Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Mercenaries 2: GTA Done Right?

Mercenaries 2 : World in Flames is far from a perfect game but it is a fun game and does many major things right that make this world worth checking out. The main premise of the game is that you are one of three mercenaries operating in Venezuela, doing jobs for various military factions with the ultimate goal being that you exact sweet revenge against the current leader of said country who happens to have screwed you out of a paycheck and then tried to kill you (try saying that 3 times fast). The storyline isn't great but then again it doesn't have to be, this isn't Shakespeare, this is Michael Bay. Lets blow some shit up!
Mercenaries is going to draw some obvious comparisons to the GTA series, and rightfully so. Both games are sandbox adventures, both games feature faction based missions, and both games allow you to drive any number of boats, cars, and airplanes. What Rockstar got wrong and what Pandemic got right are the controls. The single biggest gripe that I've had with the GTA series is that the controls, even the new ones from IV, generally suck. Too many times I've been in the middle of Liberty City and “hit a brick wall” simply because the controls are not precise enough for me to be able execute the required actions to complete the mission. Mercs takes a very simplistic approach to the controls, if you've played other first or third person shooters then you're going to be able to pick this game right up and start rocking out, the same can be said of the vehicles. Green button means go, red button means stop, yellow button gets out of the vehicle, easy peasey Japanesey (can I still say that?). The vehicles maneuver as you would expect them to, the physics aren't uber realistic but are good enough that you're car or helicopter does pretty much what you think it should. This is going to come in handy when you are tasked with raiding a VZ Army outpost, capturing it's commander,and then calling in rebel reinforcements to take over the base.
The audio production in Mercs 2 runs the gamut from awesomely well done to absolutely atrocious. When my Merc is firing his firing his AK it sounds fantastic. Tak! Tak! Tak! When my Merc calls in an airstrike it sounds epic. Swoooosh! Kaboom! When that same Merc opens his mouth to talk I want to either laugh or hit the skip scene button. In all fairness this isn't the fault of the voice actors... most of the time. It's the fault of the writers, the one liners are just plain cheesy and over used. I one time counted my Merc saying “I'm a little banged up right now” ala Jack Nicholson, 3 times in under a minute. Seriously mix it up a bit guys. My last gripe with the audio is the mastering, whoever did the mastering made the voices and ambient noises super soft and the actual gunfire extremely loud. In the real world this means that I'm playing at 12am on a Thursday, my girl is asleep in the next room. I can't hear the conversation happening on the screen so I pump the volume up a couple of notches and forget about it. Five minutes later a firefight pops off, my girl wakes up, and is in my face bitching about the noise. Boohoo, no more game time thanks to you Audio Production Guy.
The graphical style in Mercs 2 is somewhat cartoonish, thats not a bad thing, it is what it is, if you like that style you'll appreciate it in this game, if you don't then you probably won't even notice after about 5 minutes of play time. The explosions are absolutely phenomenal and supremely satisfying. The reds are blood, the yellows are canary, and the fireballs look like fireballs. Each vehicle in Mercs 2 has it's own unique look and feel, one factions tanks don't look like the next factions tanks. This becomes important when you start to get into large scale land warfare with multiple units of tanks and armored vehicles squaring off. The landscapes are detailed if not a little bit repetitive. Each faction's base looks unique but once you step outside of that area it's pretty much the same old mountains, roads, and jungles. Overall I would classify the graphics in Mercs 2 as good, there aren't really any “wow” moments but they work, and the really important things like explosions and vehicles look great.
Would I recommend Mercs 2? Hell yes I would. This game is a blast, there are enough side quests to keep you busy long enough to justify the $60 price tag, even without a true multi player element. As I write this I can't help but think about how great it would be to take the GTA IV storyline and throw it into the Mercs 2 world... I digress. The storyline is simple but functional, the audio is OK, not great, and the graphics are decent, and yet somehow all of these averages add up to one fantastic game. This game will not change worlds but it will suck up several days worth of your life. As gamers isn't that what we are all looking for?