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Mercenaries Review for Xbox
Posted on Friday, February 04, 2005 @ 03:07:44 pm E.S.T

Is there anything more satisfying than blowing things up? Well, bachelor parties, open bars, and bare knuckle boxing might satisfy us to a certain extent but nothing could satiate our primal urges more than blowing things up. Come on, admit it: you loved putting firecrackers in your neighborís mail box. Have no fear because now LucasArts offers a legal alternative to your pyromaniac desires. LucasArts has already proven they can do over-the-top action relatively well with 2003ís critically acclaimed Armed and Dangerous. Enter Mercenaries, an introductory course on destruction.

Mercenaries puts you in the shoes of a ďGun for HireĒ that works for several warring sects in the ever so lovely communist North Korea. Your objective: Blow the living hell out of everything in sight, while also fulfilling your duty to the factions. Sorry people itís not all destructive fun. You will have to put your mind to some use during the stealth missions. These missions are more or less a time for respite from the sheer pandemonium you experience throughout most of the game.

Mercenaries offers players complete GTA-like freedom to dispatch enemies in any way they see fit. For instance, if you see four armed men on a building unleashing the wrath of God on you, you could try to peg each enemy off, but that wouldnít be much fun now would it? Try standing from about 300 yards out and blasting the building to bits with a well placed rocket. Problem solved. The possibilities are endless.

If that isnít enough for you, you could always take a tank and have a blast, no pun intended. Vehicular combat is where Mercenaries shines. You can take control of just about anything from trucks, jeeps, and to choppers. I was amazed at how the chopper (easily the fastest and most effective ďdeath-dealerĒ in the game) could level a city with such ruthless efficiency. The only complaint I really have is that some of the vehicles control horribly and it makes for some very annoying moments. Iím talking throw-your-controller at the wall bad. The tank may be a force to be reckoned with, but if you get stuck in a corner you might as well hang it up. There were other times where I grew tiresome trying to take out five or six enemies with a mounted turret that moves about an inch every 30 minutes. For the most part though, the vehicles are pretty cooperative.

Mercenaries also features a very useful air strike command. Players will find themselves using this command quite often. Most air strikes are used to carpet bomb numerous buildings, level doors that the mercenary is unable to open, or to clear an area for a weaponís drop. I found it most useful when the odds were against me, which is often. You can conserve your ammo and decimate an entire barrack worth of soldiers. It is pretty humorous to watch bodies fly every which way.

This brings me to the highly erratic AI. There are times where enemies are relentless, which in turn makes some levels a real task to conquer. Then in other levels the AI transforms into a bunch of bumbling idiots that have apparently been lobotomized. Seriously, itís quite sad. During some of the stealth missions you can make some very dangerous mistakes that you think would get you killed. Not to worry, you can knock over a barrel within two feet of a soldier and be in the clear. Yet in the games more action driven sections enemies are very sharp, and can see you from miles away. The level of consistency in the AI is pretty atrocious. Itís as if they tone down the difficulty of the AI for the player during stealth missions.

LucasArts has always been renowned for giving players a legitimate reason to play through their games multiple times. In Armed and Dangerous you could play through on a tougher difficulty and get access to some hilarious videos of the characters. Mercenaries, on the other hand, may not offer the same thing but it does give plenty of reason to play again. Seeing as there are an enormous variety of ways you can do things. Perhaps you would like to see what would happen if you were to take a different approach to one of the levels. Unfortunately there are no rewards for beating it on a harder difficulty, well maybe a boost of pride, but how long will that last?

One thing is for sure, Mercenaries is easy on the eyes. The game features lush, fully destructible environments, and outstanding lighting techniques. The environments are rich with details, such as open fires, buildings reduced to rubble with steel rods protruding from the remains, plumes of smoke, and fog give the game some life. The details in the game are impressive, but they overdid it with the fog. There are times where itís so pervasive itís nearly impossible to effectively kill enemies. It really isnít much fun when youíre being barraged with enemy fire and you canít pinpoint the enemies accurately. This is incredibly frustrating. Fog is a nice touch, but this is a bit excessive. All nitpicking aside, the lighting in Mercenaries is spectacular. Light posts and fires shine with frightening realism. While they may not be as crisp as those found in, say, Splinter Cell. But it gets the job done.

Audio is another department LucasArts excels in. With a good 5.1 surround sound system, Mercenaries sounds tremendous on every level. There are explosions that will shake your house. Then again, there is an explosion like every three seconds. The sounds of battle are really breathtaking. You have ricocheting bullets, explosions, shells hitting the ground, tires screeching, tank blasts, and a whole lot more. The music is epic and as theatrical as it gets and is a breath of fresh air compared to what youíre used to in most action titles.

I must say that Mercenaries was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It may have a few flaws that should be addressed for the inevitable sequel, but that doesn't detract from the fact that Mercenaries is just plain old fun. With fully destructible environments, great vehicle combat, and a wide variety of methods to execute missions, this game will keep even the most jaded of gamers entertained for hours. Looking for some hired guns that wonít let you down? Look no further than Mercenaries.

Review By: Jonathan Ortiz - 615 Reads

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