What we have here is an open world third-person shooter set in Venezuela. The story is centred around a political oil plot and an unpaid mercenary who wants their money. Wants it quite badly, it would appear.

It’s refreshing to see a South American setting in a game that doesn’t focus solely on drugs as the reason your guy is killing their guys. However, that other political hot topic cliché, oil, is in its place. I guess global warming just doesn’t cut it as a plot device. It is a bit odd to think of the Venezuelans as baddies, being so used to playing against Nazis, Russians, Koreans, and aliens. Maybe I just don’t know anything about the place, and I’m not sure this game will give me an unbiased view of the country.

You initially choose a mercenary character from three options. One character heals faster, one moves faster, and one can carry more ammo. I chose the fast healing James Hetfield clone simply because he looked like the Metallica singer, and bogans and explosions are always a good mix. A brief cinematic sets up the story – total B-grade here – and away you go.

Unfortunately at this point my ears were forever destroyed by the worst use of an Australian accent in the history of gaming. You have to hear it to believe it, but I nearly turned the console off right there. She just won’t go away either, commenting on your radio, issuing instructions, and twanging every vowel as she goes. Mate.

However, once over the initial shock, I managed to drown her out with constant gunfire and explosions. Mercenaries 2 survives as a game, and as a game worth owning, on one major principle. When done well, blowing stuff up is just too damn fun. You get machine guns, hand guns, RPGs, grenades and even airstrikes.

The game shines at this. Just about everything explodes if you throw enough firepower at it. I’ve driven a tank through a shanty town, and I mean through. Walls and entire buildings have crumbled at my will, hedgerow mazes have been torched, soldiers and hitmen incinerated. Rambo-esque rampages are common and all part of the plan. The physics engine is certainly about excitement rather than realism, but for a game like this that’s exactly how it should be.

I first played this on PC and was unimpressed, but the game makes sense on a console, and the controls immediately felt right, a bit like the first time you play Grand Theft Auto IV. The over-the-top physics, the oddball vehicle handling and the spray and pray aiming all seem to fit. There’s still the odd bug, but console bugs always seem forgiveable, as often they lend to some very funny visuals. Seeing your character sitting in a driving position without a vehicle and zooming them around the map is a feature, not a flaw, right?

However, unlike Grand Theft Auto, you'll need less brains and more brawn if you want to succeed. There are no girlfriends to keep happy, no cousin wanting to go bowling every ten minutes; just things to destroy, and people to kill. You get missions to complete, but the world is still a sandbox. If you get bored you can drive into town and terrorise other mercenaries - perhaps hijack a motorbike, and try out some stunts. Or take a boat for a spin.

Another interesting feature of Mercenaries 2 is the multiplayer. Aside from the usual game types you can do two-player co-op, which is a lot of fun. However only the host's single player missions are completed, with the guest player merely receiving monetary rewards.

You can set the multiplayer options to allow invited friends or even random players to drop in to join you in your missions. Of course random players means you often get someone that steals every vehicle and kills everything before you do. And they can drop in on any single player game at any time when this option is enabled, which can be quite frustrating.

The graphics aren’t too bad, indeed they're perfectly fine for this sort of game. They do come off a little less polished or flash than some of the latest graphical powerhouse games, but then the same statement could be levelled at a multitude of new titles out there. The game type and world size will always have an effect on the quality of the individual models, and on overall polygon counts.

Achievement points come readily in the Xbox 360 version of the title. I had 100 points by the end of the second level, so if you are gamer score focused, this is a good title for you.

Mercenaries 2 is a great console game. If you like sandbox games, or explosions, or the original Mercenaries, it’s definitely worth your time.


Mercenaries 2 is available as a playable demo from Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network. We've also mirrored the PC demo and a bunch of trailers over at GP Downloads.