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Mercenaries 2: World in Flames

Fed up with fuel prices? blow them sky-high...

Well, it wouldn't have been Mercenaries without some kind of International Incident. The first game was banned by a grumpy South Korean government appalled by the notion that - just imagine! - their fair country could be the scene of political unrest. Not to be outdone, Pandemic's follow-up, World in Flames, has ignited a political fire of Poland-invading proportions. Mercs' new Venezuelan setting hasn't gone down too well 'down under', with Venezuela's anti-imperialist presidential incumbent, Hugo Chavez, finding Mercs 2's storyline (about a tyrant messing with the country's oil reserves) a little too close to the bone. The resultant kick-off has hilariously found its way up to rocker Bono, who has a stake in Pandemic and has been accused of orchestrating the whole thing to further his political agenda. In response, Pandemic had to confirm that the US government hasn't been in contact regarding Mercs 2. Silly sausages, the lot of them.

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Flaming Hell
No such controversy surrounds the quality of the game. Mercenaries' merciless murderers have packed up the sandbox action and carted it off to the tropical splendour of Caracas, where they'll find themselves with more freedom than ever before. Mercenaries 1 had a completely open structure that allowed you to tackle the world before you as you saw fit - with your only ultimate task being the capture (or murder) of the 'Deck of 52'. While retaining the same freeform structure, Mercs 2 fleshes it out by allowing you to make contacts within each of the warring factions, opening up extra side-missions, weapons and support as you form alliances. Additionally, whatever it is you want to do, there'll be more ways to get there and do it - Pandemic say that they want gamers to be the master of their own fate, using the environment creatively to move around freely.

The level of destructibility evident in the environment (you can hack away grass to create a landing zone, and so on) is astonishing, and with a co-op mode mooted, all indications are that this'll be a bit of a 'corker'.

Mercenaries on Xbox was praised for giving us an explosive playground with grenades for frisbees and tanks for roundabouts. The emergence of games like Crackdown means that Mercs 2 will have to up its game a little, but any game that might encourage lefties to post camel turds through Bono's letterbox gets an instant 4/5 from us.

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