Mercenaries is set in the near future and inspired by actual events. You take on the role of one of three mercenaries that work for a company called Executive Operations (ExOps). The first one is Chris Jacobs, who has been with the company for five years. The next one is Jennifer Mui, who has been with ExOps for seven years running. Mattias Nilsson, the third mercenary, is new to the job, but no one doubts his skills. Upon choosing a mercenary, you proceed to blast the heck out of everything you run across from a third person perspective.
After choosing your Merc, youíre put right into the game, on your way to Korea. Following a rough landing in your armored car, you drive off towards enemy blockades, heading for the Allies base. When you reach the destination, you are given a mission to catch one of the Ďcardsí. There are 52 men on the most wanted list. With the list modeled after a deck of cards, you start to find the wanted criminals in each set, suit by suit, making your way up to the aces. The ultimate goal might be to Ďcatch them allí, but there are no yellow rodents running around, piping up, "Pika, pika!"
Now, the most appealing thing about Mercenaries is that you donít necessarily have to do anything. You can just run around for hours on end, shooting up North Koreans with their own guns, running them down with their own cars, and blowing things up with whatever explosives you happen to find, whether it be grenades or the nifty C4 bombs. (Which explode rather nicely.) The environments are massive, thereís much to explore and all kinds of bonuses to find, hidden behind rocks, buildings, or even restricted territory.
If you want to do missions, there are four factions you can play under. Keep in mind, that these factions hardly ever work with each other. In fact under the covers they often try to undermine the efforts one another. They even occasionally engage in open conflict. Thereís the Allies, your basic military do-gooders. Thereís the Chinese, a respectable, powerful army, but they are not trustworthy. They will happily blame things on you to clear their own names. South Korea, the third faction, is busy fighting its Northern half, and is desperate to heal its broken country. And the final faction is the Russian Mob. Whether or not it is ethical to work for them is beside the point. Cash is cash, isnít it? Youíre a Merc, after all.
The factions and the missions are not all there is to the game. In Mercenaries, if you can see it, you can hijack it, drive it, crash it, and blow it up. There are cars, jeeps, trucks, tanks and helicopters. There is also a multitude of guns you can choose. The selection of guns includes sub-machineguns, automatic rifles, shotguns, silenced weapons, sniper rifles, and explosives such as grenades, C4, and RPGís ("Rocket" Propelled Grenades). Theyíre just lying around in enemy camps, waiting for you. Of course the North Koreans didnít expect you to sneak up and grab that RPG while they werenít looking... And, once you get on the Mafiaís good side, theyíll give you access to their website, and you can just order the weapons. They even deliver promptly.
Everything is at a whim. The environments are also non-scripted, so itís up to you how you want to get things done. Explosives? Recon? Call in an air-strike, wipe them all out? Itís all up to you, your reputation and morals... and your thickening wad of cash.
The graphics are rather appealing. The character models are very slick. As far as vehicles are concerned, thereís a lot of attention to detail, and they are very accurate.
Texturing on everything is good and believable. The weather effects add a nice touch to the game. For instance, you take a nice stroll on the countryside, and then things get a little bit dark. A flash of lightning, boom of thunder, it starts to rain. Afterwards, it may be foggy. My favorite effect though is explosions. Nothing satisfies me more than making things go boom, start fires everywhere and get debris landing all over the place. When buildings explode, from a distance they fall down and collapse rather believably.
Overall, Mercenaries gets high marks for keeping the graphics where they donít burn ones eyes after staring at them for hours, while still keeping the rest of the game full and exciting.
Maybe itís just me, but I love it when things go "BOOM". And that sound effect is pretty accurate, down to the car coming down from 50 ft in the air, landing on the ground and bouncing a few times before settling. There are tons of sound effects, from gun fire to things breaking and falling, all sorts of aircraft noises, bombs dropping, exploding, people shouting out in different languages. And, of course, the often amusing quips and quotes from your Merc, like that time when I ran out of ammo... Jenn clearly made a face in her annoyance at being shot at (at least in my imagination) and said, "I can throw my shoe at him, if you want."
The music sets the scene so well that, sometimes I had to stop myself and listen for it. Tracks zip from ambient noise to combat music in the midst of gun fire. Different music is used for different situations, carefully orchestrated to set the mood. The menu music, though I will say well done, gets repetitive, and if I leave my couch for a time, I always make sure to turn down the audio for a while.
Mercenaries is a very addictive game and it is not hard to get hooked on it very quickly. Iíve found it to be a very enjoyable experience for any kind of player, hardcore or casual. Aside from a few minor things with some of the physics, itís an overall good game.