THE TRIBUNAL: Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction (PS2, XB)

Mercenaries received a 6.5 when it was initially reviewed here in Inside Pulse. But how will the game fair in…THE TRIBUNAL?!?!?


*The crowd gathers into the fabled Inside Pulse Tribunal Stadium*

Attention! Attention! All will come to order!

*As the gavel slams down, dust rises from the podium.*

Wow…I guess its been a while since the last one we’ve done. Oh well. Everyone STILL needs to come to order!

*The crowd quiets down and take their seats.*

Today, we gather here in the fabled Tribunal Hall to pass judgment on a game that allows you to lay waste to everything and anything you wish, thereby relieving tons of stress in the process. Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction, you may step forward.

*The game does so.*

Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction, you’ve been brought forward to prove yourself to us, and to the world. I’m sure that everyone in this room has seen the hilarious advertisements involving this game’s premise. You promise us we can kill, main, and destroy at our leisure. You promise spectacular air strikes on anything we can think of. You promise destruction on a colossal scale. And I must admit that your “promises” make me foam at the mouth with anticipation. However, those promises can be placed within the same category as “hype”. And we NEVER rate a game based on hype. So now your “promises” are going to be put to the test today. Do you keep them? Or do you fail to measure up?

Your judges today are Michael O’Reilly, Geli Warner, and returning as a special guest judge, Michaelangelo McCullur. How will you be judged within the confines of…THE TRIBUNAL?!?!?


JUDGE #1: Michael O’Reilly

I suffer from a split personality regarding Mercenaries, or maybe its the game itself that suffers from it. On the one hand you have a game that makes Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas look small time when it comes to violence and destruction, and on the other you have a game that suffers from its own ambitions.

The ambition is to give you access to lots of today’s military hardware and then let you loose in the world to see what you can do. Sadly those glorious plans are stunted by controls that limit the fun you can have with the game rather than help you indulge in it. No vehicle should use one stick to accelerate AND turn. But that’s how you drive the tanks. The flight engine is atrocious, making helicopters about as nimble as battleships. Another problem with the game is in the level design, where the producers felt it would be better to make you earn your way back to the second map once you have finished the game, unlike a GTA where everything remains open when you complete the game. These are the issues that keep this game from reaching the level of greatness it could have.

What makes me yearn for a properly thought out and tested sequel though is the amount of fun that can be found once you accept all that’s bad with the game. From dropping Fuel Air Bombs on tank formations to calling in Tomahawk missile strikes on a solitary jeep just because you can, Mercenaries is the kind of game that really goes beyond the sum of its parts. I’ve been done with the story of the game for a few weeks now, but I still find myself going back to the game to see what havoc I can cause. I don’t think I’ve ever played a game that is better suited to reducing stress than this once you’ve beaten the story. The best 6.5 game I’ve ever reviewed.

THE SCORE: 6.5/10

JUDGE #2: Geli Warner

I think that Mercenaries is one of the best games I’ve played this year. So it’s only February of 2005, but I really don’t say things like that lightly. This game was well thought out as far as playabilty. You have to please different factions(or play them against each other), bribe your enemies, save weapons inspectors and you can even locate China’s national treasures. If the enormous amount of game content doesn’t impress you, the flexibility to do what you want when you want should be very appealing. Even after you beat the game to get the $100 million bounty, all the royal cards respawn and you get to keep all the money to have your way in the “playground of destruction” mode.

That’s another thing; the beautiful parody of the playing deck given to US troops to help them recognize the “terrorist bigwigs.” Mercenaries uses its own deck of 52 to collect bounties on different characters wanted by different factions. I love that the game was built to have no load time when traveling between maps and if you piss off the Russian Mafia you have to “make a donation” on their site. The options are endless and there are plenty of wonderful surprises and quirks about the game. I feel that Mercenaries is a well developed and thought out game and don’t hesitate to fawn over it to give it a good word.

THE SCORE: 9.0/10

JUDGE #3: Michaelangelo McCullar

So the first time I saw the commercial for this game, it looked amusing, but nothing I needed to rush out and get. 3,819,425 viewings of the commercial later, I was convinced that my life would be incomplete without this game. Let me tell you that, flaws aside, I’d be hard-pressed to name a game that you’ll have more fun with than this. There’s nothing more viscerally satisfying than calling in a Hand-of-God air strike and watching the countryside dissolve in ash. Incredible graphics set this game apart from the start, and trying to balance your relationships with varying factions, the open-end GTA-like structure, the different methods you can employ to complete a mission, all add up to make the game a satisfying experience.

Are there some issues and quibbles? Of course. It would have been great to be able to build your own character, or at least have had more than three options. The game’s AI can be wildly inconsistent. And the control scheme can be maddeningly frustrating at times. But anytime I was feeling vexed with the game, I’d plant a little C4 and blow something up or hit the Merchant of Menace website and call in a good old-fashioned carpet bombing.

THE SCORE: 7.0/10

The Tribunal has spoken! And now, to the final judgment…

SCORE #1: 6.5
SCORE #2: 9.0
SCORE #3: 7.0


It is the decision of this Tribunal that Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction, despite some flaws, is a wildly entertaining experience. The ability to freely blow up practically any location at any given time is a huge plus. The free roaming ability is also well received by our judges. Control issues and AI randomness seem to keep this game from being the best it could be, but the fun factor is not impacted as much as it could have been. You may not be a perfect game, but you are a FUN game. And we in the Tribunal can’t ask for anything more than that. So go forth, Mercenaries, and bring joy to those who like to blow things up. (And that’s a lot of people, for those keeping score.)


We now dismiss all the attendees to this gathering. But we shall require your presence again, once The Tribunal deems another to prove itself…