, giving you a bit more clarity on why you are doing what you are doing, and what the current situation is.

It’s nothing really special, and there’s nothing you really wouldn’t expect to happen, but it serves it’s purpose – giving you a reason to go to this place and blow stuff up. A lot.

Presentation

The game looks decent, though not quite as good as another game running on the same engine [Star Wars: Battlefront]. Some of the texture work seems muddy, and it can be a touch grating on the eyes, but it’s nothing big. The explosions look great, and watching a building fall in a huge cloud of dust is a sight to behold.

There are a few frame rate problems here and there, but given the size of the 2 maps, and the amount of destruction you can cause, it’s easily forgivable. Especially since they only really occur [slightly] when buildings are falling, or when there’s just mass chaos [IE: Lots of enemies/explosions going on].

It’s never gameplay breaking though.

Audio-wise, the game impresses. Each weapon has it’s own distinct sound. The explosions sound just as good as they look. The musical score is very well done, but I doubt you’ll be humming it on your way to work/school, though [It’s not played often enough.].

Vehicles sound alright. Some sound a little better than others, though. The vehicle weapons sound great as well.

Gameplay

The 3 mercenaries you can choose from at the start of the game have slight differences between them. Mattias is much more resistant to damage, and speaks Russian. Jennifer is not instantly detected by the North Koreans after opening fire, and speaks Chinese. Chris can hold much more ammunition than the other characters, and speaks Korean.

These differences add a little bit of variety, but for the most part the game plays the same between them – you’ll get different dialog with the different characters, and that’s about the only really game changing thing.

The game plays great, but there is definitely room for improvement.

The aiming, for example, feels a little sluggish. It works, and gets the job done, but I feel it could have been MUCH better. I definitely think an over-the-shoulder aiming camera, ala Resident Evil 4, would have worked much better. The current aim style has you rotating the camera to aim. It’s a tad bit cumbersome.

The AI falls a little flat. It’s not very challenging taking these guys out, as they are all pretty dimwitted. It can get tough when there are waves upon waves of enemies to fight, but even then it’s not that difficult.

The weapon selection is decent, though I wish there were a few more, or that at least we weren’t limited to carrying two weapons at a time. It’s realistic, sure, but then you have to think: “I’m playing a game where I’m this lone soldier who’s able to go into a country and just blow stuff up without getting in any trouble.”

Perhaps there could have been another mode in which we had free reign over the map and could use all of our weapons at once and rack up points [Ala Hulk: Ultimate Destruction], over a set amount of time.

The “Deck Of 52” was probably the biggest chore in the game. It wasn’t boring, but it was repetitive. It was pretty much the same thing each time: Do missions for the factions and get intel on where the Deck of 52 are. Find them, and gain intel on where the Ace is, capture the Ace, repeat.

There was a little bit of variety in that you could always choose whether or not to kill the target, or take them down non-lethally. I would have liked to see just a little bit more, though.

I did like the work with the different factions. You have to balance out who you work for, because chances are, you’re going to piss off one of the other factions. Decrease their “mood” with you – by destroying their property, or killing their soldiers – and they will eventually turn hostile against you.

If that happened, you either leave them alone and keep them hostile, or you pay a handsome fee to them to cool them off.

The vehicle selection is decent. It’s no GTA or True Crime, but the vehicles serve their purpose: to get you from point A to point B quicker. And believe me, you’ll need them often. Some vehicles handle great, others just plain suck.

The best vehicles in the game are the military APCs, and the helicopters. They have decent speed, and great defense, so they can take some punishment. The helicopters are by far the most fun to use, and they are easy to control. Left analog stick controls motion, right analog controls aiming. Each heli is equipped with at least some rockets/missiles or a machine gun, if not both.

I do wish there was some kind of multiplayer though. Maybe a two player deathmatch, or a “Destroy the most crap” mode. Not a big deal, but would be fun to go around and blow stuff up with a buddy. This game was just begging for co-op play.

I have to say though, causing mass destruction is definitely the most satisfying thing in this game. There’s nothing like rolling up to a building or a bridge in a tank or with an RPG, and then blasting it to smithereens.

The Verdict

Overall the gameplay is a lot of fun. There are a few problems here and there, but it’s nothing that really affects gameplay. They are only slight annoyances. The story isn’t the best around, but as I said, it doesn’t need to be. It does it’s job of giving you a reason to blow stuff up. The frame rate issues can be annoying at times, but again, it’s nothing game breaking. Aiming works well, but it could be improved.

However, I will say this: Apart from a few unlockables like secret weapons, and new character skins, there’s not much here to keep you playing after 1 or 2 playthroughs. While there are 3 characters to choose from, it makes little difference aside from slight dialog changes and not too important trait differences.

Overall, the game is worth at least a rental. Give it a try before you decide to put down any money on it, unless you can find a really good deal on it.

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PROS CONS
  • Destroying the environment is a lot of fun.
  • The game looks and sounds pretty good, considering.
  • Lots of weapons at your disposal.
  • Framerate can be choppy at times, usually when things are hectic.
  • Lack of real variety in mission types.
  • No co-op mode at all.
  • FINAL VERDICT
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    About James Headrick

    James is an aspiring game reviewer that plays primarily on the Playstation 3 & 4. He also works freelance as a graphic designer, doing print and branding based design.
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