Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Mercenaries Playground of Destruction (Original Xbox) Review

Mercenaries: Playground Of Destruction is an action game developed by Pandemic and published by LucasArts in 2005 for the Microsoft Xbox and PlayStation 2. This game is backwards compatible with the Xbox One and was released for free in December 2018 as one of Microsoft's Games With Gold program.

I have to start out with I absolutely love this game! Besides KOTOR, I played this game the most out of all of the Original Xbox games I had. This is one of the many open world games that came out after Grand Theft Auto 3 but surprisingly this turned out to be a great game.

The main plot of this game is that North Korea's General Song kills both the North and South Korean Leaders and takes over North Korea with the goal of obtaining nuclear bombs and use them against his enemies. You play as a mercenary that is sent into North Korea with the goal of aiding other countries and organizations to stop Song and his soldiers and retake North Korea.

The basic layout is there are a card deck of 52 baddies that you need to capture or kill on your way up to eventually removing General Song. In game you'll run missions for the Allied Nations, the Chinese, South Korea, and the Russian Mafia. Running missions for these different factions earns you money and they give you locations where the different cards are hiding. 

Once you've captured or killed enough North Koreans and gathered enough intelligence you'll unlock the mission to kill the Ace of whatever suit you're working on. The Ace battle is an instanced area meaning you won't find an Ace anywhere in the map. After capturing or killing the other Ace cards you'll unlock the Ace of Spades which is General Song.

"I was stranded in the combat zone!"

The game is a third person shooter where you can capture any vehicle you find including tanks and helicopters. After completing some missions you'll unlock the ability to call in support, that is if you can afford it. As you progress through the game you'll unlock gear that you can purchase. You can get supplies sent to you, vehicles, and artillery. You pay for what you want, throw smoke down if it's something being delivered, or you mark the spot where you want the artillery to attack.

Vehicle inbound 

The missions you accept sometimes will be against one of the four factions instead of the North Koreans. Each faction has a like/dislike bar which goes up when you do something for them and goes down when you attack them. Once your standing with a group gets too low they will attack you on site and you'll need to bribe your faction contact before they will give you missions again. If your standing is very bad it can be costly to get them back on your side.

This game looks great for its time and I would say it's pretty close looking to the early Xbox 360 games. The sound effects on the other hand arent' the greatest particularly the bullet sounds which are plain weird. It's too bad, since LucasArts published this game, that they couldn't have used the Indiana Jones gun sound effects.

The best part is everything is destructible in the game, even the big buildings. You won't be able to destroy large buildings with an RPG but call in an artillery strike and say goodbye.

Through your travels you can stop and destroy huge Saddam Hussein like statues and blow them up, or digging around the map and you'll come across things like nuclear material that you can grab for extra money. Out of all the fun you can have in the game my favorite is to take a car, attach some C4 to it, drive at the enemy and dive out of the car and when it gets to the target you trigger the C4 and watch everything burn. 

Radioactive Material
The biggest issue I've come across when playing this game is the vehicle physics. Driving vehicles feels wonky as hell. First off the controls are weird compared to what we are use to now but you will adapt fairly easily. When you fly around town and hit a small street sign your vehicle behaves like you just hit a wall and sends you flying almost like how it would act if you were driving on the moon.

Also the fog of war, particularly when flying, is really bad. N64 bad. It's made worse by the fact that if you fly too low you'll be shot at by anti aircraft so you go high and the world turns into a reddish never ending fog. At least the helicopters fly pretty well, at least compared to ground vehicles.

In the end Mercenaries is a great game that I think holds up pretty well. The game starts out easy and ramps up the challenge in a satisfying way. You can go in guns blazing or go stealthy and snipe your target from a far away safe position, it's all up to you how you'd like to proceed. If you're looking for an open world sandbox game that is lots of fun then this is the game for you. I give Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction a 10 out of 10.

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