Fans of Grand Theft Auto, you're in the army now.Okay, that's a bit simplistic. Mercenaries is a game series by Pandemic Studios, makers of Army Men: RTS and Star Wars Battlefront. The plot revolves around the titular Mercenaries, each of them employees of the private military contractor Executive Operations. With the help of their support operative, Fiona, the trio compete for bounties in hot spots throughout the globe. ExOps isn't in the humanitarian business: They accept contracts from Washington, Beijing, crime syndicates, and even other private corporations — for a price.The first game, Playground of Destruction, is set in North Korea, where you're air-dropped into the middle of a war zone in search of nuke-happy dictator General Choi Song (who happens to have a hugebounty on his head). In order to get to Song, the player must take down his most trusted allies — who, along with Song, are collectively known as the "Deck of 52", with Song being the Ace of Spades — in order to gather intel on his whereabouts. The player can choose to work for four factions (South Korea, China, the Russian mob, or the Allied Nations), as they're the ones paying the bounties. Be careful whom you serve, because it just might determine which side ends up annexing North Korea.The second game, World in Flames, is set in Venezuela and centers on Ramon Solano, a social-climbing oil exec who hires the mercenaries, shafts them out of their payday, and then crowns himself the new president. The overall goal is to take down Solano in revenge, but in order to get there the player must once more perform missions for a number of factions including guerrillas, Rastafarian pirates(!), and returning factions like the AN and China. The sequel is also known for its very catchy theme song.The primary cast of Mercenaries:
Mattias Nilsson: A Swedish Heroic Comedic Sociopath who seems to dedicate his every waking moment to bigger and bigger explosions and just generally raising hell. Perhaps based on the memetic Technoviking, right down to the Mohawk and wardrobe. In the original, he could sprint faster than the other mercs; in the sequel, he regenerates faster. Voiced by Peter Stormare.
Jennifer Mui: A sleek Anglo-Chinese commando, and probably the most avaricious of the three. Specializes in stealth in the original, agility in the sequel. Voiced by Jennifer Hale.
Fiona Taylor: The Voice with an Internet Connection who provides backup, intel, and running commentary for the mercenaries' adventures. Functions as a Morality Chain for Mui and Nilsson, despite being just as snarky as the rest of the heroes. Voiced by Amy Lee in the first game and India Dupré in the second.
Following the closing of Pandemic by Electronic Arts(*thunderclap*), an early video was leaked of Mercs, Inc., an apparently co-op centric continuation of the franchise. EA recently confirmed that the game is still in development (John Ricitello had previously stated a commitment by EA to Pandemic's franchises).Additionally, a three-issue comicbook miniseries was released by Dynamite Entertainment, written by Brian Reed (who also wrote the cutscene dialogue for World In Flames) was released in early 2008, as a prequel to the second game. It features the three mercenaries fighting for Taiwanese guerillas against a Chinese invasion. Things go South, and for one merc, It's Personal.For mercenaries in general, see the Hired Guns index, and Private Military Contractors in particular.
Tropes seen in the Mercenaries series include:
A.K.A.-47: Used on and off in both games. For instance, the AK is blandly labeled as "Assault Rifle".
You can find Hind D gunships hovering around high-value Cards, but they're designated Mi-35.note "Hind E" is the terminology for exports of the Mi-35. Either name works. Then in the second game they're the "Anaconda".
Aerith and Bob: Colonel Samuel Garrett owns goldfish during the events of Mercenaries 1. The fish are named Solomon, Abraxus, and Marshmallow, the latter being named by Garrets' wife.
Amazon Brigade. The Spades. Also, for some reason or another, the elite SK forces are all female.
The Alcatraz: The Black Gate is impervious to even the most devastating airstrikes. Even the cheat weapons are only able to pick it apart, piece by piece. A Buford mission involves blowing up a downed spy drone and rescuing its pilot before he's carted off to the fortress.
Alliance Meter: Each faction (aside from the Designated Villain one) has their own opinion of you; oftentimes completing missions for one faction might decrease an opposing faction's mood (for instance, by the end of the first game, the South Koreans and Chinese were openly fighting each other, and wanted you to destroy the other). Skillfully playing the factions against each other could net you more than simply siding with one over the other - in fact, it's required for game progression.
Alternate History: The Song dictatorship is, of course, modeled on the real-life ruling dynasty of North Korea. (Among the monuments players can demolish for bonuses are totems to the Juche ideology.) For the purposes of the game, however, North Korea's war chest is greatly exaggerated in size: They've got money for chemical weapons, nuclear warheads, "Super-guns" and the like. Apart from that, the Korean People's Army is played fairly straight: the NK's armored vehicles are second-rate, and they lack effective air power. Their strength comes from North Korea's real-life artillery, along with mook-making bunkers connected with their network of tunnels built into the mountains. Additionally, a capsule biography of General Song in one the loading screens points out that the KPA has never seen real war.
America Saves the Day: In the first game, the AN were much more heroic, sneakily pulling off humanitarian missions that China was trying to roadblock them on. Their cornspun accents are too precious.
Artificial Stupidity: The friendly helicopter pilots in the first game won't pay any attention to obstacles in the landing zone, so place that smoke beacon carefully. This also goes for any support troops that might pile out of the friendly helicopters in the second game, as many of the helipads that seems like ideal places to call in a helicopter are elevated a decent distance above the ground, just barely above the lethal falling height for AI soldiers, and the AI pathfinding is so astoundingly bad that the troops piling out will yell "I'm going in!" and then running clean off the edge to their deaths just a few feet away from the staircase leading down. In single file.
This also applies to the pilot in the sequel, who can easily get stuck on objects.
Ah, but it wouldn't be a GTA clone without civilians who dive into the path of your moving vehicle.
Same in the second. Enemy soldiers, on the other hand, often deliberately spoil your fun by jogging out of the way...most of the time. Other times, they lunge towards your car like lemmings.
Hell, the second game is knee-deep in bad AI.
Friendlies following you often have a hard time getting into helicopters.
Awesome Aussie: Fiona normally works behind the scenes, but she can hold her own with a weapon, as demonstrated when Ewan waltzes into her command center uninvited.
Awesome, but Impractical: Helicopters are truly demonic in Korea's southern province, when they're still rare and difficult to obtain. They later become impractical when the Cards (to say nothing of the regular ground troops) start dragging along anti-air missiles. The only defense against these is to fly low to the ground — so low, you might as well be in a ground vehicle.
Air strikes. They're incredibly powerful, capable of causing immense amounts of destruction on a wide scale. They're also very expensive, often costing more than the payout for the mission or bounty you're gunning for.
This is averted in the sequel, as mission payouts are much larger, and often include free airstrikes to boot. Unfortunately, Awesome, but Impractical still applies to most low-to-mid tier airstrikes because they're triggered by beacons, which you need to manually throw at the target to call in the strike. Then you have about five to ten seconds to leg it before that artillery strike you called in falls about fifteen feet away from you.
Battle in the Rain: The southern province has patches of perpetual rainfall, notably Propaganda Village and the Ichon base.
Big Bad: Song in the first game, Solano in the second. Colonel Li Zhiyaun in the miniseries.
Big Damn Heroes: The Allies make landfall on Song's missile silo, whose tonnage of bullets makes Normandy look like a tea party. The merc gets to spearhead a trio of Abrams tanks (the best tank available). Subverted later on, when the A.N. troops predictably stop just short of the silo, leaving the mop-up work to you.
Bilingual Dialogue: A minor feature in the first game. Occasionally, your contacts in the Russian Mafia, South Korean military, or Chinese Army would start a discussion with a subordinate, in that faction's language. You'd only get English subtitles if your player mercenary spoke that faction's language (Mattias knew Russian, Chris knew Korean, and Jennifer knew Chinese). This wasn't of major importance, but occasionally gave some interesting info.
Black and Gray Morality: Even Beijing, manipulative and opportunistic as they be, sincerely believe the Koreans would be better off under a Chinese protectorate than to fall into misule; these are not 'bad guys' whom we can blindly hate.
The second game's factions run from gray to black in varying shades. The VZ are black, being a regime of soldiers supporting a dictator out to exploit their oil for his own profit, with the Jamacan pirates being right next to them (being, y'know, Ruthless Modern Pirates). Universal Petroleum is little better, being focused entirely on oil profits, with Dr. Rubin even explicitly saying that she's there to use "any and all means" to keep the oil flowing. The AN and Chinese forces are only present to secure the oil for themselves, though there are some hints of humanitarian work as well, including a Chinese mission to escort ambulances, but they're still focused on taking each other out. The nicest faction actually seems to be the PLAV guerrillas, who are focused on protecting the people of Venezuela and overthrowing Solano's regime.
Bodyguard Babes: The low-level "numbers" in the Spades suit are all women. Apparently Song just can't let one dictator cliché go unchecked. Fiona remarks on the badassery of an all-amazon squad in one of her emails.
Solano: What is it you want? You want money? That's what you've always wanted, right? You want me to pay, isn't that it? You want me to pay?!
Player Merc: Yeah. * BANG* Payday.
Border Patrol: I'm sorry, did you say missile strike? Yes, the A.N. isn't permitting travel to or from North Korea at the moment, and will deploy fighters if you attempt to leave the map.
Boring Yet Practical: Playground of Destruction runs on this. Your starter weapon? Most balanced assault rifle in the game.
Fiona: I know it's not state-of-the-art. Nilsson: Well, it kills people, right?
How about the NK scout vehicles? The ones you find literally everywhere and obliterate by the hundreds? It's speedy, it can enter any NK outpost without retaliation, and can climb mountains like a billy goat. (The same can be said for each faction's scout vehicle, actually.)
The AK-47 in the second game. Ammo is plentiful, and it has reasonable accuracy and damage, making it good for much of the game and workable in the late-game when fighting VZ troops. By comparison, the M4 carbine is much more accurate but ammo is harder to come by (unless you're fighting UP mercs).
Born in the Wrong Century: Nilsson belongs on a viking ship in 800 AD, not a modern day professional army. He is apparently a fan of Norse mythology, as well.
Fiona: Does Sergei seem a little wigged out to you? Nilsson: "The hanged man will kick at anything when the noose starts to tighten around his neck." That's an old Viking saying which means, uhh, yeah.
"General Song will lay waste to your pathetic armies!"
Car Fu: A perfectly viable method of dealing with emplaced weapons. Put C4 on the rooftop for double the fun!
Casanova Wannabe: Ewan, the helicopter pilot from the sequel, claims to have a great track record with the ladies.
Challenging the Chief: Sergei, the Russian mob boss from the first game, eventually tries to have both the player and his second-in-command, Josef, killed off by the North Koreans. He fails, and the final series of missions for the Russian mob involve Josef sending you out to clean house, so to speak, and defends against the NK troops aiding Sergei.
Inverted. Josef is bound by his code of honor to obey Sergei no matter how ludicrous his orders are. Sergei, jealous of the way Josef commanded respect from the rank and file, becomes flustered and eventually provokes the Mob War.
The Chessmaster / The Gambler: The card motif naturally lends itself to metaphors. Buford and Peng seem to share a subliminal understanding of their duel: Peng speaks of his men and territory as "pieces" in a great game of chess, while Buford refers to the merc as his "Ace in the hole."
Chinese with Chopper Support: Both in the first and second game, and usually have cheaper and somewhat shoddier airstrikes and vehicles. (Oddly, the Vehicle Support drops can only be gained from them.)
Chunky Salsa Rule: In the first game, getting hit by a car going at full speed is usually a death sentence, regardless of how much health you have.
CIA Evil: Well, "CIA morally grey" is more like it. In the first game, the South Koreans were being "advised" by burned out CIA Agent Buford who, by the end of the game, wanted you to take out the Chinese Army more than he wanted you to take out the North Korean threat. In the sequel, CIA Agent Joyce is calling the shots for the Allies, and is a lot colder and less likeable than General Peng, though both are in the conflict almost entirely because of the oil. He even attempts to back out of the deal to give you a nuke if you side with the Allies at the end of the game.
Cold Sniper: The Dragunov sniper rifle, the tool of the patient pro. With the help of a helicopter, the merc can find a nice, isolated nest to pick troops off at a distance. The anti-armor rifle works the same way, except it can penetrate the glass canopy of an attack chopper.
Color-Coded for Your Convenience: All of the factions sport specific colors to identify them in battle, making it easy to figure out who is who. The AN uses green and gray camouflage schemes with blue helmets and blue vehicles, while the Chinese use black-and-white urban camouflage. South Korean units are blue/green with soldier in muted blue coats, Russian Mafia goombas wear black coats, and the North Korean forces are uniformly brown in coloration. In the second game, UP forces feature black vehicles and uniforms with white lettering and trim, PLAV forces use bright green vehicles with soldiers wearing civilian clothes, jungle camouflage, and vests, and Venezuelan Army units wear yellow/orange camouflage. Pirates have yellow and purple-painted vehicles that stand out very clearly compared with other factions' more muted designs.
The Consigliere: Inverted in PoD. Josef was flown over from Moscow to keep Sergei in line, and spends most of the game mopping up after his boss. It's an open secret seeing as even Buford knows to deal directly with Josef.
Conspicuous Consumption: Nisson plans to use his share of the bounty to custom order a Lamborghini with diamond-encrusted wheels.
Conveniently Empty Building: The "Exit Strategy" mission in the original. China wants you to storm the South Korean-controlled city of Sinuiju and demolish not one, not two, but three office towers. In her email, Fiona observes that someone tipped off the SKs, because they've totally cleared the streets.
The inversion occurs in the sequel when both the AN and the Chinese send the mercenary into populated cities because of the civilian presence, which prevents them from acting as...decisively as they would want. But the mercenary is able to go in and any civilian casualties are on their heads. Peng even gives the player access to rocket artillery strikes to direct into the city as needed and specifies certain buildings he wants destroyed.
On the mission to destroy the UP headquarters late in the second game, Fiona mentions that the UP executives and all civilian staff have evacuated the area, leaving only mercenary troops and AN soldiers to occupy the place.
Corrupt Corporate Executive: Ramon Solano is the owner of an ISP; and moves up from being the wealthiest man in the country to being President Evil. Also, Doctor Rubin from Universal Petroleum is in charge of a mercenary army and will pay the player to wreak all sorts of havoc.
Create Your Own Villain: In the sequel, the mercenary helps Ramon seize power, which leads to a brutal war that devastates Venezuela and causes the United States and China to attack each other. Oh, and Solano gets a hold of a nuke, which he uses on his own country. In a normal story, the player would want to take out Solano to stop the evil they helped bring about. In this game? You want to take out Solano because he cheated you out of your pay and had you shot in the ass.
Cue the Sun: This occurs after the mercs best General Song in PoD. The sun rises in the direction of a helipad you're expected to exit from.
Cutting Off The Branches: North Korea loses its nationhood in the original game's ending. Depending on which faction likes you the most, the country is either absorbed back into South Korea, becomes the newest province of The People's Republic, or degenerates into a Russian-owned Vice City. However, the sequel confirms that China did indeed annex the North in 2007.
Cutting the Knot: The third boss level in PoD, a nuclear power plant, is encircled by a mesh fence which can be blown up with grenades. This completely foils the level design—which is meant to emphasize stealth—and exposes a straight line to the Ace of Hearts. This is the most glaring example, but there are countless others: the Merc can circumvent a mountain hideaway by going around the supply road and taking a circuitous route along the mountaintops, or snipe the targets from a distance, or simply use a chopper.
Dastardly Whiplash: It's neck and neck between Song and Solano. General Song overthrew the country when his father, the President, dismissed his crooked cabinet and made moves toward embracing the Sunshine Policy. Song shot his father as the first act of his new administration. Not content with that, he begin manufacturing and selling nukes to terror organizations(!). If the Australian navy hadn't captured Song's merchandise, who's to say the Allies would have even interfered with Song's coup in the first place?
Ramon Solano had different concerns: Knowing that his political enemies would likely hire the mercs to help topple him (ExOps' reputation precedes them), he immediately tries to off the player. Besides that, Solano is generally a mwu-ha-ha'ing opportunist.
Deadpan Snarker: All of the mercs, but Jennifer and Mattias especially. This happens whenever your vehicle is preparing to explode...
Mui: Should this be smoking?
...or should you run out of ammo.
Nilsson:(to player) What am I supposed to use, harsh language?
Death Mountain: There is a canyon in PoD which hides two members of the Deck of 52. This is the one of the trickiest extractions to pull off in the entire game, especially if you want them alive; it'll likely cost you 3x more than the bounties earned from capturing them. There's also the little matter of the Black Gate, which the game won't even allow you to enter except during the Ace of Diamonds contract.
The northern province has a snowy mountain range which is littered with anti-aircraft launchers and tanks. It's actually possible to snag a free Hind here, provided you sneak in with an NK vehicle and split while the getting's good. To the east lies a hilltop which is being held by two of Song's amazons. The more valuable target is just sitting on a bluff, surrounded by AA cannons, missile launchers, and a helicopter. What the heck she's doing up there is anyone's guess.
We can toss in two of the Ace contracts as well. The Diamond has positioned his super-guns on two large bluffs, one pointed east and the other north; the former is protected by a contingent of tanks, while latter is radioactive and can't be scaled (you must fire at the super-gun from the opposite cliff). In the last level, your mercenary endures a long, hard slog up a mountaintop to Song's missile silo.
Deathbringer the Adorable: In a mission that takes place after you get the UP Mercenaries some vitally needed ammo, they refuse to let you see their boss until you do another mission—retrieve the Devastator. You get to the point laid out on your map and see a pretty lethal-looking tank, but the Devastator is really a pink moped with a flower basket that play cutesy music. Thank god you later get the option to just wipe out UP HQ.
Fiona even makes fun of the player's chosen mercenary while they are riding it, and Jacobs will grumble that the whole thing feels like a fraternity hazing. Fittingly enough, after getting into good standing with UP, the mercenaries treat the chosen merc pretty well...almost as if they just successfully joined their frat.
The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: Blowing up your base's fuel storage tanks will result in not only losing the fuel stored in them, but also the fuel storage capacity they represent, meaning you not only have to rebuild your stockpile of fuel, you first have to buy a replacement tank to stash it in.
Does This Remind You of Anything?: The first game's plot is suspiciously similar to the War on Terror (right down to the Deck of 52), while the second hit close enough to home for Hugo Chavez to accuse Pandemic of making the game solely for propaganda purposes.
...And gets thrown out the window when the Allied Nations are suddenly made into oil-hungry incompetent idiots, China is in it for the oil and to become more powerful, the rebels are solely out for revenge, the dictator doesn't even resemble Hugo at all (and is a Corrupt Corporate Executive). Hammering the point home is a praise of Bolivar's rebellion before the credits roll. Smooth there, since the AN actually cared about the North Korean civilians in the first game - to the point where your game could come to a screeching halt if you pissed them off by killing civilians, because they were the ones paying for the Deck, and giving the Ace assignments...
Dragon-in-Chief: Sergei's capo, an ex-KGB named Josef, is the exact opposite of Sergei in terms of personality: he's an astute professional, often adding amendments to Sergei's brash and high-profile missions. He always speaks in a cool, calm manner, in sharp contrast to el jefe.
Josef eventually topples the upstart Sergei when the latter proves too much of a liability. It takes a long time to get to that point, though; Josef must wait for Sergei to take a swipe at him first.
Drunken Master: Misha, the jet pilot in the second game. He flies better than just about everyone else in the country, as long as he's completely wasted while he does it. It's implied that he can't fly for shit while sober, although there's no way to confirm this due to the fact that he keeps himself totally drunk for the entire game.
It is implied, however, that his drunkenness doesn't affect his piloting ability, its just that A, he's always drunk, and B, no one but someone who is off-his-balls wasted would be insane enough to fly his rustedrelic that he calls his plane.
Dude, Where's My Reward?: The mercs occasionally grouse about not being credited for their exploits; Officially, the company never set foot in North Korea. Meanwhile, the news media prattles on about "Allied victories" and Garret takes credit for each card you capture.
Agent Buford has similarly spent years of his life lurking in the shadows, funneling cash and moving units through the south, knowing that history will never know his name. Unlike the mercs, though, he's resigned to it.
"No one will ever know how much of it was the work of one man. But I'll know."
Dynamic Entry: In the first game, you start off by driving your Humvee out of an airborne C-17 Globemaster, and making a beeline to Allied HQ through NK barricades.
Dysfunctional Family: Even in the first game, Jennifer Mui was said to have come from a broken home, but it's built up later. In the comic, it's revealed that her father had a son from a teenage affair, whom he put up for adoption to hide the fact. Said child was bounced from orphanage to orphanage and eventually joined the Chinese Army (in fact, he's Colonel Li Zhiyaun). When he grew up, he confronted his father (who by that time married and had more children and success), and resented the easier life Jen and her other brother, David, had (dear ol' dad kept them and refused to acknowledge Li Zhiyaun). During the events of the comic, he kidnaps Fiona in an attempt to have the mercenaries kill off David Mui, who's leading the Taiwanese insurgency. The Mercenaries come up with a plan to rescue her, but David, believing that he was being betrayed, screws up aforementioned plan, leading to Zhiyaun placing Chris, Fiona, and David in front of a firing squad. Jen, Mattias, and the rebels come to the rescue. In the end, Jen and David shoot Zhiyuan, but don't seem to part on the best of terms.
Eagleland: In the first game, the United States-led Allied Nations are attempting to stabilize the situation and end a legitimate threat (Type I). In the sequel, the Allied Nations are just there for the oil (Type II). When it turns out that Solano got his hands on a North Korean nuke, their decision to move in becomes a retroactively good choice, if for less-than-noble reasons. In both games, they tend to have very good high-level weaponry.
Evil Brit: Jennifer, you have your moments. She's certainly the most calculating of the mercs, unlike Nilsson who enjoys chaos for its own sake.
Evil Cripple: Joyce become one after an IED lands him in a wheelchair. Seems that Solano took notice of his meddling.
Expy: UP's mercenaries are almost dead-ringers for the real-life PMC Blackwater, with some elements of Executive Outcomes thrown in. Their heavily-armored black-painted SUVs to their black-painted helicopters (which look almost exactly like the OH-6 helicopters Blackwater use) and some of the missions (one even involves escorting VIPs to safe areas from the airport—one of Blackwater's main functions in Iraq) match what Blackwater does right now, and the availability of light armor and air power, coupled with their focus on protecting natural resources owned and exploited by a parent company, matches what Executive Outcomes did in Africa. It doesn't help that ExOps, the mercenary company you work for in the first game, was based on Executive Outcomes.
Finagle's Law: In the first game, every time — every SINGLE time — a mission requires you to get somewhere quickly and/or with as little damage as possible, the shortest possible route will be full of warring soldiers, trigger-happy tanks, and exploding cars.
Four Is Death: Four suits, four boss characters: the Ace of Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, and Spades (General Song himself).
Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Colonel Peng is the only character seen wearing glasses. Perhaps not coincidentally, he comes across as an unfeeling bureaucrat much of the time. This is subverted in the sequel, where Peng is retooled as a Boisterous Bruiser type.
Foreign Language Tirade: In the sequel, Matthias will sometimes curse in Swedish after losing one of Fiona's challenges, complete with the subtitle "[Curses in Swedish]"
Fragile Speedster: Jennifer, but this is relative to the other mercs - she can still take a few RPGs to the face and stay in the fight.
Freudian Excuse: The seeds of Mui's cold-blooded pursuit of money is said to have originated from her parents' divorce. Not wanting to end up broke like her mother, coupled with an obsessive need for control, pushed Mui to excell at everything and amass a ton of money.
Game-Breaking Bug: The sequel had a number of areas that could've used more playtesting; one notable example is in a mission where you have to rescue a hostage held on top of a skyscraper. Oftentimes, as soon as the player enters the hostage's line of sight, the hostage will run towards them. Even if they're in a helicopter, and running towards them leads the hostage off of the skyscraper.
When you're in a particularly desperate spot, sometimes the game will simply jam your HP at 10 and refuse to register any further hits on the player. Even worse, you'll be permanently subjected to the 'concussion' Interface Screw effects of a pulsing screen and a 'wub wub wub wub wub' noise.
Until March 2012, the sequel would no longer play if you have an internet connection. This was true on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC. Contrary to popular belief, the servers were only shut down for the PC version. For the console versions, EA updated their Terms and Conditions but forgot to patch the new location in Mercenaries 2. Instead of simply giving an error message, the game got stuck "Connecting to EA server" forever and freezes up completely. It was possible to get around this: you'd have to run any online-enabled EA game released before Mercenaries 2 (August 2008) that still has its servers active (e.g. Need For Speed Carbon, TheOrangeBox, or Battlefield: Bad Company).
Genre Savvy: By the second game, nearly everyone is aware that you are the person to turn to to pull off impossible tasks that no one person would ever be sane enough to do. The enemies are also Dangerously Genre Savvy; while fighting the Chinese, for example, the troops calling for reinforcements will outright say that they need armor support, because you will wipe out their infantry. Also, General Carmona waits until you're trying to take out Solano before he attacks the PMC.
Good Ol' Boy: Mitchell Buford, full stop. His avatar in World of Flames is the Texas-bred Dr. Rubin.
Buford: That's the radio. It plays both kinds of music: country and western.
Hard-Coded Hostility: In Playground of Destruction, there are five factions in the game: the Allied Nations, South Korea, the Russian Mafia, China and North Korea. The attitude of the first four depends on how you treat them: North Korea is always hostile to you and all of the other factions.
Hookers and Blow: The inspiration for some of Sergei's more colorful ideas, such as ordering his goombas to go mine uranium for him. He's constantly snorting rails and waving his pistol around when you meet with him.
I Fought the Law and the Law Won: In the first game, you had to piss off the AN as little as possible, seeing as they were paying the bounties that were the focus of the game. Each Allied solider you kill (even by accident) costs you $25,000, just so the player won't get any funny ideas.
I Want Them Alive: While your contacts are willing to settle for a photograph of a corpse, catching high-value targets alive nets you twice the paycheck.
Identical-Looking Asians: North Korea is Jennifer's preferred terrain, for obvious reasons. NK forces and their rival factions will be slower to attack her due to her Asian features; the subterfuge won't hold up under close scrutiny, though.
Immigrant Patriotism: Twenty years of working in Seoul has made Buford more determined than ever to secure the country's future. Defeating Song won't mean much to the South Koreans if the Chinese roll in to pick up the pieces.
Kent Brockman News: Adrianna Livingston covers the Song Initiative from start to finish, as well as reporting which faction is currently in the lead. Livingston has a posh accent on camera, but swears like a sailor in private (if Garrett's phone convo is anything to go by).
La Résistance: The People's Liberation Army of Venezuela, or P.L.A.V., in the second game.
Let's You and Him Fight: You're expected to work for each faction, playing them against each other, if need be, in order to claim the spoils of war for yourself.
Leave No Witnesses: This is how you can get away with shooting people belonging to a particular faction in Mercenaries 2: make sure they don't radio their boss that "the one that Serrano shot in the ass" is attacking them.
Logical Weakness: @#$%&! portable jammers. When you approach the radius of a jammer, the game locks out all air support. The NKs get increasingly creative in their placement of these things.
Long Game: The factions in both games. Personified by Agent Buford/Joyce and Colonel Peng.
Lost Forever: In the first game, accepting an Ace contract forfeits all the unverified bounties of the same suit. (As well as the rather awesome 100% Completion bonus, if you didn't verify them all.)
One mission from late the first game has you destroying the bridge connecting to the Chinese HQ in the northern map, thus rendering any optional races to and from the Chinese HQ impossible.
Lyrical Dissonance: "Oh No, You Didn't", the song from an ad for the second game. It's a song that sounds like something from a musical about the singers wreaking havoc after getting shot in the ass by Solano.
Macross Missile Massacre: This would happen if you attempted to travel beyond the boundaries of PoD's map. AN fighters swoop down and rain down a comical number of missiles right on top of your head.
Made of Iron: The original was generally pretty good about snuffing you when you did something like got a chopper blown up at 2,000 feet.. but in the sequel, you'll hit the ground, dust yourself off, and regenerate back to "okay". Even in the first game, it takes a lot more lead to kill you than it does your enemies.
The Man Behind the Man: On paper, Major Park is the man in charge in the DPRK. In reality, the real brains of the operation is Special Agent Buford. Peng mentions this whenever the South Koreans do something unexpected.
Buford:(over the phone) Colonel Garret, I assure you the CIA have no ambitions in this theatre. I can't speak for the South Koreans, of course. Excuse me, I have an important message coming in.
Military Maverick: When Colonel Garrett isn't voicing his dislike for PMCs, he's throwing fits over not having "clearance!" or "authorization!" to intervene in North Korea. The last straw is when the NKs begin shelling the green zone, whereupon Garrett reluctantly gets into bed with ExOps. Due to being constantly monitored by GSRN, the Colonel can't afford to make any mistakes or let too many AN personal die.
Peng (of all people) could be considered one, openly admitting the limitations of the army he commands. Despite misgivings, he realizes that mercenaries are a necessity in this kind of theater. If anyone calls him on it, Peng will simply deny he's ever met you; after all, everyone knows the Chinese never outsource to mercs!
Mirror Match: It is possible for two of the same character to play in the same game in Mercenaries 2 co-op.
An early mafia mission involves sabotaging a South Korean offensive for similar reasons. Apparently, Sergei didn't appreciate Buford doing business in Korea without his involvement.
Monumental Damage: You blow up the Pyongyang Hotel to smoke out the first Ace in the Deck of 52.
Mordor: The NK forces are concentrated around the Black Gate and, in the north province, the nuclear waste site. (Once acid rain starts falling, you'll know you've arrived.) These sections are perilous even with the best gear and vehicles.
Murder Is the Best Solution: An early Sergei mission has him ordering the deaths of three of his spies (one from each faction) based on an inkling that one of them might be a triple agent, or something. He expects you to shoot these men in full few of witnesses, armed escorts, and numerous news cameras. It doesn't even occur to Sergei to provide you with a long-range weapon(!), which is why Josef slips you a Dragunov on the sly.
North Koreans with Nodongs: The first game featured the KPA as the main antagonist faction. In fact, it's impossible to raise your goodwill with them.
Not in This for Your Revolution: The mercenaries, of course, are in it for the profit in the first game, rather than any humanitarian or ideological cause. In the sequel, it's for payback (and profit).
Though a few scenes prevent them from being a Sociopathic Hero, their reaction to torturers and generals shelling civilians, as well as getting along better with the more moral factions than the corrupt ones.
Not So Different: The Colonels on the American and Chinese sides are both middle-aged family men, fretting about putting on weight. Garret's HQ has a stationary bike collecting dust in a corner; Garret explains that his wife wants him to keep fit, but he never uses it. Similarly, Peng has fallen out of practice with his Win Chun; his wife mailed him a training dummy which he never uses.
Obvious Rule Patch: a visual one. In the first game, hijacking a tank caused the merc to always pull out a grenade and drop it in the cockpit to kill the driver. Even if you used up all your grenades. In the second game they switched it to the merc pulling a grenade off the driver (see "Press X To Not Die" above) to clear the cockpit the same way.
Oh, Crap: The telltale whistling of a heat-seeking missile.
Mui: Hm. Well, that can't be good.
Oddly Small Organization: In the sequel, the player starts their own PMC as part of their bid to take down Solano. And yet, despite this the player still has to do all the heavy lifting, because the "PMC" consists of the Player Merc, the tech support lady, the helicopter pilot, the bomber pilot, the mechanic. And yet, these five people manage to overthrow the Venezuelan Government. If you play co-op in Mercenaries 2, you could add the other two playable mercs to the list, but it still is a small group. The first game explicitly states that fire support is delivered by the faction you bought it from, and that the price given is the amount necessary to bribe the people responsible for getting that ordinance delivered where and when you want it.
Old Friend: If the player chooses Nilsson, it's revealed that Nilsson and Josef did work together in Kosovo.
Alternatively, picking Mui reveals the reason why Fiona joins the mercs in Korea; she saved Mui's life during the second Iraq War. ExOps noted Mui's tendency to shirk teamwork and blame failures on the incompetence of others, which is why the company assigned a familiar face as her support.
Ominous Latin Chanting: The final stage in PoD. The Mercenaries fanfare kicks in during the siege on Song's island, with a bombastic choir added in.
One Bullet Clips: Averted in the sequel, at the cost of adding a ludicrously huge ammunition capacity, especially if you're Jacobs.
Only in It for the Money: The player characters are explicitly only there to make a lot of money (or to blow stuff up for giggles, in Nilsson's case). The UP mercenaries also mention that they're only fighting for the money as well, and some of the UP mercenaries will mention that they think it's "only a matter of time before Solano makes us an offer..."
Pet the Dog: The mercs are gleefully greedy and amoral, but in the last mission for the first game, they show a surprising amount of concern for President Kim when they find him and promise to get him an evac chopper. Likewise, the Allied and Chinese leaders are lukewarm on the prospect of employing mercs and don't bother to hide their disdain. They do eventually warm up over the course of the storyline, even Peng.
Pistol-Whipping: Used in the first game, both to stun (one hit) and to KO (two hits). This is how you generally have to take the Deck of 52 alive.
Of course, the Deck of 52 needs to be subdued after that, using a different button press.
Private Military Contractors: The player characters. In the original, they worked for an elite military corporation called ExOps, while in the sequel, they've decided to work freelance.
In the second game, the people serving as security for the Universal Petroleum Corporation are said to be working for a much more low-rent PMC.
Professional Killer: A staple of the sleazy mobster missions: Both Seregi and Josef send you on missions to silently eliminate their competitors. In fact, the work dries up once you've completed all the hits and business begins in earnest, since the Russians have no use for you after that. The Chinese side has some wet work for you to take care of, too: An early Peng assignment involves sniping a couple of mafia capos on their own turf.
Punch Clock Villain: With the exception of the pirates in the second game, everyone you fight is one of these. The VZ troops under Solano believe they're fighting to protect their land against invaders, and ditto for the PLAV. The UP mercenaries make it quite clear they're just there as security for the company, and both the AN and PLA troops are there to secure the country and gain access to the oil reserves for their nation(s).
Qurac: Notably averted - The first game takes place in suburban/rural North Korea, and the second in tropical Venezuela.
Real Vehicle Reveal: Mercenaries 2 does this in one of the missions - you're told to grab a vehicle called "Devastator" while looking at a cool tank, after which it is revealed you're supposed to pick a small pink moped standing behind the wall.
Realpolitik: In both games, the people you work for are in it for their own agenda. Granted, most of the factions agree that General Song and Ramon Solano have to go, but that's the only thing they agree on.
Retcon: The mercs' origins received some slight tweaks between games. In the original, Jennifer comes from an affluent family where her parents were too busy to pay her any attention. In the sequel, the formative event of her youth was being evicted and forced to live out of their car for some time.
Road Cone: Obviously, the game changes ever so slightly depending on which merc you use; however, the backstory for the second game shows that Chris is the one who took down Song according to the storyline.
Roaring Rampage of Revenge: In the sequel, the Big Bad, Ramon Solano, screws the player character out of their paycheck and tries to have them killed... and shot them in the ass. The way things ended, Ramon should've just handed over the money.
Ruthless Foreign Gangsters: The Russian Mafia from the first game and Jamaican Pirates from the sequel. Notable in that the first game more or less depended on being in the Russian Mob's favor, as their "Merchant Of Menace'' web shop was your means of purchasing airstrikes and vehicles. The Pirates also sold gear, however, where much less critical to the story and you could purchase similar or even superior vehicles and munitions from other factions.
Also notable in that the if the player completes bonus objectives on a particular mission, The Mafiya gets its hands on Frog-7 missiles.
Something worth noting is that being on best terms with the Mob in the first game also reduces shop prices at the Merchant of Menace. Besides, Josef is a cool guy. His stupid boss, not so much.
Scenery Gorn: The environment rapidly goes from pristine to a smoking ruin of destroyed buildings and molten tanks and shattered vehicles after any prolonged battle. Several cities you pass through in both games are ruined by heavy fighting, and the entire city of Maricaibo gets blasted to hell and back when the AN and Chinese invade.
The main menu features the camera wandering through a war-torn city in the rain as a backdrop.
Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: The various players involved in the Song Initiative follow protocol only when it suits them. During a conversation with Major Park that can only be understood when playing as Chris, Buford admits that he doesn't bother with getting CIA clearance anymore, as that would only obstruct his personal mission.
Shot in the Ass: The driving force for the plot of the second game. Really.
First you try to trap me, then you put a cap in my ass
Shout-Out: The first game featured several to Star Wars and Indiana Jones, as it was published by LucasArts. From the burnt out CIA agent wishing he had an Imperial Star Destroyer to a news report that throws fuel on the Han shoots first pissing contest.
You could play as Indy or Han Solo by means of cheats, given to you by way of Scavenger Hunt.
The achievements in World In Flames are all references to hard rock or heavy metal songs.
If you commandeer a bus, you may initiate a speed-driving bonus game. "Pop quiz, hotshot!"
In World in Flames, some of the AN soldiers have dialogue based on Pauly Shore in In the Army Now, whereas they talk in Valspeak and say phrases such as "Man...why's everyone so hostile here?" "Heeeeeey (as a greeting)" and "Whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa whoa...WHOA! There's oil here? Where, man?"
Mattias' World In Flames redesign is a homage to Technoviking.
Several of the special items (treasures/WMDs in 1, vehicle components in 2) in both games were either shoutouts to movies (Death Star Plans) or other games (Saren's Hoverboard) or even, apparently, prominent forumites and beta testers, plus a couple of nods to the first game.
Schrödinger's Player Character: All three Mercs exist, but only the one you choose is sent after Song in the first game. In the sequel, the other two show up briefly in the intro to taunt your chosen Merc for getting shot in the ass, and are presumably still hanging around the bar throughout proceedings, but play no further part outside of Co-Op.
State Sec: Song's own "Division 39", created to free North Korea from the iron grip of gangsters so it could be seized by the iron grip of Division 39 instead. The agency acted as a state-sponsored protection racket until President Kim told them to cut it out. Business resumed under the new regime.
Fiona: Well, counterfeiting, slave-trading... If you call that business, these guys are businessmen.
Stepford Suburbia: Song's "Propaganda Village", a thriving housing complex built by the Great Leader. Too bad the buildings are all empty, 2-D facades. Good grief.
Stuff Blowing Up: You can blow up almost anything. Anything. Indeed,the first game was advertised as such: "Blow stuff up." *BOOM* "Then blow the hell out of it again." *BABOOM* "Then blow it up some more!" *KRAKOOM*
In the first game, trees were indestructible. In the second, you can blow up EVERYTHING. In fact, the DLC trailer shows that you can destroy that oil rig... after a while.
There are about three or four oil rigs, in fact. You get to blow up at least one of them, maybe two if you do the right mission and don't mind pissing Joyce off.
This starts in the loading screens: Pandemic's corporate splash screen starts with a giant pile of grenades destroying the facade of a building.
Suicidal Cosmic Temper Tantrum: Song will activate the launch sequence for his warheads when cornered. They are easily deprogrammed, though, and explode in the atmosphere.
Summon Bigger Fish: In the second game, the situation just starts out with the VZ fully in control of much of the country and UP, the Pirates, and the PLAV fighting them. Once you blow up the oil rig controlled by Blanco, though, UP is unable to maintain control of the oil flow, and the Allied Nations step in, with China right behind them. At that point fighting the VZ military becomes secondary to resolving the war between the Allies and China, who have much larger and much nastier forces than any of the previous factions can bring to bear.
Surveillance as the Plot Demands: General Song makes a habit of discussing his evil plans and not-dead relatives in front of hidden cameras. The footage of a snow-capped mountain clues Garrett in on where to narrow your search.
Suspicious Videogame Generosity: For the final mission, Garrett makes each of the Allied airstrikes available to you regardless of whether you've unlocked them. The catch is, apart from a couple freebies, you still need to pay for them. This, coupled with the more powerful airstrikes you earn from other factions, makes it inadvisable to tackle General Song's island right away.
The Syndicate: Inverted. The Russians made landfall in Korea with the sole mission of exploiting the reconstruction efforts (once Song is removed, that is). Sergei was presumably handed control of that branch because no one could possibly screw it up. Throughout the game, Sergei's makes ill-advised decisions such as seizing control of a North Korean uranium mine, stealing counterfeiting plates from the Chinese, provoking the South Koreans who have built a settlement nearby, and assassinating an A.N. representative during a live news conference. Once there's nobody left in North Korea to piss off, Sergei starts picking off his own men; Josef uses this as pretext to have him killed.
Take It To The Bridge: China's isolationism is reflected in Colonel Peng, who always keeps a long bridge between his HQ and the mainland. The final leg of the South Korean missions involved taking out one such bridge.
Take This Job And Shove It: Near the end of the game, Buford refers to himself as an ex-CIA agent, suggesting that Langley has disassociated itself from him. It's anyone guess where Buford goes after the Song Initiative wraps up.
Tank Goodness: As put by Mattias in one voice-over: "RPG! Next to a tank, my favorite!"
Temple of Doom: The final Chinese mission in PoD is set on a remote mountain temple. Not a fun place to be, particularly when it falls under an artillery barrage.
There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Sure, you could just run up and shoot the guy, but ordering a laser-guided airstrike to flatten the city block he's in is much more fun.
Using the Portable Airstrike against a North Korean horde. BAM. That area will have no buildings standing afterwards.
Mattias is known for utilizing this trope. His personal profile even states that he prefers using air strikes and artillery shells to take out enemies when mowing them down with a machine gun would be adequate.
The Revolution Will Not Be Villified: The PLAV, who treats the mercs as saviors if you work with them. They're the closest thing to a heroic faction in the second game, as they are mostly concerned with protecting the civilians and booting Solano's regime out of the country.
This Is the Part Where...: In PoD's ending, Nisson boasts, "I love this part" when stuffing General Song into the back of an extraction chopper.
Too Awesome to Use: Attack helicopters fit the bill. With no shortage of anti-air units and a lack of "garages" to save them in, the best bet is to fly them during missions so you can restart if they explode. The prized Russian Kasatka makes only one appearance in PoD, and the Apache can't be seized without shooting the Allied pilot in midair.
Took a Level in Kindness: Colonel Peng's heart (and rank insignia) grew three sizes that day! This was one of many changes implemented in Mercenaries 2 to avoid demonizing foreign markets. Sensible, but still jarring; particularly for a man who was always scornful of mercenaries, stingy with praise, and summed himself up thusly:
"Serving the People's Republic involves many unpleasant duties; dealing with me, chief among them."
Trap Is the Only Option: The Ace of Hearts managed to trap the player in his nuclear plant on the verge of meltdown. The HUD betrays you by displaying the Heart's map icon inside the plant, but he's actually on a helipad.
The aforementioned shrine on one of PoD's tallest mountains. Peng sends you there to rendezvous with a monk who has Card intel, and even sends along a huey and some Chinese troops as backup. The entire unit is shelled to pieces the moment you reach the temple; seems the Card was waiting on the village outskirts to surround you with tanks and AA cannons. And the cliffs are too steep to escape without the chopper, now a flaming husk.
During PoD's fourth chapter, Sergei's growing paranoia drives him to make the ill-founded decision to betray both Josef and the mercenary to the North Koreans, believing that nobody will take him seriously otherwise.
Turn in Your Badge: All three of the mercs were washed out of the military for various reasons. Jennifer proved too self-reliant and impatient for the SAS. Chris left the army in disgust after several comrades were used as Cannon Fodder. Nilsson, the most unstable of the three, was simply too drunk and rowdy to have on base.
Universal Driver's License: Possibly justified given the Mercs' extensive military backgrounds. Nilsson's experience with boats is completely justified; Swedish amphibious troops train on a wide variety of military and civilian vessels up to and including sailing boats.
Unlockable Content: No new areas or missions in th first game, but you can unlock the 'cheat' airdrops by continuing after finishing the main mission. These include a submachinegun that operates like a helicopter-mounted rotary cannon, and a dandy little thing called a 'portable airstrike'. It looks like a bazooka, and has the effects of one of the larger airstrikes. Both come with absurdly large magazines. Since buildings and vehicles are all destructible, this can be a lot of fun (and amusing for cleaning up some of those unkilled bonus targets).
Use Your Head: How Nilsson starts his subduing animation in the first game.
Or "Be careful with my car!" only for you to promptly prang it and comment about it looking better with dents.
In the first game, you are paid a bounty on every North Korean vehicle you destroy, so you're encouraged to attack and kill every NK soldier and vehicle you encounter, even if they're completely irrelevant to the mission at hand. However, the bounty is only for NK vehicles, not soldiers, so you can get paid without having to actually kill any enemy troops - theoretically. In the second game, however, you're paid a bounty by a faction for killing the soldiers of their rival faction, encouraging you to actively hunt down and kill everyone in an encampment to maximize profits.
In the first game, killing civilians was met with a pay penalty and reduced influence with the Allied Nations, which could really screw you over since they were the ones giving out the story missions against the Deck of 52. In the second, you just get the pay penalty, which after a while really ceases to matter.
Violation of Common Sense: In the second game, any munitions you buy, steal, or earn are stored in your villa. The villa where your headquarters is located and your entire team lives. As your stockpiles increase, they really start to pile up, until basically every usable surface in the entire building is filled with bombs, missiles, rockets, grenades, artillery shells, crates of ammunition and plastic explosives...all just sort of lying haphazardly around the place, completely unsecured. Your operation is essentially based out of a giant house-shaped bomb.
Walk It Off: Moreso in the sequel - in the original, there was a cap to your regeneration. In the sequel, there isn't, but after a certain point, regeneration slows enough to leave you wanting a medpack instead of relying on regeneration.
War for Fun and Profit: Why take jobs from only one faction, when you can play both sides of the field? Infiltrate the Chinese HQ in one of their own trucks and smuggle out one of their prisoners Then, drive south to repel a South Korean incursion. Then, blow up the Chinese army's fuel depot and trucks. Then, turn around and deliver encoded South Korean dispatches to the Chinese! The game actually encourages this, with Fiona musing that they're sparking an international incident and getting paid for it.
It get especially insidious if you use stealth methods, such as sniping, to avoid catching heat from either faction. When you come back from killing your employer's men, he gives you warm greetings and adoration! (You may have to take a shower afterwards, though.)
War Was Beginning: Fiona's powerpoint presentation at the start of PoD. The board of directors is hesitant to meddle in an area with so many reporters, but Fiona manages to get them to rule her way.
Wearing a Flag on Your Head: One of the unlockable 'civilian' outfits in PoD; Jennifer's, to be precise. It's a denim outfit with the Union Jack emblazoned on her back.
Weaponized Car: Among the unlockable cars in PoD is a red Hummer H3. In the northern province, the Russians begin to drive black, armored H3 variants with a rotary cannon on the roof.
In Mercs 2, your PMC mechanic, Eva Navarro, is able to produce custom cars, boats, and motorcycles if you collect boxes of random parts strewn across Venezuela. Most are basically civilian vehicles. With ridiculous firepower.
Welcome to Corneria: Especially bad in the second game. Each faction's soldiers have about three or four canned lines of dialogue for any given situation. Drive with any NPC as a passenger in your vehicle longer than five minutes and you might want to hop out and kill them yourself.
In the first game, expect "It's the mercenary!" every time you run into AN troops.
When All You Have Is a Hammer: During the takedown of General Song, the Allies clear you for access to all of their airstrikes — even the ones you haven't unlocked yet. Those icons aren't just there to make your HUD look pretty. The mission is borderline impossible without a few well-placed Kill Sats.
Wild Card: To maximize profits, players have to stab every faction in the back at one point or another. Keep pissing off one faction and they'll turn hostile towards you, though you can bribe your way back into their good graces.
Worthy Opponent: Buford shares a particularly adversarial relationship with Colonel Peng due to the latter's intent to install a communist government in South Korea. However, he remarks that Beijing sent the right man to do the job, perhaps showing he has some respect for him as an enemy. For his part, Peng grows to respect Buford's cunning, treating him as a chessmaster in their private game. You only get the full picture by taking jobs from both, since they never actually meet.
Peng: It it fate that we are matched against each other, he and I. One's worth in battle is measured by one's opponents.
In the second game, Peng is very enthusiastic about fighting the AN, because it is, in his words, "a legitimate military conflict with the West". He's sick of politics, fighting through proxy countries, and battling with weak, Third-World countries. He wants to fight the AN in a glorious battle of might against might for a reason that matters and will put China in its place as a world superpower.
Yanks with Tanks: The Allied Nations seem to be entirely staffed by the U.S. military (It's lampshaded in the sequel, with a more cynical Eagleland bent, that the AN pretty much consists of the US and a few token others). They have some of the best vehicles and airstrikes in both games.
Random AN Soldier: USA! USA! US—oops. I mean, uh...Allies, Allies! Allies!
The player can end up doing this to factions once their stream of missions end up drying up in the approach to the endgame.
You Remind Me of Me: Jennifer mutters this while haggling with Eva over her fee. The player first hears of Eva after receiving intel from helicopter pilot Ewan, saying that "everybody hates her," and that she is "right up your alley."
Oh no you didn't!
I'm a mercenary, you ain't got a prayer, you owe meeeeeeee!