Games for 2008: Mercenaries 2: World In Flames


Things like this throw me. A sequel of an enormously successful Console game arrives on the PC. What do we presume people know? And how do you best contextualise it. I suppose a little grounding is in order. Out of the first wave of clearly GTA inspired games that were more inspired than just do another crime game, Mercenaries was arguably the finest. Set around playing one of the eponymous soldiers of fortunes, you went on missions in an open world, generally shooting things and causing a frankly disturbing amount of devastation. Its explosions were a bit on the nifty side. It was fun, if disposable – in a “DISPOSE EVERYTHING WITH PYROKENETICS” way. And, generally speaking, this is something I’m glad to see come to the PC. Admitedly, It’s nothing to do with the ancient 8-bit ultraclassic, but don’t hold that against it.

I actually played Mercenaries 2 around E3 last year as part of an open-EA event, before they’d even confirmed many of its features, and had a chance to chat to Pandemic. Due for last year, it slipped into this one. I suspect this is good both for the game and us. It was highly playable then and not at all twitchy, so you presume they’re working on polish rather than just knocking it out. For the game… well, Christmas was crazy busy. I think a Spring release will suit this firecracker just fine.


Talking to Pandemic about Mercenaries… actually, a little about Pandemic. They interest me. Pair-bonded with Bioware, and then throwing themselves into the maw of EA, they were an enormously successful developer (Bioware saw them as a peer, clearly). What interests me about them is their origins in PCs, working on things like Dark Reign and Battlefield Battlefield> Battlezone. The latter is an absolute lost classic, and part of me – in terms of the vehicle-swapping – sees its footprints all over Mercenaries. That they came to their largest success through Star Wars Battlefield Battlefront pushed them towards the consoles – and who can blame them – but I’m personally happy to see them actually returning.

Which reminds me – I have an interview I’ve yet to transcribe with a Pandemic principle on topics like how Mercenaries is rooted in a desire to put a popular edge on the freedom-is-all approach of classic PC developers like (say) Looking Glass software and what not. Which, strikes me as fundamentally important, at least in contextualising it back in the world of the PC.


You see, while it’s as pop as the A-Team, Mercenaries is based on – and almost every Dev I heard talk said a version of this – the idea of objectives rather than methods. That a mission should be a relatively simple thing – like take out a target, destroy a building, whatever – and then leave everything else to you. When you’ve got a world as large as Mercenaries, packed full of vehicles, with you able to offend – or profit from – each faction, create your own mercenary company equipped with whatever you’ve managed to get hold of, a load of support strikes and on and on… well, that’s a lot of options. They’re options that go BOOM!, yes, so not for those who are still waiting for you to be able to speak to the monsters in Doom, but it leads to a lot of chaos.

Especially when you can play the whole thing co-op.

To be honest, I could have probably have reduced this article to “1) Explosions 2) Military-GTA freedom 3) Online Co-op” and saved a lot of effort, yeah?


All signs point to a Spring 2008 release.


  1. Cyren says:

    Did you mean Star Wars Battlefront?

  2. Kieron Gillen says:

    Freudian Snake.


  3. malkav11 says:

    Yeah, the original Mercenaries was way cooler than I had originally believed it would be. GTA with more freedom. Really. Plus tanks aren’t an endgame vehicle. And I was fond of hijacking helicopters. And calling in all sorts of air strikes and drops.

    Also pretty awesome was the way they set up the Deck of 52. Almost all of the “cards” were positioned in specific encampments and the like around the map, and you could, if you were so inclined, simply poke around grabbing them as you came across them. Or you could do missions to find out about their locations. Or both! And being able to capture them alive for full reward money…whee was that ever fun to try to manage. I did every one of the first 13 alive, although that’s where I pretty much abandoned the game to do something else. I need to go back to it one of these days.

    This one…I’m deeply dubious about the QTEs they’ve apparently added to the hijacking process, but otherwise it’s very exciting indeed.

  4. Kieron Gillen says:

    I played the QTEs and they were… okay. They were really minor, but it prevented it feeling just like you were able to jump in a tank and clear it away. Thinking about it, the bit which sold it was actually something as dumb as a button-bashing bit where you’re wrestling with someone at the top of the Tank so you can throw a grenade in – there’s a connection there to the action which the straight QTE doesn’t normally capture.


  5. Man Raised By Puffins says:

    Did you mean Star Wars Battlefront?

    and Battlezone instead of Battlefield?

  6. rand526 says:

    “It’s nothing to do with the ancient 8-bit ultraclassic”

    shivers at the memory of damocles…….

  7. Kieron Gillen says:

    Note to developers; Think up more game names. I’m useless.


  8. Acosta says:

    I really like to see how developers try more and more the sandbox mechanics. For me, it means they are more confident with technology and with users, trying to put more elements to their games out of the “go there, kill that and do it fast”.

    The reference to Looking Grass is brilliant and very appropiate, I think studios are on the right track to recover something that has been kept on a vault for too much time.

  9. Alan Au says:

    Uh, Kieron, did you just attempt to replace “Battlefield” with “Battlefield”?

  10. Lacero says:

    Which reminds me – I have an interview I’ve yet to transcribe with a Pandemic principle on topics to do how things like Mercenaries are rooted in a desire to put a popular edge on the freedom-is-all approach of classic PC developers like Looking Glass software and what not.

    Is it me or is this sentence is missing a “with”?

  11. malkav11 says:

    Yeah, the thing is, I *want* to be able to just jump in a tank or a helicopter. Having to button mash to do it might very well prevent me from doing so at all, depending. (I couldn’t defeat the very first boss in God of War because it wanted me to mash the button faster than I was physically capable of doing, for example.)

  12. DigitalSignalX says:

    Tell us we can take a Javelin equipped Humvee into a Pay’n Spray to get a flame job and a low-rider shocks and it’s all good.

  13. Kieron Gillen says:

    Au: No. Yes.

    Lacero: See the FAQ for grammatical complaints.


  14. Muscrat says:

    The first game was awesome, and I cant wait for this.

    Seriously anyone out there witha PS2/Xbox, and wants to taste of things to come – highly recommended

  15. Narvi says:

    Speaking of Battlezone, I wonder if they are ever going to make a proper sequel. Battlezone 2 was awesome.

  16. Junior says:

    Great! This was one of the few games my Father in law had on his x-box that actually made me jealous, and now on the pc in stunning Not 640×480’o Vision?

    Wait? Co-Op?


  17. Taxman says:

    An interesting titbit about Mercenaries (1) is that it started as a modern take on the old Desert Strike games from EA. But EA didn’t like it so they cut Pandemic loose who re-worked the game and found a publisher through Lucasarts.

    Now Pandemic are part of EA with a big hit that EA canned in the the first place, though to be fair to EA no-one knows what the original Merc game was like when it was probably shown to them so they could have had good reason to can it.

    Also Merc 2 showing on the PC isn’t too surprising as they are with EA now, Lucasarts is no longer the same PC gaming company it was during it’s golden years (in fact I doubt anyone from back then is still even there) it is a company that is very much focused on consoles only as a means to turn around the business.

  18. Man Raised By Puffins says:

    I kind of put myself off Mercenaries by watching the early WIP, which had awful pop-up and some twitchy scenery destruction. It’s also not helped by there not apearing to be much in the way of narrative; just having ‘splodes isn’t really enough for me in these large sand-box games. Crackdown just about got away with it by allowing you to scale the heights, but it was always let down by the plot being tissue-thin to non-existent and missions being simply “go here, kill this guy”.

    Hopefully there’s a demo I can have a crack at to see if I’m not writing it off too much, but I have a feeling my sandbox needs will be amply catered for by GTA4.

    Note to developers; Think up more game names. I’m useless.

    To be fair I had to wiki Pandemic (who will now forever remind of ‘The Wire’ each time I hear their name) to find the name, I know the game but I just drew a complete blank as to what it was called.

  19. Mouj says:

    Battlezone was sure something fun; indeed a little special and not that easy to pick up, but i was loving it’s immersive ambiance and gameplay..

  20. malkav11 says:

    There really wasn’t a whole lot of plot in Mercenaries, no. I felt this was more than made up for by the gameplay, but you may feel differently.

  21. realmenhuntinpacks says:

    i enjoyed the first one, but it had this weird lonely feel to it. Seemed a bit empty. Atmospheric issues.

  22. Lacero says:

    KG: oops, sorry! I got carried away by the heady atmosphere of correction.

  23. Kieron Gillen says:

    No worries, man. Just there are errors and errrors, if you see what I mean.


  24. Nick says:

    The Battlefield/front/zone ones added to the article, I feel. Well, only because you left them there all crossed out, but still, made it more entertaining.

    Or maybe I’m just strange.

    I wonder how many games there have been with a Battlexxxx title.

  25. Kieron Gillen says:

    RPS: Turning incompetence into comedy since 1997.


  26. JakethePirate says:

    I’d just like to say those people are very ugly. Otherwise, asplosions are good I suppose.

  27. Lord Of The Rings: Conquest | Rock, Paper, Shotgun says:

    […] details and screens after the jump. Pandemic, who are also hard at work on the excellent-looking Mercenaries 2, will be in charge of turning LOTR into a multiplayer battle game, and therefore face the eternal […]

  28. Fumarole says:

    Have you guys gotten around to playing this yet? I’m on the fence about buying it.

  29. Quinnbeast says:

    I’m really looking forward to the new Starfield: Battle Wars game.