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Mercenaries 2: World In Flames

Preview: Diplomatically blow things up

Mercenaries 2: World In Flames has openly been described by developer Pandemic as a Bruckheimer-meets-Tarantino game - a no-nonsense action blockbuster with wise-talking bad-asses talking shit against a backdrop of insane fiery destruction.

While it can't be said to really be contributing to the intellectual maturity of the medium, there's always room for a big, lovable no-brains Labrador of a game to maintain equilibrium.

So here we have a huge South American landscape to explore, missions you can complete any way you see fit, the most ridiculous OTT weaponry and vehicles known to humankind and an AC/DC reject who's been shot in the posterior.

Cash for kills

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The original Mercenaries was a console-only game, but the sequel's jump to multiple formats has to be seen as a good thing - especially for the PC, which has recently missed out on a few fairly decent console free-formers games such as Crackdown and of course, Grand Theft Auto IV.

Mercenaries 2: World In Flames is set in a fictional Venezuela, where a crime lord/terrorist called Ramon Solano has taken over the country by military coup and, along the way, has double-crossed a trio of mercenaries who are now bent on creating violent mischief and revenge.

Another main hinge is that Solano has shot the bearded merc in the arse and payback is being sought for this injustice through the destruction of his entire country. Yes, it's that sort of game.

In the single-player campaign, you'll complete multi-objective missions for various clients for cash, and which factions you choose to support will influence the progression of the plot.

While much of the campaign is still shrouded in secrecy, Pandemic have confirmed there'll be drop-in, drop-out co-op play for you and a friend, for Bonnie-and-Clyde-style mayhem (hopefully without their fate).

However, freedom is what Mercs 2 is about - the ability to go anywhere, pick up any weapon, drive any vehicle and, importantly, destroy any building.

Those nostalgic for the days of levelling an apartment block back in the days of Syndicate Wars will be trembling with anticipation as they raise the mini-nuke, direct it at a skyscraper and bring it down in a blinding fireball of destruction.

Falling chunks of masonry and concrete will also aid the collapse of other buildings and smash anything in the area with the game's "crushing technology" - which is possibly the best name for a branch of technology dreamed up in computer games in the last five years.

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The chaos you can cause is unrestricted - you can actually reduce a major urban environment to smouldering rubble if you like - but remember that the idea of Mercenaries 2 is to make money, so anarchist leanings may have to be tempered if you want hard cash in your bank account.

You'll need money to buy bigger weapons (mini-nukes aren't available at your local Tesco), and cooler vehicles, including tanks, trucks and helicopters - although you can always hijack them if you want, using Mercenaries' rather incongruous Bemani button-tapping minigames.

You can also customise your vehicles with explosive toys, so if you want to beef up your luxury sports car with a rooftop rocket launcher, as well as that leopard skin seat-cover, you can.

Land of the three

Mercs 2 has three mercenaries for you to play as during missions, each with different personalities and abilities - Chris is the cigar-chomping, brutal heavy-weapons guy, Mattias is the ZZ Top lookalike and agile shooter, and Jennifer is the beautiful, cold-blooded sniper.

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