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[ Writer ] = BAD
[ 04/08/05 ] = The Real Mercs

Lately, all the rage is a new game called Mercenaries. For a while, I couldn't watch anything on TV without seeing a commercial for the game every other minute. And the commercial was fucking stupid; shitty in-game footage rolls, and some loudmouth asshole says some shit like, "blow stuff up, blow stuff up again, blow crap up, blow crap up again." Blow yourself, you fucking prick. I hate the commercial, I hate the game, and I hate how people refer to it as "Mercs." I've heard people ask for "Mercs" when they buy the piece of shit. "Hey Bro, can I get Mercs? Do you guys have that one game Mercs? Hey bra, you got Mercs?" Disgrace. I've even seen some asshole so bent on getting the game that he dashed into a game store, walked straight to the sales counter, actually interrupted the sales associates greeting him, and repeatedly blurted out, "Mercs." I wanted to punch that Neanderthal caveman motherfucker square in the face for being disrespectful. What kind of asshole blurts out only one word when they are looking for something? That caveman piece of shit can have the game and choke on it; I don't fucking want it. Anyway, the new game they so affectionately refer to as "Mercs" isn't actually Mercs at all. It's a fake. An impostor. Imitation.







The real Mercs was made by Capcom and released in arcades back in 1990, with a home release on the Genesis in 1991. The sequel to the 8-bit Commando, Mercs is arguably one of the best action games ever made. The former President of the United States of America has been taken hostage by terrorists, and as a "skilled professional soldier, trained in anti-terrorist tactics," your mission is to rescue him at all costs. In Mercenaries (the new Lucas Arts game everyone mistakenly calls "Mercs"), the generic, tasteless character design is bullshit; the cover "art" for the game shows some old burnout idiot with a mohawk, some random guy that looks like he doesn't know what the fuck is going on, and some lady who looks like she can barely hold the gun she's been given (let alone perform the necessary duties of a mercenary). But in Capcom's Mercs, you're a hard-as-nails, pissed-off, balls-to-the-wall heavy-artillery-toting destroyer. No joke; just look at the poster for the game.

When I was a kid, I used to walk to 7-Eleven everyday to play Capcom's Mercs (most of the time with money that I was supposed to be using to buy food or other essential items). It was fun back then, and it still is today (amongst all that is supposedly so great). It is a classic. Not because it was overhyped, but because it was actually fun. Screw all of the boring shit about sides and backstabbing that bogs down the Lucas Arts "Mercs;" Capcom's Mercs is a 2-D, free-roaming, vertically-scrolling action game where the object is to clear a path to the former president by destroying everyone and everything that gets in your way. Each of the game's varied stages are perfect in length (not too short, not too long) and feature a perfect mix of exploration, gunning, and strategy. The furious "run & gun" pace of Mercs requires a combination of acute reflexes and a keen-eye; enemy soldiers, gunfire, grenades, and rockets are constantly coming at you from all directions. And staying in the same spot equals instant death, so you must stay mobile to dodge enemy fire and collect power-ups (while advancing toward the boss at the end of each stage). Yes, Mercs is about mowing down as much of the enemy as you can at a time, but it takes skill to get through the game.

The game puts you up against enemy soldiers (equipped with machine-guns, knives, and hand-grenades), monstrous tanks (hell-on-wheels with the firepower you'd expect), and various other destructive machines of war (which I'll get to later). So, how do you destroy the opposition? War is waged with semiautomatic machine guns, automatic machine guns, flame-throwers, and grenade launchers that are collected throughout the game. Each of the said weapons can also be leveled-up, and come equipped with a Predator-style rocket launcher so powerful that it launches enemies out of bunkers and clears whole areas. And just as enemy forces use jeeps, tanks, and other vehicles in battle, the great thing about Mercs is that you can, too. After gunning-down their drivers (and occupants), jeeps (mounted with machine-guns), tanks, speed boats, and even turrets are at your control. Everyone thinks that Lucas Arts' Mercenaries is so fucking great because you can "drive tanks" and all of this other shit, but it's nothing new; Capcom's Mercs did it first. Even today, I am still impressed at how Capcom's staff so perfectly integrated vehicles into the game as weapons at the player's disposal.

While the 3-D Lucas Arts "Mercs" looks just as shitty as it animates (and plays), the 2-D detail and animation in Capcom's Mercs is great. The amount of detail Capcom put into the game is simply outstanding for its time; just look at the majestic scenic view from the cliff in first stage, the detail of the enemy soldiers, or even the camouflage on the harrier fighter jet and chopper bosses. The game's stages are even destructible, and unlike the Lucas Arts "Mercs," things don't just magically reappear after you've blown them up. It may not seem like it by today's "standards," but back then the detail was considered to be outstanding. The great detail in Mercs is accompanied by the signature quality animation you'd expect from Capcom's CPS hardware. The main character seems to be inspired by Arnold Shwarzenegger in the movie Commando, and shares an uncanny resemblance in animation as he runs around destroying and blowing shit up with heavy artillery in one hand and a fist-full of rage in the other. His body even kicks back and recoils with each shot! Just another reason I love this game: it's like an unofficial videogame adaptation of the killer action movie Commando.

Even the enemy soldiers look like that of the movie Commando! They come in several different types, animate differently, and expire in several different ways; for example, frying them with the flame-thrower makes them drop to their knees in flames, while shooting them with a rocket launcher sends them high into the air. Enemy soldiers also shoot from bunkers and from vehicles, slide down rocky slopes, ride motorcycles, man turrets, and jump out of helicopters and trucks in groups. As aforementioned, the enormous bosses in Mercs are killer; a Harrier jet and Russian assault chopper are among the destructive machines you destroy. Smoke even even trails from them as they take damage, and parts come off (exposing their mechanical guts)! Without a doubt, some of the greatest bosses ever seen in an action game. Mercs was the coolest, best-looking game of its genre at the time.

The audio in Mercs is, quite possibly, some of the best ever in a videogame. The music in this game rocks. Although the game features a wide-range of heroic war anthems, the intensity of the music in first stage alone is enough to get anyone fired-up to play, and each of the selections that follow are good in their own merits. There are even different themes for each of the boss battles! Now that's quality. The game also features a plethora of classic sound effects that throw you into the war as gunfire and explosions erupt onscreen. Our hero even lets out a throaty segment of hardcore when he takes a hit; now how cool is that? Some think that this is fault of the hardware, but I think Capcom meant for the hero to sound like this; you know the hero is tough (and pissed) when he lets out a deep, throaty growl after being hit.

As I said before, Mercs was the coolest, best-looking game of its genre for its time. Don't get me wrong, at the time there were some very good titles in the genre (Guerilla War, Ikari Warriors, Contra, and a few others), but few came close to the perfection Capcom made with the fantastic design and animation of Mercs. Shit, I don't think there are any recent games that come close to the gold Capcom struck with Mercs. Is it a worthy sequel to Commando? Yes; Mercs is in every way bigger and better than its predecessor. Commando was a good game, and Capcom's Mercs is a timeless classic, which is why I am enraged at hearing people call some new here-today-gone-tomorrow, six-month-fad title by the same name. It's a disgrace to the real Mercs, which is a title at the top of its genre, and one of the best videogames of all-time.

[ Extra ] = Features
[ 1 ] = The Real Mercs
[ 2 ] = Lucas Arts Mercenaries