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Pandemic Studios



M (Mature)



January 2005



- Wide-open environment
- Lots of stuff to blow up real good
- Great selection of weapons, vehicles and airstrikes
- Stirring soundtrack



- Easy to get stuck in the environment
- Strange accents
- Some frustrating restrictions



Review: Grand Theft Auto - Double Pack (XB)

Review: Armed and Dangerous (XB)

Interview: Mercenaries Q&A



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Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction

Score: 8.9 / 10


mercenaries xbox review          mercenaries xbox review


North Korea fascinates me. Although I know very little about the place and its brutal Communist regime it still fascinates me that such a place can still exist. I suppose its continued existence mostly boils down to Western countries providing economic aid to appease the nuclear ravings of Kim Jong Il in the hopes they’ll plant the seeds of democracy (i.e. capitalism) with some cash.

And that’s what Mercenaries is all about. No, not democracy to a downtrodden people. Cash. And plenty of it!

On the dawning of democracy in North Korea, the threat of nuclear war is suddenly very really and the two Koreas find themselves in an uproar as military and gang forces try to carve out a piece of the Korean pie. But you’re not there as peacemaker or even to snag some power, you’re there as a member of ExOps




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trying to earn the bounties on the members of the Deck of 52, with the ultimate $100,000,000.00 bounty on the head baddie up for grabs. To collect the Deck of 52 you assume the role of either Mattias Nilsson, Jennifer Mui, or Chris Jacobs as a one-person army. (As an added bonus you can also unlock Indiana Jones as a playable character.) You’re dropped into a massive theater of operations where just about


everything can be blown up or destroyed provided you have the right equipment.

And, boy, what equipment!

Besides the assortment of weapons – from RPGs to sniper rifles to surface-to-air missile launchers – Mercenaries packs in a ton of vehicles, most of which can be driven or piloted directly. Then there are numerous indirectly controlled “vehicles” like surgical airstrikes, which can level entire city blocks.

Giving you access to this capability as well as supply and vehicle air-drops is the Merchant of Menace website, which will deliver practically anything anywhere – for a price. Sometimes at an incredible price. This is where the wanton destruction and contracts come into play.

Scattered around the map are one-off contracts and challenges, like driving from Point A to B in under 2:00 minutes or pushing a barrel 50 meters before time runs down for small cash bonuses. (Also, obliterating any North Korean hardware also results in a hit of cash.) The big money is found with the various factions in the area. Often during the course of a mission you’ll encounter a card from the Deck of 52, which means even bigger money. (Sometimes those cards just pop up between contracts or intel is provided by ExOps HQ to direct you to the right area.) Mission variety is good. You’ll be contracted to “paint” targets so an aerial strike can be launched, recover friendly agents, pilot a helicopter to retrieve some cargo, or take to the hills and snipe at North Korean troops (and many more). Just like Grand Theft Auto – you knew that comparison was coming – how you approach a contract is entirely up to you just as long as you complete the contract. Order a civilian car and scout out the area or smash a fully-loaded troop transport into a roadblock and watch the mayhem ensue. It’s all up to your personal style. Be warned that your actions will affect your standing with the various factions. Fall into too much disfavor and faction members will shoot on sight. Keeping everyone on your good side is tough if not impossible – fortunately, you can always get yourself back in the good books with a large “donation.”

Be prepared to encounter Mercenaries idiosyncrasies as you enjoy the action.


mercenaries xbox review         mercenaries xbox review

My biggest complaint is that the extraction helicopter that picks up captured members of the Deck of 52 can only be loaded on the left side of the craft even though both sides are open. So instead of potentially being able to use the copter as cover you have to expose yourself to attack. My other big gripe is that it’s very easy to get stuck in certain places. It’s aggravated by the fact most of these areas are cloaked in trees so if there is a way out you can’t see it. At these times you have no choice but to quit and reload (and curse loudly if it has been awhile since you saved your game.) One other thing. I don’t know if it’s just my copy of Mercenaries but I experienced an inordinate number of “dirty disc” messages that would crash the game or “reconnect your controller” messages that were altogether distracting. (The disc is mint, my controller is practically new, and I haven’t seen these “flutters” with any other game.)

Much praise should be heaped on Mercenaries composer Michael Giacchino. It’s not often a game soundtrack can heighten the tension the way this orchestrated soundtrack does. And there’s not a licensed track to be heard – it’s all original. Accompanying the music is some terrific effects and voice performances, except for Nilsson who has no Finnish accent though he was born and bred in Finland.

Mercenaries really does live up to its subtitle – it’s a playground of destruction out there and it’s fun. Highly recommended for action fans.

- Omni
(March 3, 2005)


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