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Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction
Mercenaries - Playground of Destruction Coverart
Developer(s) Pandemic Studios
Publisher(s) LucasArts
Engine Havok Physics
Released NA January 11, 2005
EUR February 18, 2005
JPN April 28, 2005
AUS 2006
Genre(s) Third-person shooter
Mode(s) Single-player
Ratings ABC: M
ESRB: Teen (T)
PEGI: 16+
CERO: 15
Platform(s) PlayStation 2, Xbox

Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction is a third-person shooter which takes place in the near future. It was developed by Pandemic Studios and published on January 11, 2005, by LucasArts. It is available for the Sony PlayStation 2 and the Microsoft Xbox.

The sequel, Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, was released on the 31st of August 2008 for North America and the 5th of September the same year for Europe on Windows, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.[1]

PlotEdit

Main article: Song Initiative

In 2009, the president of North Korea, Choi Kim, extends an olive branch to South Korea. The hopes he has of a peaceful Korea reunification spread to South Korea and the South Koreans agree to send North Korea money on the condition that they disband their military. North Korea agrees. All is well until the night of the reunification.

President Choi Kim's son, General Choi Song, is dissatisfied with the peace treaties and talks. On the eve of the reunification of North and South Korea, he stages a violent coup, storming the summit and killing his father, seizing control of the country.

General Choi Song then expels all foreigners from North Korea into South Korea. North Korea goes "dark." No weapon inspectors or foreign press are allowed in and all communications with the outside world cease. Eventually, the world's eyes turn to other matters. Still rumors run rampant, all hinting the worst, but, as many hoped, they are just rumors.

A North Korean freighter, found floundering in a storm, is rescued by the Royal Australian Navy. The RAN finds the crew making a hasty attempt to scuttle the ship, and becomes suspicious. Upon searching the ship, the RAN finds nuclear weapons bound for an Indonesian company known to be a front for terrorists. The link between Song, terrorists, and nuclear weapons is made. Within hours of the discovery, Chinese intelligence reports that Song's missile capabilities are much higher than once assumed – he can hit any target on all seven continents.

The Allied Nations forms a combat force with troops from all over the globe, initiates a large-scale landing, and smashes through a division of NK regulars, taking the missile sites at Yongbyon. The NK troops, though well-trained and equipped, had never experienced real war - resulting in many of its commanders panicking and fleeing. The Allied Nations emerge victorious with minimal losses. But their euphoria over breaking Song's grip on the country is cut short - they find documents containing evidence that Song is building 30 more nuclear warheads and missiles at an unknown launch site. Worse yet, the documents indicate that the weapons will be ready in three weeks.

The AN top priority becomes to find and capture or kill Song before he is able to launch the missiles. After two weeks of searching fruitlessly for Song, the AN issues a "Deck of 52." The Clubs are members of Division 39, a state-sponsored mafia consisting of ministers in the government. The Diamonds are high-ranking military officials. The Hearts are noted scientists credited with developing nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. The Spades are General Song's all-female special forces squad and their male commanders. Song, of course, is the Ace of Spades. A $100 million USD bounty is placed on his head, with the bounties on the other members of the Deck of 52 beginning at $25,000 for the number cards of the Clubs.

The player is a mercenary working for Executive Operations, or ExOps, a private military company that provides military services to world governments and large corporations. The player has been tasked with finding and either capturing or killing members of the Deck of 52, and most specifically, General Song, before he can launch his nuclear warheads.

There are multiple endings to the game depending on whether the player disabled the nuclear missiles or not and the faction with the most trust at the end of the game.

All endings are with either the ICBMs exploding after receiving the self-destruct codes or the ICBMs hitting downtown Seoul, Tokyo, Moscow or Beijing and causing millions of casualties and the capture or death of General Song.

FactionsEdit

Immediately after Song's coup, the Allied Nations invade North Korea in an attempt to stop the launch of several nuclear missiles intended for cities such as Tokyo and Seoul. Other factions soon arrive in the area all with their own goals and ambitions. This creates a five way tug-of-war resulting in numerous conflicts and battles between forces.

North KoreaEdit

The main antagonists of the game. The North Korean army is always hostile towards the player during the course of the game, and will attack the player on sight. Led by the ruthless General Choi Song, he and his army want dominance over most of Asia, and will stop at nothing to ensure victory. When the Allied Nations invaded North Korea, Song's men split up and created various outposts and bases around the landscape. When exploring the map, the player will encounter North Koreans in numerous places. They are the most abundant army in the game. The North Koreans have access to some very powerful vehicles-APCs, heavy tanks, and helicopter gunships-but can be considered the least technologically-advanced faction.

The North Korean army is divided into certain ranks. The common soldier wears a brown uniform and usually carries an AK-47 or an RPG-7 (Rocket Propelled Grenade). The player will fight them the most while playing the game. The next level of the NK army is the Elite Forces unit. They are seen with black outfits and use light machine guns and the occasional anti-tank or anti-air rocket launcher. These elite soldiers are more intelligent, but are only dealt with later on in the game (during the Northern Province stage and Aces missions). Next is the Officers, who usually carry SMGs and drop money, ammo, or grenades when captured or killed. Like all officers, they can see through disguises, and killing one in front of a member of another faction causes a boost in that faction's favor equivalent to killing two enlisteds. The highest rank is the Deck of 52. Although not recognized by that title in their own army, the AN explains it is a way of identifying High Value Targets. The "members" of the deck are in the form of officers, senior governmental officials, military leaders, scientists, black ops commandos, and elite military commanders. View the Deck of 52 below for more detailed information on the Deck of 52.

Allied NationsEdit

A replacement for the United Nations and Coalition of the willing, this global army is lead by Col. Samuel Garrett. The Allied Nations are in North Korea for one reason only: to stop General Song at all costs. They have collected a number of the "most wanted", and have named this group the "Deck of 52". It lists 52 High Value Targets, and are important in some way to General Song. After the capture or death of Song and his men, the AN wishes to bring humanitarian aid to the people of North Korea. Col. Garrett finds himself having to rely on the power of the mercenary to take out vital lifelines in Song's army.

The AN have a formidable army, which include APCs, powerful tanks, helicopter gunships, and humvees. The soldiers, who wear camouflage uniforms and blue helmets, normally carry M4 carbines, and are generally much tougher than the average soldier. In addition, GSRN (Global Satellite Reporting Network) field reporters have been embedded with the Allied Nations. Their presence has made the AN's job rather more difficult, as the increased media attention in the North Korean battle zones means that the more covert and underhanded measures applied by the Allied forces are no longer going unnoticed.

South KoreaEdit

While the regular South Korean Army is part of the Allied Nations forces, a separate detachment named South Korean Union (SKU) was a covert operation group funded, fostered and backed by the CIA in the person of Special Agent Mitchell Buford. These SK soldiers take their orders from Langley, VA. The South Koreans are after the reunification of Korea, and have moved aggressively to establish a strategic foothold. Needless to say, they are not happy about China's designs on their northern neighbors. The South Koreans control technology much like the Allied Nations, and provide access to stealth fighter and bomber support (courtesy of the CIA). Agent Buford typically tasks the player with rescue/recovery missions or crippling infrastructure attacks that he does not want traced back to the South Koreans, though by the third "act" the SK and Chinese forces are engaged in open warfare. SK jobs can vary, but most pit the player against the North Koreans, the Chinese, and occasionally, the Russian Mafia.

Most SKU soldiers are equipped with the same basic weaponry as their AN counterparts, such as the Carbine, grenades and AT/AA rockets. But their vehicle camouflage tends more towards a wintry white/grey/Blue pattern than the blue/green jungle/grassland color scheme of the AN machines, while their soldiers wear fatigues with entirely different color schemes (closely resembling the uniform worn by South Korean military police in the Joint Security Area of the DMZ). A few SKU Soldiers carry the MG36, which is also used by some of the all-female commandos of the ROKA 707th Special Mission Battalion. SK snipers carry Dragunov sniper weapons, while some officers and 707th commandos carry silenced sub-machine guns. Some SKU troops have also employed RPGs and other anti-tank weapons. The SK motorized and mechanized forces feature TOW-armed variants of the Allied humvees and have been painted a blue camoflauge, APCs and powerful attack helicopters. However, since it is a covert unit, the SK forces lack heavy armored support. Speed and mobility are the South Korean forces' primary assets, as they do not have the heavy armor or manpower to engage in sustained combat with Chinese or North Korean forces.

Collecting WMD blueprints (small blue-grey metal boxes with nuclear symbols on them) and/or destroying NK monuments (usually giant statues of General Song) will increase South Korean favor toward the player. Killing NK, Mafia, or Chinese troops in the presence of SK troops will raise favor for the player as well.

It is worth noting that, while the South Korean forces are referred to as the SKU in the instruction manual, this title, or the notion that the SK operation is a covert one, is mentioned nowhere else in the game. Viewing a soldier through the binoculars brings up the acronym ROKA; Republic of Korea Army.

ChinaEdit

The People's Liberation Army, commanded by Col. Zhou Peng, would like to set up a pro-China regime in North Korea and make the country a province of the PRC. This naturally puts them at odds with both Korean nations--South and North. The Chinese have access to a massive array of firepower, much of which is placed at the player's disposal when on Chinese missions. Col. Peng repeatedly sends the player on missions that his forces are too slow or unable to complete with sufficient precision, such as assassinations and other covert operations. When working for the Chinese, jobs will often involve work against SK or NK forces.

Although officially part of the Allied coalition, the Chinese forces operate independently and do not follow the standard AN equipment patterns - they wear winter/urban camouflage gear and use Type-56 assault rifles, RPG-7s, and RPD machine guns extensively. PLA Officers carry Type 85 Sub-Machine Guns and some PLA Soldiers carry heavier weapons, such as Anti-Tank and Anti-Air missiles. Being the largest single military force in the world, the PLA has access to some exceptionally powerful vehicles - these include a wide range of heavily-armed APC and tank variants and heavy-lift helicopters. The PLA also features vast artillery coverage and supplies the Fuel Air Bomb air strike which is excellent at destroying many things close togetehr.

Destroying SK listening posts (poles with an antenna dish and blinking red light on top) and/or recovering Korean national treasures (crates with a crest spraypainted on the side) will increase Chinese favor toward the player. Also, killing SK, NK, or Mafia soldiers in sight of Chinese troops will increase Chinese favor.

Russian MafiaEdit

Though undoubtedly powerful, the Russian Mafia is first and foremost a criminal organization and therefore has no major military presence in North Korea. However, its well-armed thugs and customized vehicles patrol the streets of many North Korean cities, including the capital, Pyongyang. Most Mafia Thugs carry Type 85 SMGs and most Capos (The Mafia equivalent of officers) carry Shotguns. The Mafia enforcers are equipped with RPD light machine guns, AK-47 assault rifles, and RPGs. But the Mafia still have the lightest ground presence out of all the factions, with few men and no tanks or APCs, and very few helicopters. The Northern Province, however, has a vast presence of Mafia technicals and SUVs, presumably since at this point, there is no Allied or NK navy blockade to stop their import.

Any land vehicle can be sold to the Mafia's chop shop. High-end vehicles (such as tanks) are naturally worth the most money. The less damaged the vehicle, the greater the pay for them. This is the only way outside of missions and killing NK, SK, or Chinese soldiers to raise the player's standing with the Mafia. The Russian Mafia also run an online black market shop called the Merchant of Menace shop, which can be accessed via your PDA. This shop allows you to purchase vehicles and supply drops, as well as air strikes unlocked throughout the game.

ContractsEdit

Weapons Edit

CharactersEdit

Playable charactersEdit

The three playable characters are Christopher Jacobs, Jennifer Mui, and Mattias Nilsson.

The three initially playable characters in Mercenaries are sufficiently distinct to make the game somewhat re-playable. Each has a particular strength which will alter the player’s strategy somewhat, as well as a unique language proficiency which will render side conversations from a particular faction understandable. For instance Jacobs, who can understand Korean , is able to understand the South Koreans; Mattias knows Russian, which the Russian Mafia speak; and Jennifer, being born in Hong Kong, and thus fluent with Chinese, can understand the Chinese army. And since all of them know English, they have no problem understanding the AN who always speak english.

Like many console games, Mercenaries contains unlockable perks as rewards for completing certain in-game tasks. Among these are secret characters/skins. For instance, picking up a certain number of National Treasures will allow access to playing with an NK Elite skin. However, this effect is only cosmetic and will have no effect on gameplay or the main character's attributes.

This being a LucasArts game, it is also possible to unlock both Indiana Jones and Han Solo as playable characters.

It should be noted that each character has a campaign that varies slightly in difficulty from the others. Jacobs can be described as having the easy campaign, Jennifer having a normal difficulty, and Mattias having the hardest. The difference is shown in such few places though that most gamers hardly know the difference.

Non-playable charactersEdit

Major non-playable characters include General Choi Song, President Choi Kim, Dung Hwangbo, General Chin Chang, General Chul Kang, Fiona Taylor, Adriana Livingston, Colonel Samuel Garrett, Major Steven Howard, Agent Mitchell Buford, Major Park, Colonel Zhou Peng, Captain Kai Leu, Sergei Voronov, Josef Yurinov and Misha. Although some characters are skins that you can use, they are not playable.

Deck of 52Edit

Main article: Deck of 52

InfluencesEdit

The player is deposited in a vast "sandbox-type" environment, and set loose to pick up missions, perform side tasks, collect items, or just shoot stuff, all at the player's whim. To advance the story, one must perform certain missions, but the game doesn't lead the player around by the hand to do so. In fact, one can level all of the buildings in the playing environment, including the faction HQs. After an extended time away from the area of a faction HQ the HQ and it's guard (a doorman the player must interact with to enter the HQ) are restored. Also, if the player dies or calls a medevac, then the HQs will be restored. In order to get back in the favor of an offended faction the mercenary must bribe the HQ guard.

The concept of the "Deck of 52" is borrowed from the method used by Coalition forces in Iraq to identify wanted members of Saddam Hussein's deposed government.

Executive Operations, the name of the fictional company the protagonist works for, is most likely a reference to Executive Outcomes, a private military company that ceased to exist in 1999.

CheatsEdit

Main Article: Mercs Cheats

SoundtrackEdit

The soundtrack for Mercenaries was composed by Michael Giacchino and Chris Tilton and has a very heavy, epic orchestral theme to it. There are also many more subtle and peaceful musical tracks for when the merc is roaming the countryside, to very intense and loud music during fight scenes.

ControversyEdit

Mercenaries was banned from shelves in South Korea for depicting war in its still-hostile theater, as was Ghost Recon 2. The delicate situation between North and South Korea means that the government is under severe pressure to ban media that depicts war between the two nations, for fear that it could further strain an already tense diplomatic situation.

TriviaEdit

  • There are a large number of humorous easter eggs in the names of the WMDs, such as references to software piracy (Key Generator Program, 1337 dIc7i0N4rY, SnM2 Software, etc.), hacks in video games (Speed Hack, Aimbot), and Star Wars (Kessel Run Star Chart, Plans for Death Star, Screenplay for Episode VII, etc.). Some of the more subtle humor is hidden away in the characters' non-English dialogue; for instance, during battles the Chinese soldiers will exclaim both "get down" and "duck" (literally, the animal) in their native tongue, and when the player visits the Chinese HQ, the HQ guard will occasionally say (in Chinese), "the capitalist pig is here to see the Colonel."
  • A number of Star Wars references are made in the ticker headlines during the news announcements after each Ace contract: a mention of clones being cloned in Tipoca City, claims of an international committee finding that Greedo shot first, and reference to a lawsuit being filed on Coruscant regarding a faulty space station exhaust port, in reference to the Death Star. Han Solo is one of the unlockable skins. In one mission, Buford says "...like one of those star destroyers from that space movie." Finally, during the ending cutscene, a news reporter named Kyle Kowakian is speaking of the aftermath of the capture of Song. Kowakian Monkey-Lizards are a race in Star Wars. Buford, at one point says something similar to "giant laser thing in space", this is obviously a referance to the Death Star from the movies.
  • A number of Indiana Jones references are made, such as the headline "Egyptian artifact found packed in crate in government warehouse since 1936". Indiana Jones is also an unlockable skin.
  • The film Aliens is referenced in one of the responses: "What am I supposed to use? Harsh language?!", by the character when an attempt is made to fire an empty weapon. Other quips in this situation are, "Hey, I could throw my shoe if you want!"
  • The MP5 shown on the box art is a suppressed MP5A5, while the MP5 used in the game (the suppressed SMG) is an MP5SD (which has the suppressor built into the handguard). Also, the M4A1 that Mui is holding on the box has some sort of Trijicon ACOG sight, most likely a generic model made by the game designers. The mount is much too long and the sight is not very defined and thus gives no hint as to which model it is, while the M4 in the game uses only iron sights. Mattias is shown holding what appears to be a Walther P99, despite there being no pistols in the game, aside from the "Pocket Artillery" in the shape of a Beretta M92F that can be unlocked through the Cheat Supply Drop, however pistols were in the game at one time, as seen in pre-release shot of a 707th troop, so it can be said that the box art was made before the pistols were cut.
  • In the first Ace Contract, the player is required to destroy "Song Tower" with a bunker buster bomb. The tower depicted in the game resembles the completed Ryugyong Hotel building, which has been standing vacant in Pyongyang since construction was stalled in 1992.
  • In the game, in city of "North Pyongyang" there is a large, almost tent-like structure. This structure is the Pyongyang Ice Rink.
  • Also visible in the game in "North Pyongyang" is a large, white, square, 4-sided arch-way. This structure exists in the real world as well. It is the Arch of Triumph, and is the largest Arch of Triumph in the world.
  • During the GSRN report of the capture of General Chul Kang in small lines it will say "Odo island scientists baffled by giant foot prints", a reference to Godzilla.
  • Garret wears three stars on his uniform, indicating a rank of lieutenant general, contrary to his self-declared rank of colonel.
  • According to early(2004) trailers the game was originally going to have much more blood come out of the merc and soldiers. This was probably removed to lower the rating and make it appeal to more people.

Critical receptionEdit

The game received generally favorable reviews from critics.

As of January 31, 2008, on the review aggregator Game Rankings, the Xbox version of the game had an average score of 86% based on 68 reviews.[2] On Metacritic, it had an average score of 86 out of 100, based on 65 reviews.[3]

As of January 31, 2008, on the review aggregator Game Rankings, the PS2 version of game had an average score of 84% based on 42 reviews.[4] On Metacritic, it has an average score of 84 out of 100, based on 44 reviews.[5]

Ryan Davis of GameSpot gave the game a rating of 8.8 out of 10, saying the action is greatly varied and "fundamentally satisfying", the world is immersive, and the game has "gorgeous carnage." Davis also said the exaggerated physics in the game is sometimes too much and the quality of the sound effects is uneven. Davis said the game is "a much better game overall" than Full Spectrum Warrior, a game that Pandemic Studios previously developed. Davis said that at first the game looks like a Grand Theft Auto knockoff due to similar elements such as a third-person perspective, the ability to get in any vehicle you see and "an irrepressible enthusiasm for explosive chaos", but that Mercenaries is more linear and mission-based. Davis said "most of the ground-based vehicles feel a little too floaty." Davis wrote "It's amazing how close the game scrapes to reality without actually breaking through, and its use of a slightly fictionalized North Korea as a setting can be a little unsettling at times. But despite the game's commitment to a quasirealistic scenario, the action is fast and loose." Davis noted the voiceover performances of Peter Stormare and Carl Weathers as particularly well done.[6]

AwardsEdit

  • Included on Game Informer's list of "Top 50 Games of 2005"

ReferencesEdit

  1. Mercenaries 2 in stores August 31st 2008. Retrieved on 2008-04-18.
  2. Mercenaries Reviews (Xbox). Game Rankings. Retrieved on 2008-01-31.
  3. Mercenaries: Reviews. Metacritic. Retrieved on 2008-01-31.
  4. Mercenaries Reviews (PS2). Game Rankings. Retrieved on 2008-01-31.
  5. Mercenaries: Reviews. Metacritic. Retrieved on 2008-01-31.
  6. Ryan Davis (2005-01-12). Mercenaries for PlayStation 2 Review - PlayStation 2 Mercenaries Review. GameSpot. Retrieved on 2008-01-31.

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