The first Mercenaries game was the best-selling new IP of 2005. If you tried it, you probably found how addictive it was - you could go anywhere, do the bad guys in any order you wanted and call in air support if you needed.
Mercenaries 2 moves the action to Venezuela, home of a power struggle over that country's oil supplies. Seven factions, including the Allies, the Chinese (who have their colonel from the first game promoted to general) and such new factions as the Jamaican Black Market make their appearance. One of those factions is, in fact, your company! You can recruit people to work with you.
The first game had the map broken into two large sections; this one is one huge map, the same size as the previous. This time, however, you'll actually have a transit system to help you get across the map.
Let's go over some of the improvements.
I think the more sophisticated reputation system is a HUGE improvement. Now, you don't automatically lose reputation when you start blowing people away. Instead, you only lose it when they know it's you blowing them away! Thus, if you shoot the radio operators before they can ask for help or identify you, you're in the clear.
Heh heh heh.
You've got two things to watch for in terms of supplies. You have cash, as you did before, which you can use to buy things (obviously). But each vehicle now has a fuel gauge, so you have to watch how you're using said vehicle and perhaps hijack a new one regularly.
Hijacking is actually more difficult. Instead of just hitting one button, there will be a mini-game of button pushing to take the vehicle. That makes it more difficult to hijack the higher-end vehicles. A simple APC might just take one button; a helicopter can take three or so.
You can have contracts and jobs. Contracts are what moves the story along - a story that starts when you're betrayed (and worse, not paid). Jobs are just that - jobs - and you can have as many jobs as you want at any time, doing them when you feel like it.
The deck of 52 is gone. While an interesting idea, it doesn't work as well in this setup, and having to come up with 52 individual bad guys made them more generic. Instead, there's more story, more context to the game, to let you know why you're there and why you're doing what you're doing.
The entire environment is destructible. Trees, buildings, bunkers - everything.
There are over 200 vehicles in the game.
You can play online co-op. That's the real wave of the future it looks like (see a lot of the other games out there right now), and it's great to see this game having it. Whoever hosts is the "server" - so if you've beaten it on your game and help your friend who just started, you will not have access to the high-end stuff that you had in your game!
Finally, you'll be able to go back and replay old contracts - just in case you want to see how it'd be different with bigger guns.
EA is going for fall or winter 2007 for Mercenaries 2. That's going to be a day one pickup for me! (Unless - cough cough - someone sends me a copy to review ... preferably early ... hint hint.)