Imagine a game with a huge, open world filled with dozens of unique vehicles and attacks that let you cause 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, and online co-op play spices things up a bit, but beyond those all-too infrequent bits of fun, Mercenaries 2 is a dud.
There are certainly moments when it's fun to blow stuff up.
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 and 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. In the span of 30 minutes you'll shoot several different weapons, use grenades and C4, and drive cars, boats, and jeeps 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.
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 they 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 (which, for some reason, you have to hit a button to pick up) 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 while technically impressive, 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 and terrorizing towns in a tank. While this might be enticing (and fun for a few hours), 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 they'll quit offering you work and shoot you on sight. The large world also means that unless you're in a position to use the instant transport option, it takes forever to get from one place to the next. Roads wind aimlessly around the terrain; the GPS often gives bad directions; 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.
You'll eventually acquire the services of a mechanic, a helicopter pilot, and a jet pilot. The helicopter pilot is useful; he'll drop off supplies and transport you where you need to go as well as pick up the money and fuel needed for airstrikes. The jet pilot, who is a stereotypical drunk Russian, drops bombs whenever you call in an airstrike. It's too bad that airstrikes are of limited value, because you often can't get close enough or avoid being shot long enough to line up the target. There always seems to be something you're supposed to protect or something stopping you from transmitting--it's just easier to go in and shoot everyone. The mechanic is just plain worthless. She's supposed to use junk that you find hidden in boxes throughout the world, but unless you actively search for them, you're not likely to find many, and she won't provide anything more than the car she had when you teamed up with her.
It only takes one punch to kill someone.