LucasArts has had some pretty solid efforts when it comes to non-STAR WARS games in recent years. Ranging from ARMED AND DANGEROUS to GLADIUS to SECRET WEAPONS OVER NORMANDY, these games have even eclipsed the STAR WARS games at times as far as playability. MERCENARIES continues this great line of original content from the House that Lucas built, and is the first true surprise of 2005.
In MERCENARIES gamers play as one of three mercenaries working in warzone Korea on behalf of the Allied Nations, North Koreans, Russian Mafia and/or Chinese. Gamers can pick one of three characters, the warrior, the covert agent and the agile sniper. The missions don't change based on who you pick, but how you play the game just might.
Your main objective in the game is to capture the "Deck of 52," essentially the fifty-two most wanted terrorists in the warzone. You'll uncover missions to collect these characters as you play the game as well as plenty of other missions in the Korean landscape.
You are given a lot of freedom and in many ways MERCENARIES is a sandbox game much like GRAND THEFT AUTO. You can grab vehicles, explore, and do side quests to get more money in the game. Who you work for and accept missions from affects how the other groups in the game see you.
The actual gameplay itself is as fun as exploring the countryside. Besides driving around the plethora of vehicles in the game, there is plenty of fun gunplay as well. The control for that part of the game is excellent and feels fluid as you strafe around shooting hostile units. Melee combat is also a heavy feature and is simple and fun as well. There is nothing more satisfying than fighting your way through a horde of bad guys just in time to beat the crap out of the terrorist leader with your fists in order to ensure the live bounty.
Getting a live bounty out of the warzone requires you to use one of your special moves which involves calling in a helicopter to pick up the prisoner. Other special moves include the ability to call in an air strike on an enemy position, building or artillery. Quite frankly, this is so cool that it's almost worth playing the game because of it.
From a visuals point of view the game looks pretty darn good. The Korean countryside is rendered very well, even on the PlayStation 2. While there are minor fog, draw-in and effects details that don't look quite as polished as they could, overall the game does look really good. The sound is excellent as well. Top-notch voice acting combined with a good score and a great set of sound effects completely immerse you in the war atmosphere.
I don't know that anyone expected MERCENARIES to turn out quite as well as it did. If nothing else, MERCENARIES is just a lot of fun to play, in how many games can you blow up any building you like? The sandbox nature and tight, polished gameplay make this one of the first games in 2005 you should play.