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Video Game / Mercenaries

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Grand Theft Auto fans, you're in the army now.

Fiona: You know, they say the DMZ's the most dangerous place on earth.
Nilsson: Just wait 'til I get there.

Mercenaries is a military sandbox series by Pandemic Studios, makers of Army Men: RTS, Star Wars: Battlefront, and The Saboteur. The plot revolves around the titular Mercenaries, each of them employed by 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. 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 huge bounty on his head. In order to gather intel on his whereabouts, the player must kill or capture his most trusted allies who, along with Song (codenamed the Ace of Spades), are collectively known as the "Deck of 52". 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.

The two main things PoD brought to the table were destructible environments (any structure has a 'life bar' and can be leveled with enough rockets or C4) and a smorgasbord of air strikes you can call in for a fee, raining death on your targets, whether inanimate or otherwise.

Though overshadowed by the likes of Just Cause, the game sold well and garnered enough of a cult following to warrant a sequel: World in Flames. Set in Venezuela, a social-climbing oil exec hires the mercenaries, shafts them out of their payday, and then crowns himself the new president. The over-arching mission is to take him down, but in order to get there, the mercs must once again form alliances with various factions, including: guerrillas, Rastafarian pirates, Big Oil, and the returning AN and Chinese superpowers. Each of the factions seek to control the outflux of oil. More care and attention is given to the explosions, particle effects, and the way buildings deteriorate. This game was sort of Just Cause 2 before Just Cause 2: you can grapple onto and hijack helicopters later in the game.

The primary cast of Mercenaries are as follows:

  • Mattias Nilsson: Based on the memetic "Technoviking." A Swedish psychopath who seems to dedicate his every waking moment to bigger and bigger explosions and generally raising hell. In the original, he could sprint faster than the other mercs; in the sequel, he regenerates faster. Voiced by Peter Stormare.
  • Jennifer Mui: Well-coiffed, Anglo-Chinese commando with an MI6/SAS background, and probably the most avaricious of the three. Specializes in stealth in the original, agility in the sequel. Voiced by Jennifer Hale.
  • Christopher Jacobs: Ridiculously Average Guy (supposedly the son of a black father and Korean immigrant mother) in the original, a cigar-chomping black man and all around badass in the second. A former US Army Ranger, and also something of a disillusioned idealist. He used to be tougher than the other mercs, but traded that for a larger ammo supply in the sequel. Voiced by Phil LaMarr.
  • 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.

The team who made it were killed by Electronic Arts, so a trilogy is unlikely. Following the buyout, a demo was leaked of Mercs, Inc., apparently a co-op continuation of the franchise. John Ricitello claimed that EA had a commitment to Pandemic's old franchises, implying that Mercs, Inc. was in-development. But it was cancelled when Danger Close Games shuttered in 2013.

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 guerrillas 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. The 2014 Asylum film can be found here.

Tropes seen in the Mercenaries series include:

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     Series as a Whole 
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: In both games. Lampshaded by Mui when (presumably male) players put her in the leather catsuit.
    "I feel like I'm in a video game."
  • 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  Then in the second game they're the "Anaconda".
  • Artificial Stupidity:
    • If you're driving any sort of ground vehicle, civilians and allied soldiers have a tendency to panic and leap straight into your path. This can be a serious problem given that hitting an NPC with a vehicle you're driving will instantly kill them, regardless of how slow you're going, and it can affect your relationship with friendly factions. 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.
    • 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.
    • The helicopter gunners, as with most of the allied units, are very unforgiving with regard to friendly fire. Couple this with the fact that the helicopters will absolutely refuse to take off until you either destroy them or give them the HVT for transport even when you make enemies of them means that you can unknowingly have pissed them off in the firefight only for the gunners to start unloading on you as you're trying to load the HVT into the chopper.
    • Friendlies often have a hard time boarding helicopters while following you.
    • Allied soldiers are more trouble than they're worth if they're carrying explosives. A friendly Mk. 19 or an Anti-Tank Chinese soldier carrying a fuel-air rocket launcher will happily assist you in targeting the enemy...who is two feet in front of your face.
    • In World in Flames, enemies won't aggro over physics-related deaths. So for any of the assassination missions, all you have to do is drop a car on the target.
    • During "The Last In Line" Chinese Side Mission in the non-PS2 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, as long as you don't run over any Allied troops or use ANY weapons on allied armor/troops during the side mission, they won't ever radio HQ nor fire back upon you, even when you set off the "extra time" explosive barrels right next to Allied troops/lightly-armored vehicles by running into said barrels with the tank you drive and destroys/kills them and strangely enough, even if one of the barrels explode right next to your tank, it won't harm it one bit, no bullshit, very convenient when not wanting to lower the relationship meter during said mission, and yes, it works for all three levels in said side mission, have some inconsequential fun!
  • Artistic License – Military: Mattias' backstory, as written, is impossible. Both when the first game was released and when Nilsson's service in the Swedish Army was supposed to have happened, Sweden did not have a professional army and you definitely couldn't join the army at 17. The Swedish army at the time conscripted its recruits at age 18 or after high-school, and the only career soldiers were officers. None of this information would have been impossible to find with a quick internet search. Also, someone with Nilsson's history would most likely have been declared mentally unfit.
  • Assist Character: Fiona in both games, and Ewan, Eva and Misha in the second.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • Helicopters are truly demonic in the southern province when they're rare and relatively difficult to obtain. They become impractical in the northern province because 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. NK Choppers still have their uses, though, particularly since they can bypass border guards. Also, a lot of the Spades are fortifying themselves in the mountains and are totally unreachable without a heli of some sort.
    • 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, this trope 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.
  • Big Bad: General Choi Song in the first game, Colonel Li Zhiyaun in the miniseries, Ramon Solano in the second.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality:
    • Beijing, Machiavellian as they may 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 Jamaican 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 authoritarian regime.
  • Bland-Name Product: ExOps is modeled on real-life PMC Executive Outcomes.
  • 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 Light Machine Gun (a Soviet RPD), found used by Deck of 52 members and elite soldiers in the Northern Province. Large ammo capacity, good accuracy and damage, overall an excellent choice for an all-around firearm.
    • The AK 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). As if to lampshade this, Nilsson will exclaim, "Hello, my old friend!" when picking up an AK.
  • China Takes Over the World:
    • The canonical ending to Playground of Destruction.
    • 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 which matters and will cement China as a superpower.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 devolves into a mafia-state. However, the sequel confirms that China did indeed annex the North in 2009. In addition, the backstory for World in Flames states that Chris is the one who completed the Deck of 52 during the Song Initiative.
  • 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.
  • Developer's Foresight:
    • Factions have different dialogue at the start of missions in Playground of Destruction if you've pissed them off lately or friendly if you're on good terms with them.
    • If you capture every HVT in World in Flames instead of killing them, the ending will change to have the Mercenary capture Solano instead of killing them, though the final scene of the ending still says he is "Verrified" which is a term usually used for killed targets though it is unclear if this requires every HVT captured or just every HVT the player goes after.
  • 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 the bounties and handing out the Ace assignments.
  • 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.
  • Everything Is A Pinto: Pour enough bullets into it, and everything from a car, to a helicopter, to a boat will catch fire and quickly explode.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Colonel Peng is the only character seen wearing glasses. 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.
  • 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.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Gangster:
    • The Russian Mafia from the first game. Their "Merchant Of Menace" (a pun on The Merchant of Venice) web shop was your means of purchasing airstrikes and vehicles. Something worth noting is that being on best terms with the Mob in the first game also reduces shop prices, which can't be said for the other factions. Also notable in that the if the player completes bonus objectives on a particular mission, the Russians get their hands on Frog-7 missiles!
    • The Pirates also sold gear, however they were much less critical to the plot, and you could purchase similar or even superior vehicles and munitions from other factions.
  • Game-Breaking Bug:
    • The PS2 Version of PoD. If you save a single playthrough in multiple slots, it may result in corrupted save data. Saving a different playthrough with a new character is fine, allegedly.
    • 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, The Orange Box, or Battlefield: Bad Company).
  • Impressive Pyrotechnics: The later-game explosions (and hell, even some of the early game ones too) are awesome.
  • Insert Grenade Here: To hijack tanks. Try not to think too much about the interior.
  • The Joys of Torturing Mooks:
    • Tearing around North Korea in a helicopter swinging an SAM truck around on a winch and into a building-sized artillery gun behind enemy lines.
    • You can solve 95% of the problems World in Flames presents you with a helicopter and creative use of the winch. You can even stuff the car full of C4. Sometimes your target will be in a car, perhaps even in a heavily-armed convoy speeding down a road. Just swoop in there with your trusty winch, hoist up their car and toss it into the nearest ravine. It's pretty broken but it never gets old.
  • Just Keep Driving: A familiar situation in these games. It's the entire focus of one Sergei mission involving his red Corvette.
  • 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.
  • Long Game: The factions in both games. Personified by Agent Buford/Joyce and Colonel Peng.
  • 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.
  • Mirroring Factions:
    • The Colonels on the Allied 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.
    • Comes up again with the Americans and the Chinese in the sequel. The Americans claim to be bringing freedom to the country, while the Chinese claim to be bringing prosperity. The reality is of course they both just want the oil. (The manual for the second game claimed that the Chinese actually have altruistic motives for their invasion compared to the imperialist AN. It doesn't take long in-game for the Red Chinese to prove to be, well, the Red Chinese, motivated purely by oil and political power.)
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: The mercenaries 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.
  • 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 yanking a grenade off of 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.
  • 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.
  • One Bullet Clips: Averted in the sequel, at the cost of adding a ludicrously huge ammunition capacity, especially if you're Jacobs.
  • Optional Traffic Laws: You're in a war zone. "BUMPER CAAARS!"
  • Power Trio: Your mileage may vary on who is who. Mui is most definitely the cold, analytical one.
  • 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.
  • Real Vehicle Reveal: In Mercenaries 2, you're instructed 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.
  • Reds With Rockets: China. They're major players (and canonical winners) in the first game, the villains in the comics, and the second-toughest faction in the sequel. They also have the most powerful non-cheating weapon in the series, the Fuel-Air Rocket, also known as the Nonsense Missile amongst fans for its ability to collapse buildings with one hit to the front door.
  • Retcon: The mercs' origins received some slight tweaks between games. In the original, Jennifer came from an affluent family and 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.
  • Rule of Cool: There's plenty of it in both games, especially World in Flames, but this entire franchise runs on action-film rules.
  • 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.
  • Running Gag: Mattias' inability to understand the concept of babysitting.
  • 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!"
    • A bonus mission in the Mafia-controlled city (Northern Province) involves creatively getting rid of NK troops. The mobster suggests you use the helicopter winch to pick them up and drop them into a power plant's smokestack.
    • 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?"
    • Sometimes they shout "Get to the chopper!" when they run to get into a helicopter.
    • 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.
    • When Misha is dropping a cluster bomb, he mentions that they have no chance to survive.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Mattias Nilsson, and to a lesser extent the rest of the mercs. On a gradient scale of evil, Nisson is the 'Chaotic Neutral' type, Mui Hates Everyone Equally (apart from her longtime friend Fiona), and Chris is the mellowest of all of them.
    • Funnily enough, the second game goes out of its way to tell us that Matthias is not a sociopath, and is neither without empathy nor particularly grandiose. Rather, his perceived sociopathic traits stem from a strong independent streak and a particularly extreme brand of Viking-influenced fatalism.
    Fiona: Every time you injure a civilian, I have to use our money to pay off the local media so we don't end up in the nightly news. Remember that next time.
    Mattias: But they're so squishy!
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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.
    • The merc can also operate tanks, which depending on the model can require a crew of 3 to 4, entirely on their own.
  • Urban Warfare: The first game takes place in suburban/rural North Korea, and the second in tropical Venezuela.
  • Videogame Cruelty Punishment:
    • Smash up aforemetioned car and you have to buy Fiona a new one.
    • 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.
  • 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. And one of them is a motorbike. A tracked motorbike. With two gatlings.
  • Welcome to Corneria:
    • In the first game, expect "It's the mercenary!" every time you drive past AN troops.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • You Don't Look Like You: While Mattias and Jennifer undergo some cosmetic changes between the two games, Chris undergoes some very drastic alterations that extend well beyond his new facial hair, to the point that he has an almost completely different face. PoD Chris' Korean heritage is very pronounced with his square jaw, flatter palate and small nose, whereas WiF Chris has more typical African features such as a round jaw, prominent palate and large nose.

     Playground of Destruction 
  • Aerith and Bob: Col. Samuel Garrett dotes on his goldfish in the A.N. assembly building. The fish are named Solomon, Abraxus, and Marshmallow, the latter having been named by Garrett's wife.
  • The Alcatraz: The Black Gate is impervious to even the most devastating airstrikes. Use the cheat weapons if you like; they won't be able to do anything but pick it apart, piece by piece. A Buford mission involves blowing up a downed stealth fighter (an F-117A) and rescuing its pilot before the poor sod gets carted off to the fortress.
  • Alliance Meter: Each faction (apart from the NKs/Solano) has their own opinion of you. Oftentimes completing missions for one faction may decrease an opposing faction's mood. For instance, by the end of the first game, the South Koreans and Chinese were openly at war. Skillfully playing both factions against each other could net you money than simply siding with one over the other; in fact, it's required for 100% Completion since you need to complete all missions to fully verify the Deck of 52. 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.
  • All Women Love Shoes: Mui will occasionally sigh that her item drops never include these.
  • Alternate History:
    • The Song dictatorship is modeled on the real-life ruling dynasty of North Korea, the Kims. (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" (gigantic, Schwerer Gustav-level artillery cannons) and the like. Apart from that, the Korean People's Army is played fairly straight: the NK's armored vehicles are second-rate Cold War-era equipment 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. The sheer size of the DPRK's infantry force makes it realistically difficult for any of the invading factions to hold on to the larger cities, and as late as the final mission, there are still some KPA army units holding power plants and factories in the countryside.
    • In a case of All There in the Manual, it is seen in the loading screens and instruction booklet that the original family of Kim Il-Sung did not succeed in keeping control of the country, and a much more moderate leader named President Choi Kim took over. He started to institute reforms to the civil government and forcibly removed the state-run mafia; the deposed former civil and military officials rallied behind Kim's son Song instead.
  • Amazon Brigade. The number card Spades (the face cards are their male commanders). Also, for some reason or another, the elite SK forces are all female.
  • 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.
    [grenade goes off]
    "Holy Frijole!"
  • Battle in the Rain: The southern province has patches of perpetual rainfall, notably Propaganda Village and the Ichon base.
  • 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 provided some interesting lore.
  • Bodyguard Babes: The low-level Spades 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.
  • 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 stealth fighters if you attempt to leave the map.
  • The Cake Is a Lie: One of the final Russian Mafia missions in the first game is to drive Josef to a meeting for one million dollars. Both the mercenary and Josef realize that they're obviously being set up. You still get the million after you get Josef out of the trap.
  • 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.
  • Canned Orders over Loudspeaker: Song's press flack is making sure everybody stays on message.
    "General Song will lay waste to your pathetic armies!"
  • The Chessmaster: Colonel Peng (originally voiced by veteran actor James Hong) speaks of his men and territory as "pieces" in a great game of chess. Buford and Peng seem to share a subliminal understanding of their duel: See "The Gambler" below.
  • 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.
  • Cold Sniper:
    • The Dragunov sniper rifle, the tool of the patient pro. With the help of a chopper, the merc can find a nice, isolated nest to pick troops off at a distance.
    • The anti-armor rifle can penetrate the glass canopy of an attack chopper. Pretty nifty. The AR rifle is practically a requirement in the penultimate Chinese mission, when SK choppers assault the base from across a river.
  • Combat, Diplomacy, Stealth: PoD. You can either go in guns blazing or play it high and dry: a mix of precision air-strikes, sniping and sneaking around to snatch and grab your targets. Mui is weaker and slower, but is harder for enemy soldiers to detect, so it's to her advantage to be stealthy.
  • 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: Nilsson plans to use his share of the Song bounty to custom order a Lamborghini with diamond-encrusted wheels.
  • 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 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. Or simply run over with an APC. This completely foils the level design—which is meant to emphasize stealth—and exposes a straight line to the Ace of Hearts.
    • That 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Each 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.
  • Death Mountain:
    • There is a mountain range in PoD's southern province which hides two members of the Deck of 52. (One is dug deep in a canyon, the other in hiding on a plateau.) 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.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: Sergei's capo, an ex-KGB named Josef, is his polar opposite in terms of personality: He's a shrewd professional, often adding amendments to Sergei's brash and high-profile missions. He always speaks in a cool, concise 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.
  • Dude, Where's My Reward?:
    • The mercs occasionally whine about not getting any credit for their exploits. According to official record, your 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 spent decades 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 expanded on 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.
  • Egopolis: Song's features a duplicate of Ryugyong Hotel dubbed "Song Tower".
  • Epic Tank-on-Tank Action: Highjacking a tank will allow the Player Character to engage other tanks in the vicinity on equal footing, while in the first half of the final mission of PoD begins with an actual tank battle, pitting the merc. in an M-1 tank against a North Korean armored column, supporting infantry, and an artillery battery.
  • Fake Town: The Propaganda Village at the southern end of the southern map. The "village" consists of "buildings" with only two sides and a roof so that they look like real buildings from the south. The game takes place in North Korea where this apparently Truth in Television.
  • 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. Unless you take a chopper.
  • Four Is Death: Four suits, four boss characters: the Ace of Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, and Spades (General Song himself).
  • The Gambler: The card motif naturally lends itself to metaphors. Buford refers to the merc as his "Ace in the hole" and is constantly planning his next "hand".
  • Gas Mask Mooks: The Hearts.
  • Get on the Boat: After you kill/capture the Ace of Clubs, he drops a surveillance tape of Song. Analysis of the video narrows his position down to the "northern province", so there's where you're headed. You can ask the Allies to take you back to the southern province any time: if you missed any collectables/bounties, just get in the huey.
  • Gotta Kill 'Em All: The Deck of 52. Though the rewards are greater for taking them out non-lethally, which is trickier to do.
  • 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 whenever 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 $25,000, just so the player won't get any funny ideas.
  • Immigrant Patriotism: Twenty years of working in Seoul has made Buford more determined than ever to secure the country's future. Defeating Song won't mean much to the South Koreans if the Chinese roll in to pick up the pieces.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The enemy ground soldiers in the first game were pretty much piss poor shots, their bullets more than often going all over the place except for the merc. Their tank gunners, on the other hand...
  • Indy Ploy: The merc freely admits to this on their way to capturing the King of Diamonds, a trigger-happy artillery officer.
    Mui: "Plans" are for mad scientists and bridge-builders. I've got moxie. (And guns.)
  • In the Hood: The Spades wear hooded uniforms designed for the unforgiving climate.
  • I Want Them Alive!: While your contacts are willing to settle for a photograph of a corpse, catching high-value targets alive nets you twice the paycheck.
  • Kent Brockman News: Adrianna Livingston covers the Song Initiative from start to finish, as well as reporting which faction is currently in the lead.
  • Last Stand: In the original game, North Korea has already lost the war by the time the mercs have been brought in. North Korea is outgunned by most of its enemies in real life, so in a direct war against ALL of them, it stood no chance of winning. The only reason anybody needs the mercenaries is to deal with specific targets. That said, the military of North Korea used tunnels to travel around the country, and succeeded in bogging down the AN and Chinese invasion forces enough that there is a real chance that they could fail to stop Song from launching his non-conventional weapon stockpiles.
  • The Lad-ette: Adrianna Livingston has a posh British accent on-camera. But if Garrett's phone convo is anything to go by, she swears like a sailor in private.
  • Logical Weakness: @#$%&! 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 theater. I can't speak for the South Koreans, of course. Excuse me, I have an important message coming in. [hangs up]
  • 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 personnel 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!
  • Monster Protection Racket:
    • Lampshaded by Mui in PoD.
      "Just call us the "Black Hand."
    • 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.
    • Justified, as North Korea might as well be Mordor in real life, though the Kim family are decidedly less competent than Sauron.
  • 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.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: An illogical 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 view 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.
  • Must Have Caffeine:
    • Garrett is defensive of his coffee, going so far as to charge Ex Ops $5.50 whenever the mercenary drinks some.
    • Rubin seems to have an obsession with coffee, going so far as to offer a kidnapper, in the negotiating of his kidnapping of one of UP's senior executive, Lattes—twice.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: In the first game, if you destroy Song's computer in the fight with him, aborting the missile is impossible and Seoul is automatically nuked, resulting in millions of casualties.
  • 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.
  • 100% Completion: Playground of Destruction. Each faction has their own menu of unlockables, which makes things a bit more strategic. However, there's nothing stopping you playing all sides to unlock all the item drops, air strikes, and bounties—even if it's dishonest.
  • Permanently Missable Content:
    • In the first game, accepting an Ace contract forfeits all the unverified bounties of the same suit, as well as the rather awesome cheat weapons, if you didn't kill/capture all of them.
    • One mission from late-game PoD has you bombing the bridge connecting the Chinese HQ to the mainland, thus rendering any optional land races to and from the HQ impossible.
  • Pet the Dog: The mercs are gleefully greedy and amoral, but in the last mission of PoD, 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. (Stun grenades can be thrown from a distance and have the same effect, but it's more viscerally-satisfying to clock them across the face.) Of course, the Deck of 52 needs to be subdued after that, using a different button press.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Everything Sergei touches turns to custard, which is why Josef was flown over as his wet nurse. Sergei's father is a big shot mafioso in Moscow.
  • Professional Killer: A staple of the sleazy mobster missions: Both Sergei 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.
  • Purposely Overpowered: The Pocket Artillery and Portable Airstrike as well as the Street Sweeper also, completing the trinity since they're completion weapons.
  • 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 agenda.
  • Sinister Shades: The Mafia love their ray-bans.
  • Sky Heist: In Playground Of Destruction several side missions, most for the Russian Mafia, involve using a helicopter to grab vehicles with a magnetic grapple and transport them to a target zone. There's even one where you race to see how many North Korean jeeps you can drop into the cooling tower of a nuclear power plant. You can also do the same thing in normal gameplay if you want, for example, to bring a specific truck on a mission and don't feel like driving it to the mission zone.
  • Slave to PR: Colonel Garrett laments that his superiors' insistence on minimizing collateral damage is actually costing lives, as it prevents him from unleashing the full night of his forces against the Norks in a quick and decisive campaign, instead dragging things out into a bloody quagmire with the Chinese involved.
  • Sniping the Cockpit: With judicious use of the anti-material rifle, the merc can fend off a fleet of Hind Ds. If you penetrate the canopy in one shot, the merc will compliment your aim.
  • Soviet Superscience: The Ace of Diamonds is developing a type of supergun which really needs to be seen to be believed. You actually get to man one of them (to blow up an even larger model).
    Fiona: How did the Allies miss that gun?!
  • The Starscream: Sergei, the Russian mob boss from the first game, eventually tries to oust the player and his second-in-command, Josef, by drawing them both into a North Korean ambush. He fails, and the final series of missions for the Russians involves Josef sending you to clean house. Ultimately inverted, though: Josef is bound by his code of honor to obey Sergei, no matter how ludicrous his orders are. Unfortunately for him, Sergei grows jealous of the way Josef commands respect from the rank and file; The growing animosity between the two men provokes the Mob War.
  • 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.
  • 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. Doubles as Artistic License – Nuclear Physics; nuclear missiles once launched, cannot be disabled or self-destructed, unless Song had his men engineer in a self-destruct option.
  • 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 boneheaded 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 alienate, Sergei starts picking off his own men; when he finally tries to have Josef (and you) killed, Josef is finally free to kill him without having to worry about retaliation from his father.
  • Take It to the Bridge: The final leg of the South Korean campaign involves taking out one such bridge. It's the one leading to Colonel Peng's encampment across a wide river.
  • 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!"
  • Taught by Television: Sergei recalls seeing Marlon Brando stroking an animal once, but can't remember which film it was in ("The Godfather", Josef mutters) or whether it was a cat or a monkey. He then screams at his men to get him a monkey.
    Sergai: You do that again, and I feed you to the sharks! Josef?
    Josef: Da, boss?
    Sergei: Do we have sharks?
    Josef: Nyet, boss.
    Sergei: Dammit.
  • 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.
  • This Is the Part Where...: In PoD's ending, Nilsson 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, incurring a steep fine.
    • Airstikes/Supply Drops. Hands down. The game may as well be called "Too Awesome to Use: The Game". You'll collect them at a decent rate, but infrequently enough that you'll develop a paranoia that maybe this particular mortar strike would be better used for the next outpost... Or the one after that...
  • Totally Radical: Fiona. And she has skillz. Yes, with a zed. In her own words.
  • 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 lies to you by displaying the Heart's map icon inside the plant. But he's actually on the perimeter, standing atop a helipad.
    • The aforementioned shrine on one of PoD's tallest mountains. Peng wants you 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 betray both Josef and the mercenary by handing them over to the North Koreans, believing that nobody will take him seriously otherwise.
      Merc: You realize we're walking into a trap?
      Josef: There is a Russian proverb: The bear who sees the trap cannot be caught.
  • 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.
  • Uncanny Village: Song's "Propaganda Village", a thriving housing complex built by the Great Leader. Too bad the buildings are all empty, 2-D facades. Sheesh. At least you don't have to feel guilt for waging war in the town square.
  • Unlockable Content: No new areas or missions in the first game, but you can unlock the 'cheat' airdrops by continuing after finishing the main mission. These include a submachinegun which operates like the helicopter-mounted Vulcan cannon, a fully-automatic grenade launcher, and a dandy little thing called a 'portable airstrike'. It looks like a bazooka, locks onto both air and ground vehicles, and has the effects of one of the larger airstrikes. All three 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 triggers his subdue animation in the first game.
  • Videogame Cruelty Potential:
    • "Don't take my car, don't take my...ugh. Never mind." 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.
  • 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 are 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 is fate that we are matched against each other, he and I. One's worth in battle is measured by one's opponents.

     World In Flames 
  • Animal Theme Naming: Used by the Venezuelan army in the sequel: Iguana 4x4, Capuchin Truck, Puma Light Tank, Jaguar Heavy Tank, Armadillo APC, Mosquito AA, Kestrel Light Chopper, Anaconda Gunship, Toucan Transport, Piranha Gunboat and Crocodile Gunboat.
  • 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.
  • Big Fancy House: Ramon Solano had quite the impressive mansion. Unfortunately, it got mussed up a bit by the player character, who proceeds to use it as a base to launch their Roaring Rampage of Revenge. The mercs never fix it up, but they do redecorate it with some explosive ordnance stockpiles.
  • Bolivarians with BMPs: Venezuelan troops are the main antagonists of the second game. Just like the North Koreans, they are always hostile to both the player and all the other factions.
  • Bond One-Liner: Frequently used by all mercs in the sequel, ranging from "You picked the wrong side!", used when killing Venezuelan troops (of both the People's Liberation Army and the government army) to "Good thing the Americans don't keep a body count." when killing Allied Nations personnel.
    • Not to mention at the end:
    Aboard a helicopter spiraling out of control
    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.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Mikhail "Misha" Milanich, the jet pilot from the sequel is passed out drunk when he's not destroying the hell out of something. In a jet that's apparently held together by baling wire and duct tape.
    Misha, when called to drop a Smart Bomb: ....Bomb not want to come off plane....*series of loud thumps* There it goes!
    Misha, when called to drop another smart bomb: Bombs away! Hey, why does smoke fill cockpit? AHH!!
    Misha, bombing again, while hungover: I drop bomb, now leave me alone!
    Misha, making an anti-tank run: Die, little tanks, die! Mwa-ha-ha-ha!
  • Car Fu: A perfectly viable method of dealing with weapon emplacements. 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. However, the game is very clear that Ewan is nowhere near as attractive or charming as he thinks, and his romantic successes mostly boil down to him being unable to take no for an answer and not particularly picky.
  • 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.
  • Deathbringer the Adorable: In a mission after you provide the UP Mercenaries some vitally ammo, they refuse to let you see their boss until you complete 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 which plays 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. The merc even comments that they feel like they are being put through a fraternity hazing.
  • Death from Above: Zero Punctuation prefers to call Mercenaries 2 "Airstrikes 2: Hooray for Airstrikes".
  • Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: Ramon Solano attempting to screw over a merc who, in the previous game, single-handedly destroyed a military dictatorship for money. It's practically stated right in the manual that the Mercenaries don't care about about who's wrong or right, but who pays. And given how much money Solano had in his coffers, one can't help but wonder if the Merc would've sided with Solano had he not attempted to pull a double cross... they don't care who's right or wrong, just who pay. Which is lampshaded in "Oh No You Didn't," which repeatedly calls Solano a fool for setting the mercenaries on himself.
  • Do It Yourself Themetune: Behold.
  • 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 rusted relic that he calls his plane.
  • Everything Breaks: The sequel, World in Flames, plays this straight.
  • Evil Cripple: Joyce become one after an IED lands him in a wheelchair. Seems that Solano took notice of his meddling.
  • Explosive Barrels: One of the most over-the-top parts of World in Flames are the HUGE oil tankers that can be found on many of the rivers, and the sheer ridiculousness which ensues when those things fall under an artillery strike.
  • 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.
  • 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]"
  • 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.
  • Grappling-Hook Pistol: Added to the mercs' bag of tricks in World in Flames.
  • 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.
  • High-Speed Hijack: Mercenaries 2 gives a how-to demonstration for beginners. Don't think you're limited to jumping onto the backs of trucks though — it's certainly possible to do the same to attack helicopters in the air.
  • I Call It "Vera": One of Mattias' reactions upon picking up an AK in the second game is to affectionately name it "Lovisa."
  • 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 Solano shot in the ass" is attacking them.
  • 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.
  • Macguffin Melee: 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.
  • Made of Explodium: Justified with the oil tanks and munitions crates in the sequel. Which can be exploited if you want to really destroy something without calling in an expensive airstrike: use a helicopter to winch a big pile over to a target, then put a single bullet into it and watch the fireworks.
  • Mirror Match: It is possible for two of the same character to play in the same game in Mercenaries 2 co-op.
  • Not This One, That One: In Mercenaries 2, "The Devastator" has the player sent out to retrieve the titular vehicle from the front lines. At the objective, at first said vehicle appears to be an impressive (at this point of the game) tank; it turns out, of course, that it's actually a dainty pink moped, complete with frily handlebar tassels, hidden behind it.
  • 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.
  • Oh No You Didn't: Sucka tried to play me, but you never paid me, never! Oh no you didn't!
  • 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..."
  • Phrase Catcher: All throughout Mercenaries 2, enemies will recognize you as "the one Solano shot in the ass."
  • Press X to Not Die: Used for hijacking helicopters and tanks in the second game.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Shot in the Ass: The driving force for the plot of the second game.
    First you try to trap me, then you put a cap in my ass
  • Wall of Weapons: 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, that if one little bomb ignited, would more than likely level a sizable chunk of the surrounding area.
  • Wrench Wench: Eva, the mechanic from the second game.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Ramon, Ramon, Ramon. Seriously dude, you really should've just paid the player or tried to keep them on retainer for the length of your coup. But no, you had to try and kill them. And shoot them in the ass. See what that got you?
  • You Remind Me of X: 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."

Alternative Title(s): Mercenaries Playground Of Destruction, Mercenaries 2 World In Flames