Mercenaries can basically be described as Grand Theft AutomeetsStuff Blowing Up with lots of Deadpan Snarkers. Okay, that's a bit simplistic.Mercenaries is a game series by Pandemic Studios revolving around the titular "Mercenaries" and their highly explosive exploits. Known for its explosions and overall humor, along with its action.The first game, Playground of Destruction, is set in North Korea, where you're air-dropped into the middle of a conflict in search of a nuke-happy dictator named General Choi Song (who naturally has a huge bounty 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). The player can choose to work for four factions (South Korea, China, or The Russian Mafia, with the Allied Nations being required, as they're the ones paying the bounties) in order to gain intel and eventually capture Song.The second game, World in Flames, is set in Venezuela and centers on villain Ramon Solano, a greedy oil company exec who hires the mercenaries, shafts them out of their payday, and then takes over the nation. 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, pirates, and returning factions like the AN and China. The sequel is also known for its very catchy theme song.Following the closing of Pandemic by Electronic Arts, 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.
Oh no you didn't!
Payback is a coming, you will be running, forever!
The primary cast of Mercenaries:
Mattias Nilsson: In the first game, a cold motherfucker who shows very little emotion while slaughtering hundreds. In the sequel, he turned into a Heroic Comedic Sociopath. A Swede with a Mohawk and handlebar mustache who seems to dedicate his every waking moment to bigger and bigger explosions and just generally raising hell. In the original, he was faster than the other mercs - in the sequel, he regenerates faster. Voiced by Peter Stormare.
Jennifer Mui: A sleek British lady who enjoys money, luxurious bubble baths, money, fine wine, money, fast cars, and snapping necks. Specializes in stealth in the original, speed 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. Manages to avoid being a Ninja Butterfly by being just as snarky as the rest of the heroes. Voiced by Amy Lee in the first game and India Dupré in the second.
Oh no you didn't!
Until I get my vengeance, I will never end this mayhem!
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 death just a few feet away from the staircase down. In single file.
This also applies to the pilot in the sequel, who can easily get stuck on objects.
Civilians in the first game have a tendency to dive towards your vehicle when you drive fast near them.
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, but Impractical: 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.
Awesome Yet Practical: In the sequel, laser-guided missiles, bunker-busters, and anything else that can be called down via satellite or laser. They're devastatingly powerful, reasonably priced, and (perhaps best of all) can be called down from a fair distance away. It's even possible to use them to wipe out Allied/Chinese targets without negatively affecting faction opinion.
Even in the original, you'd often be granted free access to a limited number of high tier airstrikes during some missions. Additionally, the basic surgical strike in the original was cheap enough to use often, was decently powerful, and unlike the cheap strikes in 2, is laser-targeted, allowing you to trigger it from a fair distance away.
Banned In China: Thinking of picking up Playground of Destruction in the Koreas or World in Flames in Venezuela? Don't bother. Both games make obvious efforts to avoid offending their targets, but it isn't really enough. In the case of South Korea, it is not so much about offence as it is about political tension: the Koreas are still *technically* in a state of war, so any media without a strong historical basis which portrays them fighting is just too risky to allow.
Big Bad: Song in the first game, Solano in the second. Colonel Li Zhiyaun in the miniseries.
You blow up the Pyongyang Hotel to force out the first Ace in the Deck of 52.
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: 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, and you're expected to play them against each other, wreaking massive havoc, in order to get lots of money.
Except for the AN. In the first game, at least, where you repeatedly run humanitarian missions for NK refugees being blocked by China. In the sequel, China's the one doing 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.
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.
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...
Ironically, in the sequel, the Chinese wind up being the most sympathetic faction - if only because the man you interact with for them displays a desire to help the people (including a few missions where you escort ambulances), and is straightforward about his desire to go toe to toe with the Americans, while the AN contact is a cold, dispassionate CIA operative who only cares about the oil. It should be noted that the AN contacts in the original game sent you out for humanitarian missions, including having you fly past Chinese defenses to deliver supplies to fleeing refugees, while in the sequel, they're mostly there to keep the oil going.
Then again, some of the Chinese actions are...questionable. One of their destruction targets a large building with big red and white cross emblem on it. Odds are it isn't the Swiss embassy, so the ordered destruction of an Allied-run hospital makes the above mentioned ambulance escort missions seem like particularly coldhearted PR-ploys. It doesn't help that the first Allied mission involves destroying Chinese artillery units that the Allies can't get to because the Chinese set them up in a civilian-dense location...and the first Chinese mission involves doing something while that artillery supports you.
Similarly, General Peng makes no illusions about being there for the oil: the difference between him and Joyce is that Joyce is hobbled by the inability to be as open about it as Peng can be.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Karma Meter: Sort of. 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.
La Résistance: The People's Liberation Army of Venezuela, or P.L.A.V., in the second game.
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.
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.
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.
Mighty Glacier: Chris Jacobs in the original, Mattias in the sequel; but again, they aren't slow, just a bit slower than the other mercs.
Mirror Match: It is possible for two of the same character to play in the same game in Mercenaries 2 co-op.
Multiple Endings in the original, depending on which faction is friendliest with you and whether or not you manage to shutdown the nukes in the final mission.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: 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 game, 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. Which is way more awesome.
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.
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.
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.
Pistol Whipping: Used in the first game, both to stun (one hit) and to kill (two hits). This is how you generally have to take the Deck of 52 alive.
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.
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.
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.
In the first game, the Chinese General is calm, dislikes the Player, and looks like a buisness man in a suit. In the sequel, he looks younger, is happy to see the player, and is louder and far more boisterous than in the original.
The reason Peng is happy to see the player is because the player helped them get a promotion thanks to their work in the first game. They don't explain why he looks and acts completely differently.
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.
Shot in the Ass: The entire reason for the plot of the second game - "First you try to trap me, then you put a cap in my ass!", as "Oh No You Didn't" put it.
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.
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.
Sociopathic Hero: Mattias Nilsson, and to a lesser extent the rest of the mercs.
Fiona: Every time you injure a civilian, I have to use our money to pay off the hospital bills. Remember that next time.
Mattias: But they're so squishy!
South Koreans With Marines: The South Korean army in the first game. They specialized in stealth, hit and run tactics, and had some of the more high-tech gear.
Stop Helping Me!: In the second game, Fiona can approach this, if you decide to wander around aimlessly without really doing anything.
Coming too close to even a friendly faction commander will cause him to negate that disguise, sometimes at inopportune times.
Due to Artificial Stupidity, allied NPC soldiers can become considerably more dangerous to you if they are carrying explosives than the enemy. An Allied Nations soldier on a Mk. 19 or a Chinese Anti-Tank soldier carrying a fuel-air rocket launcher will gladly help you kill the enemy that is two feet in front of your face.
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.
Tank Goodness: As put by Mattias in one voice-over: "RPG! Next to a tank, my favorite!"
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.
Turn Coat: 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.
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.
And she has skillz. Yes, with a zed. In her own words.
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.
Weaponized Car: 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.
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. In the first game, however, 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.
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!