Imagine a game with a huge, open world filled with dozens of unique vehicles and attacks that lets you wreak destruction whenever and wherever you choose. Now, toss in game-crippling bugs, brain-dead AI, unsatisfying gunplay, a lousy story, and repetitive missions. That's Mercenaries 2: World in Flames. Mindlessly causing chaos can be enjoyable in short bursts, but beyond those all-too-infrequent bits of fun, Mercenaries 2 is a dud.
You play as one of three mercenaries--all of whom have very similar storylines. The game follows your absurd quest for vengeance on a man who hired you to do a job but didn't pay. Mercs 2's story is bad (as is the voice acting), but it's ultimately inconsequential and all of the cutscenes can safely be skipped. The first few missions are designed to get you accustomed to the game's third-person-shooting action and extremely touchy vehicle controls. In the span of 30 minutes, you'll shoot several different weapons, toss grenades, and use C-4. You'll also drive cars and a tank as you secure what will eventually become your home base. After that, the first few contracts you take on are fun, but that's mostly because the gameplay mechanics are new and the thrill of destruction is still fresh.
There are some moments when it's fun to blow stuff up.
It's after the first hour or so that you'll start to notice something's amiss. For a game that's all about guns, actually firing one isn't terribly satisfying. Weapons feel weak, it's difficult to hit moving targets, and the damage the weapons cause is inconsistent. In fact, it's easier to hijack a tank or grapple onto a flying helicopter than it is to destroy one. Heavier weapons, such as rocket-propelled grenades, are great and can destroy almost anything they hit, but the amount of ammunition is so limited that you won't be able to use them often. Plus, it's tedious to have to go in a shop, purchase a weapon, go outside, call for the weapon, and then wait to pick it up. Why can't you just walk into a store and buy a gun?
The game's version of Venezuela is enormous, but its size is mostly a detriment. There's not a whole lot to do, so you'll be tempted to make your own fun by blowing up buildings and cars, as well as terrorizing towns in a tank. While this might be enticing (and fun for a short time), it's a bad idea if you're trying to actually make it to the end of the game. Not only are you penalized for harming civilians, but one stray bullet can anger an entire faction. Factions are your main source of income and can be essential to mission progress, but when a faction is angry with you, it will quit offering you work, as well as shoot you on sight. The large world also means that it takes forever to get from one place to the next. Roads wind aimlessly around the terrain; the map is blurry and hard to see; there's no GPS; random friendly soldiers will blow up your cars; and helicopters are frequently shot out of the sky by missiles that rarely miss. To make matters worse, when you're killed after hitting a checkpoint, you typically have to go back to your home base or the outpost where you got the mission and then travel all the way back to your target, even when you select the retry option.