Mercenaries 2 purports to give you all sorts of freedom when it comes to how you exact your revenge, but in reality, your choices are few. Yes, there are different factions and groups spread out across the map, but typically only one of them has a contract that will help advance the storyline, and you can get nearly to the end of the game before having to pick one side over another. Most of the contracts require you to take over an outpost for a faction, and when the game does give you the chance to do something else it's limited to annoying escort missions or out-of-place racing challenges. Each faction has a set of high value targets (HVT). You can earn cash by capturing or killing and then photographing these targets. This is interesting the first few times, but the money you make for bagging someone isn't worth the hassle. Factions get mad when you take out their people, and friendly soldiers will often kill the guy you're trying to extract alive. Capturing outposts is extremely repetitive. While the size and shape of the bases may vary slightly, the way you attack them is the same: Kill everyone inside and call in a landing crew. This can be mildly amusing for a short time, but the fun quickly grinds to a halt as the game's bevy of bugs and problems make themselves apparent. Enemy AI is horrific. If you're injured you can just run behind a building to regenerate--soldiers won't make much of an effort to find you. They won't even go to great lengths to shoot you if you're right next to them, often standing there oblivious to your shooting them. When you have to destroy a specific piece of equipment or vehicle, sometimes the easiest thing to do is stand next to or get inside of it and let the bad guys blow up the very thing they're supposed to be protecting.
The problems just keep on coming. Helicopters will vanish with you in them; turrets will float in midair; people you're supposed to rescue will drown themselves or run face-first into the helicopter rather than get in; and allies will shoot at you for no reason. Combat falls flat because shooting guys takes longer and is more difficult than simply running up to them and killing them with one punch; helicopters will often drop off support troops on rooftops, where they'll either get stuck or plunge to their deaths. Enemy soldiers respawn in gun towers even after you've taken over an outpost; they can shoot through walls and often appear out of thin air, too. Civilians will run right in front of you when you drive, costing you 5 grand each time you hit them; your helicopter pilot will sometimes fail to show up, or will drop your cargo where you can't get to it. You might even be unlucky enough to have the game crash during a load screen; or to be told that you're dead when you clearly have health left, forcing you to restart. You might even lose progress due to a save game failing. The list of bugs and problems really is staggering.
Really, the only fun to be had with Mercenaries 2 is in playing cooperatively with a friend online. You can chat back and forth during long helicopter flights, revive the other person when they're killed by an unseen foe, and put your heads together to creatively tackle obstacles. But even co-op has caveats. If either person gets killed, he or she has to be revived before the timer runs out or else the game will end--a problem when the other person is far away or in the middle of a long hijacking animation. Your buddies can also cause you a lot of grief if they anger factions or kill civilians, leaving you with a big mess to clean up. There are even more bugs than usual when playing online, which is no small feat given the problems evident during the single-player campaign. And lastly, co-op play makes the game (which, cheap deaths aside, is pretty easy) even easier.
The graphics have their ups and downs.
Mercenaries 2's visuals are inconsistent. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game are mostly similar, but the PS3 has some ugly aliasing problems. The vehicles look good, and there are a lot of them. Some areas are very attractive, and the varied terrain (cliffs, rivers, rolling hills) enhances the gameplay and will change the way you attack a target. The game's bread and butter--its explosions--are generally disappointing. Some of them look fantastic, but it's jarring how one animation transitions to the next when something blows up. There aren't many different buildings to destroy, either, so you end up seeing the same explosions and over again. While you can typically see far off in the distance, what you see isn't very detailed. This isn't a huge problem when you're standing still or on the ground, but when you're in a moving helicopter, the draw-in is obvious to the point of distraction. Clipping, hideously blurry backgrounds in cutscenes, repetitive buildings, enemies that all look alike (right down to the same terrible animation when they get shot), and a drab color palette round out the package.
Mercenaries 2 is filled with bugs and glitches that are unacceptable in a retail release. Even if it were possible to overlook the broken elements, you're still left with abysmal AI, repetitive mission structure, unsatisfying weapons, and a huge world without much to do. Mindless, random destruction provides some thrills, but there are so many better open-world action games out there (including the original Mercenaries for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox) that there's no reason to spend your time and money on this clearly unfinished game.