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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.

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Kieron Gillen


Kieron Gillen is robo-crazy.