Mercenaries 2: World in Flames Hands-On

We explore the first few missions of this oft-delayed but still explosive sequel.

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With a career that involves negotiating with warlords and avoiding a near-constant hailstorm of bullets, mercenaries live by a simple but reassuring motto: "Everybody pays." But occasionally, a client will fail to abide by this creed. That's when things turn sour and business partners become enemies. So begins Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, the sequel to a game that earned critical acclaim for its unabashed focus on sandbox mayhem and real-world political themes. We were recently able to play our way through a handful of Mercenaries 2's introductory missions. While brief, it was enough time to see that the formula that made the first game so appealing has been preserved nicely despite the 14,000 kilometer move from North Korea to Venezuela.

Welcome to Venezuela, where oil and political corruption dominate the new storyline.

The first mission in Mercenaries 2 finds you working for a mysterious but undeniably charming man named Ramon Solano. He's asked you to rescue a military officer who's recently been taken captive by some of the renegade troops running around this fictionalized Venezuela. You start out the mission in style: cruising through the open seas on a speedboat. Pandemic has decided to introduce you to your newfound ability to hit the sea from the get-go because, perhaps, these new maritime vehicles will become a common sight in the game. The world map, which is said to be 8x8 kilometers in size with a 2.5 kilometer draw distance, is covered by a hefty amount of open sea. When not running through condensed versions of such major Venezuelan cities as Maracaibo, Caracas, and Valencia, you'll be bouncing through the waves in between the game's several islands.

After navigating your way through a narrow passageway of seaside cliffs, you'll wind up in a calm bay isolated from the dangers of the high sea. But it's not isolated from soldiers armed to the teeth with assault rifles, so just as you step off the boat, you'll immediately need to engage in some heavy warfare. From here, it's the familiar Mercenaries style of run-and-gun combat. Those who've spent much time with this year's other big sandbox game, Grand Theft Auto IV, may find themselves instinctively reaching for the cover button. But unfortunately, a cover system is not one of the features Pandemic has added to Mercenaries 2. With heavily destructible environments operating under the Havok physics engine, Pandemic decided it wouldn't make much sense to give you the opportunity to hide behind objects that would just get blown up anyways. Still, in our time with the game, we felt like we could really use it.

But one thing Pandemic has decided to work toward is--to quote creative director Cameron Brown--the "world's biggest explosion." A lofty goal, to be sure. And while that may be pie-in-the-sky thinking, you can really get a sense of Pandemic's dedication to ramping up the chaos that made the first Mercenaries so appealing. Even in this first mission, we were given the opportunity to call in an airstrike when met with a tall, stone gate. Once you've unlocked everything there is to get, you'll be able to call in airstrikes using the likes of daisy cutters, manually laser-guided bombs, tactical nuclear bombs, and even a little number called the Mother of All Bombs--or MOAB for short.

It's a good thing explosions look so nice, because there are a lot of them.

Once we got past this gate, it was time to hijack a jeep. We could have had the chance to test out the new Quick-Time Event minigame required to hijack a nearby tank were it not for the fact that our poorly aimed airstrike took out the gate in addition to the tank. But no matter--we were off and on our way, still on the lookout for that captured officer. Cruising through the windy dirt roads of mountainous Venezuela, we ran into several pockets of armed soldiers. Eventually, we found a shanty town up in the hills, divided several times over by a series of switchback roads crossing through the village. Rather than take the road, we decided to test out the destructible environments by putting these shacks in an unfair fight against our jeep. Sadly, the shacks lost. But it's not just the shanty towns that can be taken down. Later in the game, when you make your way to the big city, you'll be able to knock down entire buildings. The explosions in the game look really nice, too. From the sweltering fire effects to the way buildings topple over rather than burst into pieces, the attention paid to making the environment more fun to destroy seems to have worked out well.

Finally, we found our man. The officer, Carmona, was being held in an underground jail cell. We managed to rescue him and bring him back to Solano. But unfortunately, Solano's idea of a reward is to have you killed. He'd been planning on staging a coup to assume control of Venezuela, and with you having just Ramboed your way though scores of armed soldiers, he sees you as a potential threat down the line. But just as the gun is drawn, you take off running and manage to escape no worse for the wear--except for the bullet lodged in your posterior. This opening sequence plays out a little differently depending on whether you choose Mattias, Chris, or Jennifer, but the basic gist is the same: You've been wronged and now you're out for vengeance. This tale of revenge is one of the themes Pandemic has added to the storyline to give it a personal touch rather than having you play the cold-blooded mercenary who's only out to get paid.

In the next mission, you need to find a center of operations. You then kill two birds with one stone by ambushing one of Solano's estates to take it over. While racing to this location, you may discover a few things about the roads: There aren't many pedestrians because most of the locales are occupied military zones and the few there are can't be run over without losing money. It isn't terribly grisly when you do run someone over. This seems to fall in line with Pandemic's focus on exaggerated, over-the-top violence to help maintain the Teen rating for which it is aiming.

Like most missions, overtaking Solano's estate requires little in the way of subtlety.

But eventually, you'll get your compound and start on a journey that will align you with several warring factions in a war-torn Venezuela that's just about ready to fall apart at any moment. In our demo, we really enjoyed the scope of the new setting. The visibility was surprisingly in terms of distance, especially from elevated terrain. While the visuals displayed some hiccups common in unfinished builds, the actual explosions and demolitions looked great. We'll be looking forward to future coverage so we can further explore the diverse Venezuelan terrain--not to mention some of the more intriguing new features like the ability to create your own private military company and online co-op.

Mercenaries 2 is scheduled for release on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC and PlayStation 2. The primary difference among them--besides the obvious visual disparity--is that the PlayStation 2 version will not support co-op multiplayer like the current-gen versions. You can expect to see the game arrive on August 31.

Discussion

224 comments
DeadrisingX1
DeadrisingX1

I absolutely love this on PC.(Good thing the frame rate was steady, even when I blew up 20 civilian cars piled together with a nuke)

mira04
mira04

I saw the video... cool Game. Damn FOG!!!

zooyorksk8r
zooyorksk8r

All your base are now belong to technoviking!!

skitz8
skitz8

WAIT!! PS2 has no multioplayer co-op?! does that mean none at all?! or just online only?

SkytheWiz1
SkytheWiz1

And, once again... Co-op is online only. That's crap, but I'm still buying the game.

Princecake
Princecake

I guess I still can't put my ps2 out of misery yet :P

mira04
mira04

Where are the real ps2 screenshots?????????????????? Where are the real ps2 videos???????????????????

TX360
TX360

10/10 MY GAME OF THE YEAR

coolguyrko
coolguyrko

This game looks absoulutly awsome I got addicttid to the first one for like 3 months I tried to do a campagin I mean it actually took 3 months because I love free roam.Cant wait to play as Mattias he is like me blow the sh**t out of every hing.What I actually want to say is will there be a demo out on Xbox live or the playstation Network.Sorry for the spelling but keyboard is broken.

GreatFunStuff
GreatFunStuff

lol why are people "thumbing-down" the people here that are actually from venezuela? you a**holes. oh, and none of u kids know how to type. the game looks sweet, though. i hated that guy with the mohawk in the last game. i want the other dude.

priboy15
priboy15

yes its is i well get that game 2 i hav the first 1 for ps2 and this game look cool and in the vidos lol

poheroe
poheroe

is this for ps2 too?

felipenet7
felipenet7

Chavez is a great guy! He is doing the best for Venezuela!

vvitorito
vvitorito

Dude... i am actually from venezuela, i hope i can kill chavez (our former F****ing president), i am going to look for the Guaire river and get in to see if i die (it is so contaminated that if u get in u die for infections!!!)

Victors_Outlook
Victors_Outlook

I can barely wait, (been waiting for like 10 months already!) looks awesome!!

Ticklethis275
Ticklethis275

I played Mercs 1 and it ruled (I stacked 40 helios on top of eachother omg it ruled) cant wait from Mercs 2

cyberjia
cyberjia

wow it look so good. can't wait for the end of August...

priboy15
priboy15

i cant wait tell this game well come out

trausen
trausen

lol zeeshan810, it's funny how graphics change over time. I remember playing it and thinking the graphics were awesome, but if i went back and played after playing newer games they'd prolly suck

Matamoscas
Matamoscas

look nice, exept for the haircut D:

abluescarab
abluescarab

Mindless destruction along with some awesome graphics, revenge, and the sequel to an awesome game? I got two words for you: BIRTHDAY PRESENT.

Gcamacho_exe
Gcamacho_exe

jejeje i'll bomb my own country with this game

lomar07
lomar07

I just can't wait!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

zeeshan810
zeeshan810

I finished Mercenary 1 and it was good but the graphics weren't that good* :( But this game is really greAT. :)

edflinkinp
edflinkinp

OMG I wanna play this game so bad.. I'm actually from Venezuela and the story about Oil and Corruption (unfortunately) fits in perfectly, it's fictionalized but still accurate enough to say "that's what happens in Venezuela" .. Will we get the chance to kill Chavez too? LOL.. (Hope I don't get banned for that comment) .. Anyway... I'm looking forward to this game and its story, maybe I'll find more coincidence between the story and reality...

CrazedGAM3R
CrazedGAM3R

A sandbox full of pointless destruction... I'm in.

Stavr0s
Stavr0s

The only thing that I'm upset with this game is the fact that they didn't add any new characters. Maybe DLC will fix that. . .

MildMike
MildMike

August 31 ey? forgive me if I seem sceptical. I sense another delay comin'.

RonTorque
RonTorque

Always wanted to play this game,but i didn't have a PS2 to play the first one.I guess i'll try this one.

FurtherIntel
FurtherIntel

This game will own! I just hope they don't work too much on the 360 and PS3 versions and spend time on the PS2.

cdawg15
cdawg15

hahaAHAHHAAHA more explosionssssssss!!!!!

wogglies5
wogglies5

Creating or own military organization sounds cool, like the one in the origanal but customized to your liking! (i think) IT LOOKS AWESOME

Nicholai69
Nicholai69

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Kaleb_B
Kaleb_B

It would go beyond 8

snaker49
snaker49

i am freakin crazy about this game. It will smoke MGS 4 and GTA 4! (even though they got 10's.) This game will get a freakin' 11! A 11! You watch! 11

spartanlaser
spartanlaser

yay the first one was the bomb i played for hours. if this one is as good as the first one it will be the ****

KMJRoche
KMJRoche

YO big dogz ize gon get dis game if i can spot the HAY no wut im sayinnn zzz wurddddaa!

xxxsilverwolfxx
xxxsilverwolfxx

i bet this game is gonna be so awesome i might forget to go to work

mach-stem
mach-stem

Havok engine? Isn't that what Wic uses? If so, then DAMN that is going to look nice! :)

-Helix-
-Helix-

Im just wondeirng, do you only get to use that one guy with the mohawk??? Cause he was my least favorite character of the 3 in the first game...

Compufreak816
Compufreak816

So if it got below an 8 you wouldn't get it just because of what gamespot said?

ps2-4-life
ps2-4-life

The first mercenaries was awesome..I'm getting this one too but only if it gets above a 8.0 on gamespot