If you can see it, you can probably blow it up.
Now, lots of you out there will have enjoyed the Grand Theft Auto series of games, and will no doubt be reading this review as there have been some rumors out there that Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction has a very similar feel to it, aside from the fact that it's based in a warzone instead of a drug-riddled neighbourhood.
Well, it's pretty safe to say that those rumors are true.
Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction, by Aussie developers Pandemic, who are also responsible for creating the Destroy All Humans! game (and the sequel, which I reviewed.), is one fine addition to anyone's gaming collection, especially GTA junkies.
The game is rather straightforward. You play as one of three mercenaries, whose job is to earn some cash by taking down the baddies. You are dropped into North Korea, which has turned into a battlezone because of one man called General Song. He has been creating some rather nasty missiles and the entire world is trying to stop him from launching them. After some fruitless campaigns, the Allied Nations (the games version of the UN.) have released information on bounties they've placed on some of Song's best men, which they've called the Deck of 52. Each member of the deck is allocated a card from a standard pack of cards, with Song himself taking the Ace of Spades, and also having a $100 million bounty on him. Your job in Korea is to capture or kill as many of the Deck of 52 as you can, and work your way up to getting Song.
With that in mind, you'll need some big firepower to take on Song's army single-handedly. Fortunately, the game has plenty of guns for you to deal out some hired justice with, from your standard M4 and AK-47s to your anti-tank missiles and your C4, you'll find something that you'll love. However, you can only carry two guns at once, not including grenades or C4, so you must choose your guns wisely. I personally carry a M4 and RPG.
Just in case you do need something a little bigger, you can always 'borrow' some vehicles from the locals. You can drive (or fly) almost anything, from a civy car to a North Korean tank and even an A.N. Apache! Bear in mind, though, that all vehicles that have weapons do not have infinite ammo, so watch those missile counts.
Because you'll be needing them for missions. There are 5 factions based in North Korea at the time you're sent in; The Allied Nations, the Chinese, the South Koreans, the Russian Mafia and the North Koreans. All these factions, barring the North Koreans, will be offering you missions, with both money and intel on the Deck of 52 used as payment. These missions usually involve lots of explosions and bullets to the skull, which means you'll constantly be challenged throughout your time spent playing. Sometimes, you'll even get a chance to go after one of the higher Deck of 52 members while on a mission. Be warned though that sometimes these missions will strike against one of the other, non-NK factions.
Which brings me to the Alleigance meters. Each faction, bar the NKs, has an Alliegance meter. Doing missions for the faction or killing NKs in front of faction members will bring this meter up towards the Friendly side, while doing missions against the faction, or killing their faction members in front of some of their other faction members will bring the meter down towards Hostile. Hostile factions will shoot at you on site, while Friendly ones will assist you in fighting the NKs. If you do find yourself with too many enemies, however, you can pay off the faction guards at their HQ in order to get into their 'Do not kill' books. You won't get back into their good graces, but it's a start. You can also improve your Alliegance with a faction with certain acts, for example the Russian Mafia run a chop-shop near their HQ. Giving them some vehicles will earn you cash and improve your Alliegance.
Cash you can spend on a 'helping hand' or two. Using the Merchant of Menace, which is run by the Russian Mafia, you can purchase vehicles, supplies or even air strikes in order to help you finish your objectives. Progressing further in the game unlocks more of these as you go along. Note, though, that the supplies and vehicles are delivered by air, so you may need to clear out some hostile AA before you can use it.
Then you can watch the satisfying explosion. Mercenaries offers some of the best looking explosions I've ever seen in a video game. Not only that, but the fire effects are truly a beauty to behold. They look so good, you'll find yourself blowing things up mindlessly just so you can see them again.
And hear them. This game has a truly spectacular sounds within. You'll be able to recognise each gun by the sound of the firing, and the music is one that wouldn't be out of place in a high budget feature film. Considering that LucasArts had a hand in the creation of Mercenaries, I wouldn't expect anything less.
Now, there are some flaws in this otherwise spectacular game. For one, you cannot fly jets or pilot boats, although this is more of a casual nuisance instead of a nagging fault. Another issue is that vehicles wreck in exactly the same way each time. Considering how much explosions you're going to create, this is one very evident flaw.
But it doesn't matter, as this game is some wicked fun indeed. Be it when you're rolling through a platoon of infantry as a giant tank, watching the bullets richochet off your armor or firing missiles from a Mafia helicopter, causing one mess they won't be able to fix in a hurry, you're going to enjoy this game.