Mercenaries 2 talk with Scott Warner
Welcome to the world of Pandemic's ultra-realistic combat sim, Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, which is out later this year on PC, PS2, PS3 and Xbox 360. We catch up with lead designer Scott Warner.
Can you set the scene for Mercenaries 2 for us? Where we are, what's happening and are the same characters from the original returning to play, etc?
All three of our Mercs are back from the original Mercenaries. They wind up in Venezuela because there is big money flowing for people with the right skills. One of them takes a job that accidentally let's a power hungry criminal orchestrate a military coup in Venezuela sending the South American country into political chaos. And as if that isn't crazy enough, he refuses to pay the merc. A country in chaos is always a lucrative situation for mercenaries but this time around the stakes are bit different: it's personal. There is no greater insult to a mercenary's pride than cheating him out of his money and while there's money to be made the Mercs aren't leaving Venezuela until they get revenge!
Sea-faring and swimming are new to Mercenaries 2. How do you plan to utilize the ability to swim, dive and control aquatic vehicles to add to the experience?
The Mercenaries design philosophy has always been to try to present objectives that are conceptually simple but can be approached in many, many different ways and we live by the motto of "what not how" when it comes to the player's experience. Adding swimming and water based vehicles just opens the sandbox up even more to give the player more toys and more flexibility in how they play the game.
Which areas of the game were you not happy with in the original and have worked on to improve for this sequel?
For Mercs 2 we have really pushed forward across the board. The most noticeable change is probably in how much deeper our storyline is this time. In Mercenaries you went from job to job but weren't worried about the larger context. The Mercs 2 story is much richer and more engaging. We've also really blown out the faction system so who you are working for at any given time really makes an impact on your experience and on the progression of the story. And of course I would be in big trouble if I didn't mention multiplayer. We've added co-op multiplayer which is great fun in this sandbox environment and leads to even more options on how to accomplish objectives.
Tell us some more about the new two player co-operative mode. What have you done to make sure it stands out amongst the competition?
What's really unique is taking the "what not how" design philosophy of our sandbox world and combining it with the opportunity to bring in a friend. Rather than a linear game with specific co-op puzzles that only have one solution (i.e. you stand on that pad to hold the door open for me or we can't progress), this game is all about establishing objectives and giving the player complete freedom in how to achieve them. Every vehicle and weapon in the game is available for you to use, everything in the world is destructible, and when you add in a teammate there are suddenly an infinite number of ways to accomplish your goals. It's incredibly fun.
Technically and graphically, how do the different versions differ? Did the team experience any noticeable development hiccups occurring on one format but not on any of the others?
Each format is a little different under the hood but the goal is to make sure that players have an experience every bit as exciting on each of the platforms. The one that will really feel different is PS2. For the team working on PS2 (Pi Studios) the goal was to make the best PS2 game possible so while we asked that they stick to the same storyline and use the same cinematics they were completely free to setup specific missions and scenarios to give the player the best experience possible on the platform.
What do you think about the criticism that has already been levelled towards the game's setting in Venezuela? That it is somehow propaganda, mirroring the real?
We never expected anyone to be bothered and it's certainly been interesting! Like any movie or book we are creating completely fictional characters and situations for our franchise. We choose to set them in real world locations and scenarios that make sense when dealing with plausible real world events to make it more interesting for the player. We chose Venezuela for its striking look and great range of environments (cities, jungles, rivers, etc.) to make great gameplay and not for political reasons.