Now when the folks at RockStar started raking in cash hand over fist with the success of its sandbox style Grand Theft Auto series, it didn’t take long for the concept to spread. One of my favorite sandbox style titles on the original Xbox was “Mercenaries.”
It placed you in a foreign land as a soldier for hire, you had full freedom to make money, destroy, steal, etc… Each mission would either ingratiate you or make you a target with certain factions. Different factions brought you different tools of the trade, weapons, vehicles, et al. It was a short game, almost too short – but the gameplay was good enough that I could go back and play it again and again.
Yesterday I picked up the sequel, made for the Xbox 360. Mercenaries 2 follows the same concept as the original – however as I played it I could only think how much it reminded me of another game…
Where in Just Cause you were a CIA operative hired to stir up a coup in a completely fictional (Venezuela) environment – in Mercenaries 2 you are an independent mercenary hired to make money, blow shit up, and get vengeance for being shot in the ass… in Venezuela. Tack on the ability to grapple nearby helicopters, and all the game is missing is an unlimited supply of parachutes.
Now I won’t go as far as calling Mercenaries 2 a clone of Just Cause – as Mercs is shorter (2 days of gameplay and I’m 47% complete), more destructable (everything can be destroyed), and doesn’t have nearly as much useless space as Just Cause… That and the tacky cinematics of Just Cause are nowhere in sight. The shooting aspect isn’t that great either, as unless you’ve got high explosive or a sniper rifle, expect to spray gobs of bullets before you kill just one little bad guy.
It’s a good game, but IMHO – I’ve seen it, done it, and I’m pretty sure that in another 2 days when I’ve beaten the game – I’ll be trading it in for something else. If you enjoyed Mercenaries, you’ll like this game. If you enjoyed Just Cause, you’ve played this game. Not worth $60 in my opinion, but then again – what is these days?
That brings me to the second disappointment of the week, Burnout Paradise.
I’ve been a fan of the Burnout series of racing titles since its inception. The concept involves violent races where all the cars are fully capable of being destroyed. Traditional races are available, while other special races which tally the destruction are truly the highlight of the game.
There was nothing quite like figuring out just how fast to drive, just where to aim my race car, so I could exact the maximum destruction in any race. It was simple, uncomplicated, and FUN! Then we’ve got Paradise.
They took a great concept and turned it into a sandbox racer. Where previously there was a simple menu system to navigate from race to race, now you’ve got miles upon miles of open road where you must waste countless hours driving when you could be RACING.
Burnout Paradise is a prime example of a game that did NOT need to be a sandbox style game, but for some reason – was made into one. I get the whole “immersion” aspect, but immersion only works if the environment actually adds something to the gameplay. I have no desire to perform extra jumps and crash through billboards if it really doesn’t get me anything. I just want to turn the system on, start the game, and race. Progress peaked with Burnout Vengeance. If you were waiting to pick up Paradise – don’t bother.