One of the gimmicks of the original was that you could steal every vehicle in the game. If you could see it, you could hijack it, you just had to get close enough. Ironically, in a game that reveled in making running around a war-torn country carrying enough firepower to level entire city blocks look easy, someone thought the vehicle stealing mechanic was too easy. If I ever meet that person, I intend to slap him.
In the sequel, thanks to Mr. Soon-to-be-slapped, you can still steal any vehicle you can see, but now you have jump through a Quick Time Event button-mashing hoop first. Somewhere within the corporate bowels of EA, somebody is sitting with their feet up on their polished desk, smiling at themselves over their clever attempt to plant their greasy thumbprint on an otherwise perfect game. Congratulations, hero. You helped design a game. Now get back in the HR department where you belong.
Aside from that minor, nonsensical annoyance, there's a lot to love about Mercenaries 2, but first and foremost, you have to admire its simplicity. It's a game about blowing stuff up. Period. You don't need to know why there are Jamaican pirates in Venezuela. You don't. All you need to know is they have the best helicopters, and their boats are painted bright yellow.
You don't have to spend a lot of time figuring out the best route of attack through the buildings down to the beach where the enemy soldiers are hiding out. Just drive a tank through the buildings and run them over. Or call down an air strike to flatten the entire block. Or sneak around with an RPG and ignite the nearby oil tank to achieve the same effect. Or hover overhead in a helicopter ... it doesn't matter.
Bottom Line: In a game where everything is destructible and you can buy practically any weapon you can imagine, up to and including the venerable "Daisy Cutter" bomb, and the money to buy those weapons is literally lying around in piles, all you need to know is one thing "where they are." That's right, Vasquez. Any time, anywhere. All that's missing is an option to nuke the site from orbit, but there are a few shops I haven't unlocked yet, so it may still be there.
Recommendation: If you like to make things go "boom" and a don't find a dearth of talky-talky offensive, you could do worse than buy this game. The original lived in my Xbox until I bought a 360, and I kept the Xbox hooked up long afterward just to play this game. So far, I haven't seen any reason to believe the sequel won't have the same long shelf life.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.
Russ Pitts has been waiting his whole life to use the line "I'm here to kick ass and chew bubblegum." But, as yet, the moment has not come.