The life of a mercenary must be pretty tough. Sure, the pay's good, but the detachment necessary must be enormous. Dropping into a war to simply do your assigned mission, whether or not the cause is just, and to leave again with the speed at which you entered without seeing the consequences of your actions must really get you down.
If we were to pin down the thing that Mercenaries 2 manages to reproduce about the real profession, it's probably that it captures this detachment from the greater scenario pretty well. While there's a fair amount of text dotted around the game, be it pre- or post-mission information or interludal dialogue, none of it really makes any sense.
Granted, it tells you what you need to know – that there's a building that you need to blow up, or an undercover operative that you need to rendezvous with, whatever it may be – but it's totally devoid of any sort of background to the conflict that you find yourself in. Am I a goodie? Am I a baddie? Where in the world am I? Why have I been brought into the battlefield? All of these questions and more are left totally unanswered within the stilted, totally unconvincing dialogue scattered liberally through the game.
If that's the most authentic thing the game does, well, that doesn't bode well. But screw authenticity! At its core, Mercenaries 2 is about run-and-gun gameplay. In fact, so run-and-gun that the gunning is taken care of for you, your character rattling through seemingly-endless rounds of ammunition should a bad guy – or maybe a good guy, we can't tell – walk into his line of sight. Blam blam blam. Dead. Next!
Half the time there's no need to even attempt to avoid taking fire because your character's health automatically regenerates pretty quickly, but sometimes sheer numbers mean this blasé attitude to self-defence doesn't quite work – at which point you need to find cover.
Dotted around the battlefields are sandbag-walls, behind which your character can hide, peeking out to fire sporadically. This 'stop-'n'-pop' mechanic is quite a popular feature in games of late, but while it works quite well, in a lot of situations enemies are too far away to be hit by the fire anyway.
If that all sounds quite standard, it's probably because, well, it is. In the end, this is just running along countless streets, waiting in front of enemies until you've shot enough bullets. That's not to say that the game doesn't do anything well. It's actually quite detailed graphically, and the grenade throwing – in which you have a second or two to move a reticule over where you want the grenade to land – works well.
The real problem, though, is that there's no greater mechanic in play, no extra fun to be had, unless being a running bullet-sponge is your sort of thing. From your first step into the warzone to your last, the fun can feel pretty hollow, pretty detached. I guess, really, it feels just like being a mercenary must.