Considering that I found most of what I saw on the PlayStation 3 to be somewhat underwhelming (Metal Gear Solid 4 trailer excepted – Konami's latest MGS looks totally amazing), it came as a pleasant surprise when I hooked up with Cameron Brown from Pandemic Studios for a private showing of Mercenaries 2: World in Flames. Having been a big fan of one of Pandemic’s previous hits, Destroy All Humans, I was keen to see what these guys could accomplish with Sony’s new hardware.
Mercenaries 2 sits between two genres. It’s partly a sandbox kind of game, with free roaming, main objectives and sub-plots, but it’s also a pretty hardcore third person action game. I’m usually wary of titles that try to mix genres, but Pandemic really seems to have pulled it off with Mercenaries 2 – it feels free roaming like the GTA series, but once the action kicks off it looks like it can compete with any third person shooter (Gears of War aside).
What stuck me instantly was how good the game looked, despite being at a pretty early development stage. Set in Venezuela you’re treated to some varied terrain – there’s barren desert, lush vegetation, towns, villages, industrial areas and even air and water environments. The lighting effects looked great, and Pandemic has made good use of the Havok physics engine for the game’s main objective – blowing stuff up! You can destroy pretty much everything in the Mercenaries 2 world, and have a lot of fun doing it.
Pandemic has also implemented some impressive fluid dynamics into the engine – shoot an oil tanker and oil will flow out and follow the contours of the land, throw a match into that oil and it will catch fire, with the fire flowing like liquid. Cameron told me that there’s a lot more to be done with the fluid dynamics model – perhaps I will finally see a game where water makes things wet, let’s hope so.
Being a Mercenary, you’ll take a job from anyone – one minute you might be working for rebels trying to destroy an oil company, the next you could be working for the oil company, taking out the rebels. Ultimately, it’s all about the money.