on 26 April 2005
Mercenaries lets the player roam around in two diferent maps in the Korean Peninsula, pitting several factions (South and North Korea, China, Russian Mafia and Allied Nations (read, the US)), each with its own agenda, while the player is out there making money, collecting souvenirs, and generaly creating exploding chaos.
It gets repetitive after a while, and the whole plot is linear, both are true, but the freedom of movement granted to the player allows numerous ways in which to carry out the missions, or drive around the countryside, shooting at everything that moves, using the Russian Mafia as your friendly neighbourhood service provider of mayhem in the form of artillery and aerial bombardments. One can spend hours driving, flying, or just walking around, wrecking and killing troops (though civilians killed come out of your account as collateral damage!).
One gets all sorts of nice particle effects, along with shadows and fog. Throughout the map the lighting conditions change from a bright sunny day, to rain and thunder, or even discoloured settings, reflecting on the more dangerous parts of the map.
The weapons at our disposal are pretty bog-standard, M-16, Ak47, RPG, Dragunov, sub-machineguns, and grenades are used throughout the whole game, with the ability to pickup ammo or the weapons from the downed friendlies and enemies. These weapons are complemented by the weapons carried on the various vehicles the player can use, machinegun, cannon, artillery shell in some places, and missiles.
Aside the missions from the various factions (needed in order to get all the cards, that is, all the enemy leaders), the player can also collect several treasuries that are spread through the countryside, destroy hard-to-see listening posts, and demolish monuments. Each of these actions brings a bonus for each faction and help to break the linearity of the game.
As the player advances in the missions, the maps evolve, reflecting the changing situation in the whole peninsula, factions which controlled some areas at the beginning may controle new ones at the end, buildings get demolished through combat actions won't get rebuilt, this all gives a sense that we are just a small part in the chain of events.
In conclusion, Mercenaries is a true little gem from a not so well-known developer that has always brought forth solid games (I still remember when Battlezone II came out for the PC). The maps are vast, and there's enough going on to make you come back over and over, just to try it in another way.