As you play through the game you'll eventually unlock some friends, including a mechanic, a helicopter pilot, and a jet pilot. It's these three unlockables that are among the most useful. For example, the helicopter pilot can drop of supplies and vehicles no matter where you are. The jet pilot can be summoned to drop and air strike, but you rarely get to do this in the course of the single-player campaign. On the other hand is the mechanic, which is completely pointless. In theory you're supposed to find trash and hidden items that she can use to piece together interesting devices and vehicles. But it's not worth looking around for the trash and she rarely gives you anything worthwhile.
When you first get to Venezuela it looks like you have a lot of freedom to move around, but that just is not the case in Mercenaries 2. Sure you can go where ever you want, but there's nothing for you to do or see. The country is covered with a number of different factions, each with their own set of missions. The problem is that most of these missions are nothing more than you going to a spot on the map, killing as many people as you can and then bringing your team in to secure it for that faction. And when you're not doing that you're wasting to on lame escort missions, assassination missions and racing mini-games. Even worse is that you'll do these missions over and over again.
Perhaps the biggest insult is when the game suggests that you can beat these missions in a number of different ways. The truth is that there aren't that many ways to complete a level, you're often limited to just going in guns blazing. You can bring a vehicle or take to the air in some instances, but it's not as wildly varied as Pandemic would have you believe. I suspect that this accounts for a lot of my frustration with the game; I found that as I played through the game I felt like I was just doing the same things time and time again.
When it came right down to it I found that the only fun I was having with this game was blowing up buildings. I didn't care that most of the buildings are repeated dozens of times throughout the game, there's something cool about blowing stuff up. The problem here is that when you blow stuff up it annoys the factions that surround it. So if you want to get to the end of the game you basically have to be a nice guy. Even if you choose to be bad (forsaking the campaign altogether) you're still going to get bored of blowing up the same building over and over. With such a promising premise it's a shame that Pandemic couldn't come up with a more compelling story.
Unfortunately I haven't even gotten to the biggest problem yet. Believe it or not, the bugs in this game are even worse than the repetitive missions and ugly graphics. How bad are they? Have you ever been flying a helicopter and had it disappear on you? Have you ever run your car right through a building? Have you ever had the people you're trying to save drown themselves? The game is riddled with some of the worst gameplay bugs I have seen all year. And that's when the game is running smoothly. My brand new Xbox 360 froze several times while playing the game, a problem that a number of other people are having with this title.
If you're looking for something positive about Mercenaries 2 it's that it does offer online support for co-op play. I'll confess, this is probably the best way to play through the game. However, even with another player I couldn't get over the repetition. Eventually you just want to run around and have some fun, but when you do that it just annoys everybody else and then all hell breaks loose. In short, this is one game that doesn't want you to have a good time.
The truth is I could keep going about all of the things that are broken and annoying about Mercenaries 2. At this point I have barely mentioned the awful graphics, the groan inducing story and the terrible, terrible music. But this isn't about piling on, because deep down I really wanted this game to be good. I can't believe that after all these years this is the Mercenaries 2 that Pandemic delivered. This isn't the worst game of the year by any stretch of the imagination, but it is the most disappointing.
What has Pandemic done to Mercenaries 2? When it was first announced it looked like the next-gen game to beat. However what we have here is one ugly game with more than its fair share of flaws. Worse yet, it's almost impossible to play with all of the bugs and weird design decisions. This is definitely not the Mercenaries 2 you were asking for!
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