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Mercenaries offers intense action and fun gameplay in an open-ended structure - did we say it's alot of fun...
Taking obvious influence from the likes of the Grand Theft Auto series, LucasArts Mercenaries is the latest title to come from Pandemic Studios, a team rapidly garnering a lot of respect from recent titles such as Full Spectrum Warrior and Star Wars: Battlefront.
Taking control from one of three mercenaries, including a no-nonsense American ex-soldier, a British secret-agent or a Swedish Bounty Hunter, Mercenaries is set in the near-future and thrusts players into an escalating conflict raging across North Korea.
On the eve of a historic reunification of North and South Korea, a ruthless general stages a military coup to take control of North Korea and threatens the world with nuclear war. Quick to respond, the International community dispatches a global task force assigned to stabilise the region; however when these efforts collapse the country descends into anarchy, and so announce a $100 million bounty on the head of the North Korean General along with his military and scientific advisors.
Taking obvious influence from recent events, the targets are identified in a â??Most Wantedâ? list that takes the form of a deck of playing cards; as one of the top operatives for a private military company named â??Executive Operationâ? itâ??s up to you to collect the bounties.
The odds against one man (or woman) bringing down an oppressive militant force may be stacked against you, however you can feel safe in the knowledge that not only do you have access to a weaponâ??s arsenal that would make Colin Powell blush, but also the support of the various factions within the game.
The anarchic region is home to five different factions: North Korea, South Korea, Russian Mafia, Allied Nations and China; whilst North Korea are a constant source of hostility towards you, the others will either help or thwart your attempts dependant on your relationship with them. As you attempt to build up intel to discover the various playing cards and their associated bounties, youâ??ll undertake various missions for each of the different factions; however you do have to think about the consequences of your actions and the missions you choose to undertake, as certain ones could make you more friendly to one faction but at the same time anger those that itâ??s directed against. Having gained enough intel, the location of a particular card will be displayed on your map, and youâ??re tasked with entering the location and retrieving the bounty. This can be performed in two different ways â?“ either you shoot to kill and halve the bounty, or stun the opponent with a melee attack and order in a helicopter evacuation to lift him out there alive for the full bounty.
This open-ended structure creates a great formation around the intense and highly enjoyable action, but thankfully a handy PDA does a great job of keeping you in-tune with what missions youâ??re currently undertaking; your relationship with the various factions; intel on the deck of cards along with a host of other additional information. Once youâ??ve progressed a little way into the game and met the Russian Mafia, youâ??ll also have the ability to trade on the Black Market, purchasing items, weapons and vehicles that are drop-lifted to your location or taking these back to their lock-up and selling them for a quick boost to your bank balance. Accessing items that you purchase on the Black Market requires use of the d-pad to bring up a special menu, which allows
The actual action of the game feels a lot like many other titles themed similarly; control over the character and camera is handled via the dual thumbsticks, whilst your character is armed with a variety of guns and explosives using the shoulder buttons. Youâ??re free to pick up any weaponry that you find scattered across the environment, although youâ??re limited to wielding two guns at any one time. In addition to the vast amounts of firepower on offer to the player, you can also take control of over 22 vehicles to aid your assistance, ranging from standard civilian cars to tanks, planes, anti-aircraft units and choppers.
The gameâ??s subtitle â??Playground of Destructionâ? is certainly an apt moniker, as the open-ended structure does present the player with a great variety of choice, whilst the intense action is gratifyingly enjoyable not to mention explosive. The massive environment is completely interactive and packed with plenty of objects and vehicles to use, steal, drive, fly or blow up. Hi-Jacking a vehicle from another faction grants the player a certain disguise allowing you to wander into rival territory without any ramifications, however conflict or strange movements will alert them to your presence and put them on high alert.
Despite their being a substantial level of depth and tactics to the proceedings, action is most certainly the main priority. The game features an excellent physics system in conjunction with completely destructible environments, which allows you to knock a building into dust (given enough firepower) and blow up objects with startling effect â?“ putting an RPG through an opponents vehicle will often see it shoot into the air, amidst a vast explosion, kicking off a chain reaction with any other explosive objects within the vicinity. Despite being based upon a semi-realistic setting and featuring depth, the gameâ??s roots most certainly lie as a videogame, so donâ??t go thinking Ghost Recon 2 with vehicles.
Although the explosive combination of intense action and the open-ended structure creates a highly enjoyable experience, we did notice a couple of issues. Occasionally the handling of vehicles can be somewhat questionable as youâ??re traversing across rugged terrain, whilst we did note one or two visual glitches that slightly hamper what is otherwise a graphically impressive game. However given the late stage in the day we doubt that these will be addressed, although thatâ??s not to say they affect what is otherwise an extremely intense, enjoyable and fun gaming experience.
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