You could compare the “Mercenaries 2: World in Flames” playing experience to eating barbecue — very enjoyable for a short time, but really, really sloppy.
In some ways, I wish more games were like it — simple, unpretentious and with lots of stuff blowing up.
In a gaming world where designers are hellbent on getting players emotionally involved, the most emoting you might do when playing this piece from Pandemic Studios is the rush you get when you call in your first artillery strike. What holds it back is a litany of glitchy behavior that sometimes kills the gameplay.
Anyone who’s played the first title shouldn’t be shocked that destruction is the game’s calling card.
As a trio of money-hungry mercenaries working a series of jobs for factions in North Korea, players used a variety of vehicles, weapons and manpower to essentially level everything in front of them.
This time, the three mercs find themselves in Venezuela, caught in the middle of a conflict involving corrupt generals, Venezuelan billionaires and guerrillas.
The game’s maps are massive, and the missions have players doing everything from shattering historic castles to wiping out oil rigs.
Making things go boom is the single most satisfying part of the game. If you’re annoyed at some sniper perched in a tower, stick some C4 at the base, click the detonator and watch it fall.
If you really want to get creative, you could grab a chopper, snatch up a truck with your winch, lift it on over to a group of bad guys and drop it like a bomb. The game pushes for destructive creativity, doing a good job of letting you explore all of your havoc-wreaking options, which you can buy when you make more money.
I also enjoyed how the game applies the sandbox concept to the world of mercenaries, which works on a much larger scale than the gangster-centric open-world games of the past. When you bounce from dealing with Chinese gunrunners one time to Jamaican pirates the next, it prevents the game from getting too linear.
Then there’s co-op online play, which sometimes makes some of the tedious missions a lot more fun. But sadly, online play is also a gateway into the game’s issues.
Aside from some really strange physics, I’ve also seen choppers stuck in midair after being shot down, along with other things that stay suspended, like weapons.
The worst part is the artificial intelligence of practically everyone in Venezuela. The innocent people there have a hard time staying out of the way of my vehicles, and the troops have a hard time staying out of my line of fire or deciding if I’m an ally or not. It’s like everyone there wants to die.
Every time I call in my chopper to pick up a fuel tank, I don’t know if he’s going to pick it up or hover for two minutes and leave. I was also irritated at the fact that bullets and Jeeps don’t do anything against a tank I’m driving, yet bumping into small metal barriers does real damage.
There’s also tons of repetitive audio — I don’t like hearing every 5 to 10 minutes that I can come back to base if I’m lost, or that Fiona (the intel girl) is checking out the news sites.
And while I sometimes appreciate the fact that blowing up the vehicle I’m driving doesn’t lead to my death, watching my character fly into the air and flop around like a broken puppet doesn’t do much for me either.
If you can get past these frustrations, “Mercenaries 2″ is still worth at least a chunk of your time, especially if you want to watch things get annihilated without that bothersome fear of caring. Destruction’s always good for a little entertainment.