Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction (Giant Bomb|Wikipedia) is a little slow to start. You are given a lengthy briefing (styled like a powerpoint presentation) and then thrown right into the game world with only a vague message about where you are supposed to go. I’m not sure if it was dumb luck or great game design, but either way I figured out what to do and where to go pretty quickly once I figured out the controls. Despite the slow start, I found a lot to like about this game in my time with it.
I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. Mercenaries, for those unfamiliar, is a third person action game set in a fictitious North Korea. You play as one of three mercenaries, each with some slightly different strengths and weaknesses. I only played as one of them, and because my time with the game was short, I’m not sure how different they really play. Basic flow of the game seems to be gun down some enemies and blow some shit up in the course of performing some arbitrary mission such as defend a base or capture an enemy leader. You are given some fun tools and let loose. It reminds me a lot of Just Cause – in a good way. You receive money for blowing up enemy vehicles and completing missions, but I didn’t see a way to spend it on anything – perhaps that comes a bit later. The core of this game is the destruction you can cause with the various weapons available, and I think the payoff is pretty good, even in the very beginning. You also can drive around in vehicles and I saw several that would feed well into this destruction focused gameplay, including tanks and APCs.
Visuals are more than adequate – while the game wasn’t the best looking PS2 game I’ve ever played, it looked at least as good as Psi-Ops and ran at a very solid frame rate. In fact, the only time I noticed a frame rate drop was when there were a ton of explosions happening at the same time, and even then it was negligible. Overall, I was pretty impressed with this one.
Sound was good – the music was a little catchy and sound effects were fitting. There were a few effects that really didn’t fit all that well, but it wasn’t distracting.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time with Mercenaries – I have a feeling the game is going to get better the longer you play when more weapons and vehicles open up.
Verdict: Play again! I had a blast.
Images courtesy of Giant Bomb