Shot through the ass, and you’re to blame.
One of the most promising aspects of EA’s forthcoming Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, beyond the sheer sandbox freedom at its core, is the whole ‘tone’ of the game. It’s at once satisfyingly visceral and cartoonishly over-the-top. Even the story’s motive-to-vengeance for our three colorful mercenary heroes has a sort of comedic violence at its heart.
Sure, the lure of high-value-target bounty money, the nerve-wracking danger of blasting every which way amid competing paramilitary factions, and the betrayal of a sleazy Venezuelan ‘employer’ are already enough to send you on a destructive cross-country rampage. But the final, crowning insult—taking a single, parting-shot bullet in the buttocks while escaping from a double-crossing attempt on your life by said sleazy employer—well, in the words of Dubbya, that will not stand.
Players choose from one of three characters—Jennifer, the nimble, stealthy assassin; Chris, the heavy-ordnance badass; and Mattias, the skill-balanced-but-otherwise-borderline-psychopath (voiced fittingly enough by Peter Stormare—the creepy goon-of-few-words from Fargo, as well as Lucifer himself in Constantine). Mercenaries 2 follows in the great bootsteps of the free-roaming, sandbox-style hellraiser, and allows—nay, requires—that players get creative on the battlefield.
Whichever character you pick, you’ll play through the same basic core story - with small, humorous, protagonist-specific changes to the dialogue and character interaction in the cinematics. It’s an overarching tale of political-military conflict surrounding Venezeula’s oil reserves, with a liberal sprinkling of Clint Eastwood style play-one-side-against-the-other faction-juggling. There are definite primary missions to neutralize and/or collect bounty on high-value targets, but the opportunities for side-missions, extra profit and wholesale theft cash, property and loose weapons of mass destruction are legion.
According to EA’s Devin Bennett, the driving principle behind World in Flames goes something like this: Inquiring about the range of possible activities, the prospective player starts to ask “Can we--?” and the developer immediately interrupts and says, “Yes.”
Can you steal or hijack any of the vehicles in the game, including land and water aircraft? Yes. If you stumble across a neat piece of enemy equipment like a SAM launcher in the course of a mission, can you tag it with a smoke signal and have our chopper-pilot buddy cart the thing off for us to use later? Yes. Can you blow up any architectural structure, including really big seaside villas, downtown Caracas office-blocks, and hard-target military bases? Oh, hell yes.
Given the time, determination, and your sheer requisite bloody-mindedness, you could raze every single structure in the whole sprawling open game-world right down to the ground, all in the name of taking out the one luckless schlub you’re trying to eliminate. It might take a while (with just your one character, an assault rifle, an equipped heavy weapon and all the assorted grenades and C4 blocks you can carry), but you could do it… if you really wanted to make a point.
The missions, from what was seen thus far, are incredibly open to your personal style. There may be a high-value target protected on an island in the middle of a forest of SAM sites and AA guns patrolled by dozens of gun-toting goons and the occasional piece of heavy armor. But how you get your vengeful hands around the neck of high-value target is completely up to you.
Maybe you’ll steal an unattended jet-ski from the shore on the other side of the bay, circumnavigate the island until you find an undefended stretch of beach, and try to sneak up to the tree line of the enemy’s camp with a sniper rifle in your hands and evil on your mind. Maybe you’ll lurk on the fringes of the enemy’s patrol circuit, wait for a jeep, snipe the driver and gunner out of their seats, and then use the rear-mounted 50-cal to show your disdain for any reinforcements.
Or maybe you’ll hijack one of the enemy’s tanks and roll brazenly into their base—for a short stretch of minutes that’s marked off by a decreasing timer bar. The enemy won’t even realize there’s an unfriendly solider in their midst… at least until you open fire at point-blank range.
And if even that’s just too subtle for you, there’s what I personally find the most impressive, satisfying, disproportionate-response strategy: Standing back at a respectful distance (presumably puffing away on some sketchy brand of South American stogie or other) and calling in a surgical laser-guided missile strike (or some hellish air-fuel bomb, or even a tactical nuke, if you’re really feeling pissy that day). Then watch as it blasts the entire square mile of the enemy’s installation to high-heaven smithereens, while you fire your more precise ranged weapons to pick off any survivors that might come staggering out of the smoking rubble. I’m getting a warmongering sort of halfie right now just thinking about it.
World in Flames will also offer co-op multiplayer, which allows other players to seamlessly drop in and out of the game, as many times (and at any point in the campaign) as desired, without interrupting the experience of the other players. The game is slated to ship at the end of August, in time to coincide with the coronary that Venezuelan Wingnut-in-Chief Hugo Chavez is heading towards, as he is currently having a fit over the setting and subject matter of this game. His administration apparently thinks it is a joint venture of the developer and the United States government to encourage future attacks on Venezuela. Suck it, Rockstar — now that is pre-release hype!
We’ll report back with a full review—unless our entire editorial staff suddenly meets with some sort of ‘accident’-for-hire in the meantime. Monitor this frequency for full intel.