They teach it everywhere in schools: one plus one equals two, at least in the decimal base (I wouldn’t want programmers to hang me for wide generalizations). So, when talking about the games we love most, one plus one, again, should equal two according to common sense. Unfortunately, sometimes game designers choose to defy the logic of math. And disappoint the huge numbers of fans that are craving for quiet, if not great, sequels. Indeed, one plus one often becomes null. Or maybe the second title in a series is so different from the first that it succeeds in making the latter almost disappear. But let’s not slowly slide towards philosophy and rather come up with a real example.
When Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction first appeared on Playstation 2 and Xbox, critics described it as a Grand Theft Auto that upgraded gang wars and underground plans to national crises and military conflicts. Still, gamers that chose to ignore public-opinion and play Mercenaries would soon find out that the one man- one army sensation was unique to the title. Your mercenary was able to shape the fate of North Korea, and it got even better as everything resumed to who pays more. Three years have passed, and the same critics could now underline that it’s no mere coincidence that Mercenaries 2: World in Flames knocks on our hard drives soon after Grand Theft Auto 4. But Mercenaries 2 doesn’t steal away any of the flavor of the newest GTA title and instead seems to insist on its own personal “magic-formula”. Additionally, the gameplay is now almost arcade and new bugs have crawled in the background. And the PC version is source to even more problems.
Concerning other details, Mercenaries 2 tries to stick to the first title of the series, but ends up generating a bland game experience. As before, the player can choose one of the three characters that will have the challenging job of a mercenary. Each of these characters has both their own personality and a certain bonus to their abilities. Matias Nilsson, a Swedish biker wannabe with a Viking beard, has a faster health regeneration rate, while Cristopher Jacobs, the typical American soldier, can carry more ammunition. The character I enjoyed most was Jennifer Mui, a picky Chinese gal with a British accent and a keen obsession for money. She has a speed bonus that is totally useless because the game’s difficulty rarely makes it worth running away to survive.
In the first Mercenaries, each character could speak in a unique foreign language, besides English. This helped a lot when communicating with some of the factions in the game. Also, the missions you could carry out depended on the languages you could speak. In contrast, Mercenaries 2 makes the game experience almost identical for all characters. Besides some more or less spicy lines, everything is the same. You won’t even need to have different playing strategies for the three mercenaries. And this literally chops the replay value’s head off.
The plot of the game follows the same ideas behind the first title of the series, just that this time we’ve moved to more exotic places, like Venezuela. As if inspired by the War in Iraq, the developers have come up with a conflict based on the oil reserves of the above-mentioned country. This is coupled with the efforts of a prosperous businessman, Solano, to take over said country. He gives your mercenary a contract which consists in saving General Carmona, a war-time prisoner, from the hands of the so-called enemy. Once you succeed, Solano will use the General to institute a dictatorial regime, which attracts the resistance of the different political factions of Venezuela. Your mercenary will get involved in the new born war too, but not for the hero reputation. His reasons are simple and are linked to Solano’s fatal mistake of refusing to pay for the last contract. From this point on, it is all about vengeance, and even the whole story dilutes into an irrelevant walk between places of interest. And unfortunately for the story, the cut-scenes are of a doubtful quality and don’t manage to enrich the game universe at all.