Mercenaries 2: World in Flames
Mercenaries 2: World in Flames is an action-adventure video game developed by Pandemic Studios and published by Electronic Arts. It is the sequel to 2005's Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction, and it was released in the United States on August 31, Europe on September 5, 2008 and November 20, 2008 in Japan. The game is a third-person shooter with an open world, set in a fictionalized war-torn Venezuela, following the story of a mercenary getting revenge on the man who betrayed him/her, while causing as much mayhem and destruction as possible.
Mercenaries 2: World in Flames is set in August 2010 in Venezuela. The story begins as the player approaches businessman Ramon Solano's villa. The player is greeted by a man named Blanco, who worked with the player in the past. In the meeting inside the villa, Solano hires the player to rescue a Venezuelan Army General Carmona who is being held prisoner in an old colonial fortress on an island off the coast by the Army after a failed coup attempt. The player uses weapons and air strikes supplied by Solano to assault the fortress and rescue Carmona. But once Carmona is rescued, Solano attempts to murder the player to avoid paying and to make sure there is no one to interfere with his plans. The player escapes despite being "shot in the ass", and begins to plan revenge on Solano.
Following a second successful coup by Carmona, Solano is chosen as the "civilian leader of a military government". Solano attempts to seize control of the country's oil supply, which is held by a company called Universal Petroleum (UP). Fierce fighting ensues between Universal Petroleum's hired mercenaries and the Venezuelan Army (referred to as the VZ in the game) under Solano's control. This results in the collapse of the country, especially in the city of Maracaibo, where the UP's overseas headquarters is located. This chaos drives people from their homes and causes widespread property damage. After taking control over Solano's villa, the player establishes their private military company (PMC) and helps the causes of the factions in exchange for money and information on Solano. This includes capturing VZ outposts, "verifying" High Value Targets (or "HVTs" for short) by either capturing or killing them, destroying key structures, and doing other work that the faction's forces cannot accomplish.
The mercenary first works for Universal Petroleum in the city of Maracaibo. The merc is given his first proper contract by the CEO Dr. Lorraine Rubin, to rescue a high-ranking member of UP held by the VZ somewhere in the city of Maracaibo. Eventually, the mercenary finds him in an armored van on one of the main roads in the city and rescues him.
The player's next contract involves the protecting of the CFO of UP, currently stranded at the UP oil refinery. The refinery was evacuated due to Solano's "nationalization" program, which involved the overtake of the refinery. The CFO remained there in order to dispose of secret documents. The mercenary protects the CFO while he disposes of the documents, before they themselves escape as the refinery is overtaken by the VZ. During a conversation in the car on the way back to Maracaibo, the CFO reveals that Universal Petroleum didn't trick the country into letting them extract the oil for virtually nothing, but in fact that they tricked the country into paying UP for the oil rights.
At their return, Rubin gives the player the time of the meeting between Solano and Blanco, but doesn't know the location of the meeting. She then suggests that the merc should go to the PLAV, or the People's Liberation Army of Venezuela, for information.
Around this time, the player can choose to work with a faction of Jamaican-based pirate smugglers operating in the islands of the north section of Lake Maracaibo. Involvement with the "Pirates" does not alter the gameplay and the Pirates only offer HVT, bounty, and small contracts in exchange for money. There are no main contracts supplied by the Pirate leader, making them useful only for their superiority of the North section of Lake Maracaibo and their cheap equipment they can sell to the mercenary.
The merc meets with the PLAV (People's Liberation Army of Venezuela), a group of rebel guerrillas intent on taking the country back to civilian rule. The faction is backed by China, which is intent on gaining oil rights. The leader, Marcella Acosta, offers the mercenary some contracts in exchange for information, including taking of the town of Mérida from the Venezuelan army. After several contracts, Marcella conveniently tells the mercenary she knows the location of the meeting between Solano and Blanco and offers a final contract to destroy the oil platform the meeting is on and verify Blanco.
Upon verifying Blanco and destroying the oil platform, the player learns of Solano's hidden bunker at Angel Falls and attempts to destroy it, but fails as it is hardened against normal bunker buster weapons. Shortly after, the player is forced to defend their own headquarters from Carmona and VZ troops. After repelling the attack and verifying Carmona, it is revealed that sinking the oil platform triggered an international response. As expected by Carmona, a large coalition of US-led Allied Nation troops from the original game (an imitation of the UN) and the Chinese move into the country. However, Carmona and his men hold on to the country thanks to an agreement with North Korea which gives them advanced weaponry and training. The AN is supposedly a peacekeeping and nation-rebuilding force for war-torn countries (as seen in North Korea), but the player finds that at the center of the operation is a CIA agent named Joyce, who was ordered to secure the oil supply when it became clear that their allies, Universal Petroleum, could not do so. The Chinese Army invaded when it became clear that the PLAV only wanted to stop Blanco and Carmona for personal reasons rather than overthrow the new government. Both factions battle for control of Caracas, the capital city of Venezuela, and the oil supply.
As the Allies invade, they begin to make posts across the country, and heavily reinforce the city of Maracaibo, the location of the Universal Petroleum headquarters, and set their own headquarters south-west of Caracas, wishing to expand into the city with the help of the mercenary.
A CIA agent named Agent Joyce offers contracts in exchange for a Nuclear Bunker Buster. The first contract involves stopping the Chinese bombardment on the city using both artillery and boats.
The next contract is to destroy a CIA plane wreck on the nearby Chinese occupied island of Margarita and rescue the surviving crew as a bonus.
When the merc returns, they find Joyce crippled in a wheelchair due to an IED, as part of a small attack on the AN base. Apparently, Solano had found out that Joyce was working with the mercenary and set to "disuade" him. The final contract is to stop the impending Chinese invasion of Caracas. The mercenary is also told to "verify" General Peng, leader of the Chinese campaign in Venezuela. As the Chinese invade, the Allies prepare a counterstrike, and the mercenary secures the city and makes their way to Peng's castle near Cumuna, another occupied city to the east, causing the player to become an enemy of the state to the Chinese. Eventually, the mercenary makes their way to the castle and verifies Peng, saving the Allies from major defeat in the region. The player meets with Joyce, who gives them the money promised but refuses to hand over the nuke. However, they then see a mushroom cloud in the distance, and Fiona, the mercenary's support operative, tells them that Solano just nuked the Allied HQ. Solano then broadcasts over the city that if Allied troops do not evacuate the country immediately, more destruction will follow. Joyce is told by his superiors he must retreat back to America, and gives the mercenary the weapon to stop Solano.
China invades Venezuela to secure another source of oil to meet their growing demand. The allied take control of Margarita, an island in the northeast portion of the map, and the outskirts of the Allied-controlled city of Cumana
Soon after, the faction pays the mercenary to take various outposts around the city. After this, they meet with General Peng, who was promoted after his successful campaign in North Korea. Peng reveals he is glad the mercenary is back, and offers him a series of contracts in exchange for a nuclear weapon. The Allies are holding a Chinese soldier hostage in the center of Cumaná. To Peng's annoyance, the Chinese are ordered to halt operations until the soldier is saved. Peng tells the mercenary that in his first contract, he must rescue the soldier, and for a bonus, destroy the three key Allied-controlled buildings in the city. The Chinese then occupy the city for themselves. The second contract is to secure the oil for China by eradicating Universal Petroleum by:
- Destroying the General Carmona bridge linking Maracaibo to Caracas and the bulk of the AN forces
- Destroying the Universal Petroleum HQ in Maracaibo
- Destroying the Universal Petroleum processing plant, thus rendering it useless.
The mercenary levels the buildings, leaving only ruins. China then secures the country's oil.
Peng offers the player his last contract, leading the Chinese assault on Caracas by verifying CIA operative Agent Joyce at the Allied HQ, destroying key Allied Nation occupied buildings in the city, and stopping any counterstrike from the AN. After battling through Caracas, the mercenary eventually gets to the Allied HQ and verifies Joyce. In Caracas, they meet with Peng, who tells the mercenary that the nuke and the cash are being delivered as they speak. They are interrupted in their conversation by a mushroom cloud going off in the distance, with Fiona revealing that the Castle of Saint Anthony near Cumaná, the Chinese base, was destroyed by Solano. Solano then broadcasts over the city that if Chinese troops do not withdraw from the country, more devastation will follow. Peng is ordered by Chinese superiors to return to China, and wishes the mercenary the best of luck with their final mission.
The player returns to Solano's bunker in a second attempt to destroy it. After fighting through Solano's heavier defenses, the player uses the nuclear bunker buster to blast open an entrance. Solano almost escapes the ruins in a helicopter, before the player hijacks it and kills the pilot. The player confronts Solano, with Solano begging for his life. The merc shoots Solano then bails out of the helicopter. If the player has captured all of the game's HVTs prior to capturing Solano, then Solano is knocked out and captured by the player, who calls the faction leader of the side assisted in the battle for Caracas, and informs them of this fact, wanting revenge for Solano nuking their HQ. The end cutscene does not change, however. The game ends with Fiona declaring Solano "Verified" on her laptop and talking about moving to India for their next contract.
Marketing and release
In preparation for the release of Mercenaries 2, Electronic Arts opened a commercial campaign in August 2008, with scenes of the plot of the game in a stylized world, featuring background music reminiscent of a "hip-hop musical" singing about how the protagonists are going to get revenge for being double crossed and getting no pay to boot. The song was written and performed by the Wojahn Brothers.
EA took over the Last Stop petrol station in Finsbury Park, North London, on the release day of the game in order to give away £20,000 worth of petrol for free, with each driver receiving a maximum of £40. The petrol station was transformed into a military bunker, with sandbags, oil barrels and jeeps. The area's member of parliament, Lynne Featherstone, described the campaign as an "ill thought-out media stunt" after it created unnecessary traffic congestion.
On September 30, 2008, Pandemic Studios announced that they were working on a free patch, called "Total Payback", that would add six new playable characters, cross-region co-op, and cheats. It was scheduled to be released on October 13 on Xbox Live, but was delayed until October 23 and again until "early November." The patch was released on October 23 for PS3 and October 31 for 360 users.
On December 12, 2008, the Mercenaries 2 DLC content pack "Blow It Up Again" was released for download on the PlayStation Store. Pandemic later stated that they are "working with Microsoft" to ensure that the Xbox 360 content pack is released promptly, to follow Sony's sudden release. The DLC had relatively little advertising and failed to even have an official announcement from Pandemic aside from a simple trailer available for download on the Xbox Live Marketplace. It has also been raised from free to $1.99.
The "Total Payback" patch and "Blow It Up Again" content pack have not been released for the Windows version.
Mercenaries 2: World in Flames received generally positive reviews. Reception of the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows versions of the game has been fair, with an average critic score of 72/100 at Game Rankings and 72 out of 100 at Metacritic.
Though praised for its colorful and destructive environments, many reviews have complained of "nagging annoyances" throughout the game that occasionally feel rushed and unfinished. One of the major problems was the unintelligent AI of both friendly and enemy NPCs, and the issue was aggravated by voice acting and repetitive lines. Some reviewers found several gameplay mechanisms questionable, such as the air supports and airstrikes being of limited value, over-powerful melee attacks, and simplistic faction dynamics. The reactions from the new co-op mode were divided; while another player added to the fun, there were limitations, such as the tether between players and limited role of the passenger when in a vehicle.
The PlayStation 2 version was heavily criticized, with an average score of 49% at Game Rankings. Some even called the PlayStation 2 version inferior to the original Mercenaries on PlayStation 2, criticizing its underwhelming visuals, foggy environments caused by short draw distances, and one of the "worst pop-in rates ever seen."
There have also been many complaints about rampant bugs and glitches (especially for the PC and PlayStation 2 versions) such as falling through the map, underground swimming and calling air strikes with no response, these could even stop the player from continuing normal gameplay and advancing the storyline. Most of the serious bugs were fixed in a patch for Windows.
Mercenaries 2 was nominated for "Dubious Honors: Worst Game Everyone Played" by GameSpot in their 2008 video game awards, which was a category for games with large sales that had been panned by the critics. In addition, it won "Dubious Honors: Most Disappointing Game" by GameSpot.
Controversy and criticism
The game has been criticized by the Venezuelan government, accusing the U.S. government of trying to drum up support from the American public for a real-life invasion with the purpose of overthrowing Hugo Chávez. Pandemic Studios had previously developed training aids for the U.S. Army. In response to the criticism, the official website of the game includes the following disclaimer:
Pandemic Studios is in the business of entertainment. It has not been contacted by a U.S. government agency concerning the development of Mercenaries 2. All persons, storylines and events are purely fictional and bear no relation to real events. As with any number of games, movies and books, the decision to choose interesting events and locations is purely designed to tell a compelling story, as well as provide a fun and rich experience for the gamer.
Gunnar Gundersen, cofounder of the Venezuela Solidarity Network, dismissed arguments that it's "just a game", saying:
We have to put it in the context of how it would feel if the reverse was done. Can you imagine if a wealthy Venezuelan game-designing company with links to the military and funding from a famous Latin American entertainer invented a game where you invade the US to assassinate the president and take over the economy?
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