Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction Xbox Review

May 31, 2010 by  
Filed under Retro Content, Retro Reviews, Xbox

Mercenaries has been branded a war-themed equivalent to Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto series from all corners and it’s clear to see that the game itself was strongly inspired by the bad boy series from the off. Of course there was always going to be titles that attempted to take the GTA formula and do something a little different with it and that’s where the advent of this “playground of destruction” comes in.

The place is an impressive depiction of a smoky and crippled North Korean battlefield and it’s here you’ll take control of one of three Mercenaries, who get the job done by any means necessary as long as there’s cash on offer. The territory is teeming with danger from numerous sides and playing one faction against the other is the order of the day in this near future war zone. Meters keep you up to date on your current standing with each of the factions, which is a direct nod towards GTA2. If you fall out of favour with a certain party you are able to bribe your way back into their good books with a large sum of cash or by doing something that pleases.

An open-ended battlefield certainly sounds intriguing on paper and Pandemic have put their ideas to good use, even if they did borrow a bountiful from Rockstar’s winning series. The battlefield is very much alive with danger and you will often see warring factions engaged in combat regardless of what situation you are currently involved in, this makes it feel like you are fighting in a war rather then taking centre stage as a one-man army.

Like GTA you can steal any vehicle in sight (land and air), and the war-theme continually runs throughout, as there’s some serious military transport there for the taking, which includes everything from nippy jeeps to armoured tanks. Stealing a vehicle will disguise your true identity, meaning you are able to travel safely amongst the enemy at times, your cover is only blown when you begin acting hostile or an enemy officer spots you. Hopping in and out of vehicles and hijacking those of the enemy really adds something to the experience, and – as surprising as it may be – in this sense it rarely feels like GTA. Mercenaries definitely has an identity all of its own.

Missions are often staggering in the number of ways that they can be completed. Retrying a failed task will often lead you to attempt to accomplish it in a totally different manner, whether it turns out to be an easier or tougher method is another issue. Forget online gaming and all that virtual reality guff, expanding such unrestrained play is our desired future for gaming.

The objective of the game is to hunt down and capture a “deck” of war criminals, 52 of them to be exact (many are optional). Playing out missions for the various factions will allow you to gather intel, which later leads to the capture of dangerous individuals (or aces). The entire deck are wanted dead or alive, but are obviously worth much more if they aren’t left lying in an unmarked Korean grave. Knocking a target out and carrying or ushering him via a vehicle to a safer area and then calling for helicopter extraction is often the best bet and will reward your bulging wallet handsomely.

Cash is a powerful tool in this playground of destruction and can frequently save your hind from what looks to be certain doom. Vehicles and supplies can be dropped in via helicopter often for a price and we often were extremely grateful of this feature. Blessing yourself with goodies almost feels like you are playing as a mighty god with explosive intentions. It’s clearly not a total rip-off of GTA, but instead a fresher perspective on what is incidentally becoming a rather stale series.

Mercenaries sports a lack of narration and no frills AI but is all about bringing death and destruction to those who oppose you. Despite borrowing ideas from the GTA series, the game is a new dawn for action gaming on the virtual war torn battlefield thanks to the open-ended and explosive nature of the game. With GTA recently faltering it’s nice to see a brand new take on this original blueprint.

9/10

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