So, with that out of the way, let's commence our examination of the many, many ways in which this game induces my vitriol. I'm going to do things a little differently from now I normally would - instead of starting with what I consider most important, the gameplay, and then expanding to the peripheries of graphics and sound, I shall instead start my rant with things that will likely apply to everyone who chooses to stuff this game unceremoniously into their disc drive, and then hone in on the specific reasons why I personally detest this piece.
Graphically, the game is uglier than a sack full of fetid moose carcasses. There is so much pop-in when flying around the game in a helicopter that it's actually funny to ignore one's own vehicle and stare into the background, seeking out cases of "suddenly, forest!". My personal favourite example of this was in the southeastern corner of the map, where from the distance, huge areas of tree use the exact same 2D tree sprite that rotates so as to always directly face the camera, and they only pop magically into their 3D counterparts when the player gets to be about 100 metres away. PS1 games did this better. It's embarassing, especially seeing that textures up close are hardly any better, everything looks muddy and uninteresting with cliff textures and such stretched out painfully far in places. There's about one character model per faction for the goons so that they all look exactly the same, the smoke effects are painfully bad, there are almost no interesting distinguishing features around the majority of the map so it all looks copy-pasted and the art style isn't even a redeeming factor, there's nothing particularly interesting on offer here. The closest the game comes to visually interesting is probably the pirate buildings, which are at least hazardously rickety and slapdash, but everything else looks like any other game. This isn't excusable by the game's age - this is a good three months after the utterly gorgeous MGS4 hit shelves.
The sound design is completely forgettable. This is, in my opinion, true of most games, but it's equal here. Explosions make decent explodey sounds. The music is awful. There's not really much to say on the matter.
Moving on to the gameplay whilst still trying to be as widely applicable as possible, then. The gunplay is weak and lifeless - guns are so inaccurate that you might as well be shooting blindfolded, not even managing to hit enemies from about ten metres away. I have never fired a gun, automatic or not, so I cannot say if this is "realistic", but I do know that it's not fun, and Christ knows the game isn't trying to be realistic in any other aspect of its execution. As such, single goons will take a whole clip of ammo to send to their maker, and it's not helped by the fact that the spasmodic auto-aim will cling to an enemy like it's a long lost child then fly wildly off into the distance when it gets far away enough, so that switching targets is like pulling teeth. OK, game, I get it, auto-aim is good when we only have the imprecise input method of the analogue stick, but bloody hell, there are right and wrong ways to implement it! The enemies are, to quote a favourite saying from Yahtzee Croshaw, pants-on-head retarded, and their bullets will splay everywhere just as much as yours will. The High Value Targets you're trying to essentially kidnap will stand there going "hurr" whilst you murder their bodyguards without moving a damn inch, friendly factions will shoot you down before you've left their airspace because you're in an "enemy" copter when they saw you get in the damn thing and fly away, and if you run directly in front of a tank it will sit there bemusedly instead of running you over.
The core game is very short, and can, if you aren't inclined to tackle the side-missions and extras, be finished in less than about five hours or so by my reckoning, if that. The story is minimal - a man shot you in the ass and refused to pay you what you're due and you're going to get revenge. You do favours for factions and they tell you information you need to find your bounty. It's not particularly engagingly told, and it only really provides a reason for you to be there as a justification for the rest of the game. It did, however, accomplish one wonderful, glorious thing by giving us this, for which I am eternally grateful. There's enough extra content to be getting along with, my final save's timestamp said I'd spent 33 hours with the game after I'd done everything on offer. It shouldn't have taken that long, and I shall explain why below.
Now we're getting to my personal pet hates about the game - and it's worth bearing in mind that I'm a completionist, item-hoarding trophy hunter, so my perspective on this may be very different from yours. The game is quite possibly glitchier than any other I have ever come across. Forget Bethesda games at launch, this game is worth 3 Skyrims and a Fallout 3 in terms of stupid, awful bugs. The reason I don't class this as a universal criticism is that apparently, people have made a metagame out of collecting glitches, and despite my overwhelming annoyance at the majority of them, a few of them are so ridiculous that I have laughed out loud when seeing them. Clearly everyone doesn't share my opinion on this, in the same way that some people consider Bethesda bug-hunting an added bonus. To each their own, I suppose. However, many of them are game-breaking or aggravating in the extreme. I will provide a sample, though this is no means comprehensive of the shit this game made me deal with:
- Ceasefire - enemies stopped attacking me at all for the entire game, which persisted throughout the duration of the save file even after turning the console off and on.
- Disappearing Copter - after the pilot got out of the copter whilst delivering it to me, it would disappear exactly every other time. This also persisted for the entire save file.
- Random HVT Death - a particular Chinese HVT on an oil rig would fall over dead the instant the platform he was once standing on was destroyed, even though I had moved him off and he was nowhere near that platform at the time it was destroyed.
One of my other huge issues with the game arises because of my completionism - I wanted to get every HVT alive (there's a gold trophy for so doing), and I was foiled, repeatedly, in my attemtps to achieve this by the constant, ceaseless rocket-spam from all directions. People who've played CoD: World at War will no doubt tell you chilling tales of their experiences with grenade spam. That is nothing, nothing compared to Mercenaries 2 rocket spam. Want to take out the rocket goons? Too bad, you're almost guaranteed to kill the HVT in the process, they like to stand right next to hives of infinitely respawning rocketfucks! (For those of you wondering why I was whining about this when I had a glitch that stopped all enemies from attacking me, by that point I had already picked up an HVT to carry to extraction, he was killed during the pickup animation and I auto-verified him dead, then the game immediately autosaved. Another fun glitch.)
Perhaps my deep loathing of this game spawns from the fact that I am, without a doubt, playing it wrong. I don't think the way I play the game was how the devs pictured people doing at all, and probably not how most players do play it - if I were to forget about keeping everyone alive, and just use the ridiculously oversized arsenal made available to you to blow seven bells out of everything and anything as the game clearly intends you to, then the game might have, overall, been a positive experience. This, maddeningly, is why I can't utterly condemn the game despite its many, glaring faults. There is a certain group of people who will actually have a good time with this shoddy, unfinished mess. All that being said, you still shouldn't pick up the game. I had to physically restrain myself from littering this article with Just Cause 2 references. Just Cause 2, albeit having been released a year and a half later, is a better game in every single way, and is actually more fun than a barrel of crack cocaine. I can't recommend it enough, in fact.
It's just not worth it, folks. For the love of your own sanity, just play Just Cause 2.