September 4, 2008

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Mercenaries 2: World in Flames (PC/PS3/PS2/360))
Pandemic Studios, Aug. 31, T
By Glenn "I like pancakes" Given production@hippopress.com

Call me a stickler, but how does calling a fuel-air bomb strike onto a village of Venezuelans not qualify a game for an M rating? Iím not going so far as to call this genocide, but it is mass murder at least. True you donít really run into many civilians in Mercenaries 2, and yes the intelligence of your enemies is sub par even by first-person shooter standard, but there is something a skosh unethical about dropping a tactical nuke on any inhabited area.

Cíest la vie!

World in Flames continues the tank-jacking metal-plated boom-boom fiesta of its predecessor but now with more trees, considering the move from Kim Jong Ilís digs to Hugo Chavezís backyard. The foliage is flammable, hijacking a helicopter has gone from frustrating to illogically easy and, Yes, Virginia, you can swim now without fear of instantaneous drowning. Is it really an improvement? Meh. I refuse to consider fixes of fatal flaws in sequels to be genuinely new features. They should have been done right the first time. The seamless co-op gameplay is a definite improvement, though. Every mission and objective can be completed in co-op mode with online buddies. While you donít have the city-scampering freedom of GTA 4 or even Crackdown, the half-mile tether between teammates rarely becomes an issue for any pair focused on progression. There are some latency glitches here and there, but nothing deal-breaking that Iíve encountered. And frankly, if it werenít for the co-op missioning I donít know if Iíd really recommend Mercenaries 2. The story is goofy without being funny; the various factions, while more interesting than the first installment, are still populated by basically generic NPCs with horrible voice clips, and the button-pressing sequence used to jack your poor manís Frank Castle a ride is superfluous. In its defense, Mercenaries 2 got bigger, prettier, and you can really, really, really blow the hell out of stuff, and thatís gotta count for something. B ó Glenn Given