Mercenaries 2: World in Flames PlayStation 3
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Pandemic
Release Date: Out Now
I never had the opportunity to play the original Mercenaries which appeared on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox consoles but it's fair to say the game was highly regarded and critically acclaimed. Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, quite simply, isn't a great game. Sure it's enjoyable and it has its moments but on the whole it's just a good game that could have been much better. Those looking for an explosion-filled action game that is not too difficult to play through will probably find a lot to like here but the game has its fair share of problems that prevent it from being a great game.
In World of Flames you'll get to play as either Mattias Nelson (regenerates health faster), Chris Jacobs (carries more ammo) or Jennifer Mui (runs faster). Regardless of whom you choose to play as however, the storyline is still practically the same. You're hired by Ramon Solano, the richest man in Venezuela and asked to rescue an army general. As soon as you've rescued him you'll find out that Solano had no intention of paying you and instead planned to kill you. You escape but end up getting shot in the backside. Whichever mercenary you choose to play as will be irritated for not being paid (and for being shot) and will make a point of exacting revenge on Solano who goes on to seize control of the country. Suffice to say this gives you the perfect excuse to start on an explosive quest for revenge with the first goal being to secure Solano's palace as your headquarters.
World in Flames is an open-ended third-person shooter in which you'll take missions from various factions in Venezuela. You are free to play the game as you wish but you'll have to complete specific missions to move the storyline forward. You'll be capturing outposts (to expand a faction's influence), rescuing people and completing escort missions amongst other things. In truth there's not as much variation in the missions as we'd have liked and the missions (or contracts as they are called) become repetitive far too quickly. That said it can be fun playing off the factions against each other and you have to be careful not to upset a faction otherwise you'll have to win their favour all over again. Once you've done some work for a faction they will offer you bounties. Bounties can be completed at any time and involve capturing or killing targets for that faction. Of course you also have the military to contend with too and they will happily open fire on you at every possible opportunity.
Whilst World in Flames can be enjoyable and explosive (thanks to the airstrikes you can issue and the sheer amount of weapons and explosives you can get your hands on during the course of the game), it's a game that's tarnished somewhat by some problems. The biggest problem has to be the enemy AI which is poor to say the least. The enemies run right into gunfire. They'll stand by explosives making it easy to get rid of them in one go and they don't exactly make good use of cover. The AI of your allies is also questionable at times too, which can test your patience. You'll have to trek back and forth far too much during the course of the game to complete missions and purchase various items and it really slows down the pace of the game. In some situations you'll take damage ridiculously easy when at other times (times where you should take a lot of damage), you take hardly any at all.
Graphically World in Flames is slightly disappointing. Whilst the various environments you'll find yourself in, in Venezuela, look quite good, a lot of the objects within the environments look far too angular. The explosions actually look quite good but some of the damage you cause looks so poor it's as if it's been taken from a PlayStation 2 title. There's no anti-aliasing in the game and this also gives the game a slightly rougher look than you might have hoped for. The character models aren't bad but they certainly don't look as good as they should do for a PlayStation 3 title and some of the animations on offer look distinctly rough.
World in Flames does offer subtitles but they are not enabled by default. Even with the subtitles enabled however, there are some problems. The subtitles don't have any character names or portraits placed alongside them and at times it can be difficult to know who is saying what. On various occasions the text was not on the screen long enough for me to read it even though the speech was still being spoken. This means that unless you are a very quick reader you're going to miss out on small parts of the dialogue. Not every spoken word in the game is subtitled. During battles the enemy will taunt you and none of these taunts are subtitled so you'll be completely unaware of them. Still, your objectives are shown in text and can be recalled at any time. The game also makes good use of icons to convey information and I appreciated the way large icons would indicate what items you could pick up as it wasn't always easy to see these items on certain terrain types.
On the whole, Mercenaries 2: World in Flames is a solid action title for the PlayStation 3. Poor AI, repetitive missions and disappointing visuals are just three reasons why this isn't a great game. If blowing up virtually everything in sight is your idea of fun and if you can live with the game's problems then you'll definitely have some fun with World in Flames and make no mistake about it, it can be fun. The online two-player co-op mode gives the game some replay value and under ideal conditions it can be fun. As a single-player experience however, I honestly feel that World in Flames could have been better.