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Why you should play Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction - a retrospective.

In 2005 Lucas arts released Mercenaries playground of destruction.

Is a 3rd person open-world military shooter Developed by Pandemic Studios and published by Lucas Arts in one of their last games.

Based in North Korea.

General Choi Song the great Leaders Son. Has taken power in a military Coup on the eve of the reunification with South Korea.

With access to nuclear weapons which they are exporting terrorist organizations around the world, A US-led coalition has been sent to the Korean peninsula to intervene.

Stuck in a Quagmire and afraid to be seen working with undesirable elements. The AN release a deck of 52 to military contractor EX-OPS to go after the deck of 52 Song allies and General Song himself.

Blow stuff up!!!... Blow it up Again!!!... Blow it up some more!!!

When Mercenaries came out it was advertised on TV as blow stuff up, blow it up some more, blow it up again!!!

The dominant open-world game was the GTA series and this came at just the right time with a layer of social commentary thrown in for good measure

Like violence in all Lucas arts games, there is no blood and guts.

Thankfully plenty of explosions, destruction, and exotic weaponry to shoot.

Take that table!

Iraq Legacy and the Axis of evil

Mercenaries had particular resonance at the time; in 2005, President Bush as part of the war on terror had created the Axis of evil comprised of Iran, Iraq, and North Korea.

The United States government produced a deck of cards; the deck of 52.

Which constituted the entire military, political, scientific, Economic power infrastructure of the Iraqi state.

Mercenaries uses the same concept, transplanting them onto North Korea.

Compelling, not complicated

A mercenary from EX-OPS Is called in to take apart the north Korean military machine from the bottom up, working with factions on the ground to gather Intel

Which can be found by exploring the map or undertaking contracts for the four warring factions vying for dominance of the Korean peninsula.

Once you have enough Intel you can go to Garret for clearance to go after the 'Aces' thus liberating the Korean people from tyranny and oppression.


You play one of three mercenaries.

Who is tasked with hunting down the deck of 52 to take down Song and stop him from unleashing a nuclear arsenal upon the world.

a. Nilsson

The wild card, an unproven EX-OPS employee, but his physical demeanour should make him very effective in the North Korean theatre.

b. Jennifer Mui

Born from a Chinese father and British mother, Mui draws on her MI6 training to go undetected in hostile environments combined with her covert experience makes her suitable for operations in North Korea.

c. Christopher Jacobs

Son of a U.S. Army Col and a Korean interpreter, Jacobs served seven years in Delta Force then joined EX-OPS. Intensely physically robust, allowing him to withstand bullets and shrapnel that would incapacitate others

d. Fiona

The intelligence analyst liaising with EX-OPS. Hacking satellite feeds, Fiona tells you where to go on the map and also provides you with Intel on Song and factions within the game.

I always loved playing Christopher and Jennifer. For me Nelson was too much of a hothead and largely one-dimensional.

Quick Chewie, to the Falcon.

Straight Into Action!!!

Mercenaries opens in a C5 Galaxy cargo plane where you are introduced to the character you have chosen.

Each character comes with its own unique opening sequence with its own dialogue and banter, I really loved this level of detail.

You have a basic tutorial and pick up your PDA. This becomes your navigation aid during the game. You grab your weapon and explosives when opening the access ramp and then are thrust into the action.

Driving of the back of the C5 into a full-scale assault on the Allied headquarters where you can pretty much do anything you want right from the get-go, including taking off in a helicopter, you start killing bad guys.

Speaking with Colonel Garret right under heavy artillery fire, he gives you your first contract; the two of clubs who commands the artillery in that area.

Your first mission is to tag and bag him by killing his subordinates then subduing him with a flash-bang grenade allowing his capture. Then calling for a AN extraction to load him onto a helicopter.

EX-OPS database loads up Intel to your PDA. Getting you closer to the ace contracts and General Song.

GTA North Korea

Four factions

Throughout the game, there are four factions you can work for.

Each faction you can ingratiate yourself into or alienate; it is entirely up to you.

Play Mercenaries any way you like regarding your relationships with factions and their animosity towards each other:

1. Allied Nation (AN)

The primary military force, Tasked with going after General Song and his men.

They have pretty standard weapons but some cool airstrikes and support packs.

I found it fun to drive around and capture vehicles pretending that to be in the US army.

2. South Koreans

Supported by the CIA, led by a 30-year company burnout called Buford. Not much in the way of personnel but plenty in terms of cash, hi-tech weapons and air support options.

3. Chinese

Are openly hostile towards the South Koreans but have some great airstrike and support options as well as some really tough vehicles.

4. Russian mafia

Russians run the Korean black market. (The Merchant of Menace) Which can be accessed via your PDA; they have access to a whole gamut of vehicles, weapons, and support options that can be unlocked during the progression of the game.

You also get embroiled in a power struggle within the mafia.

Sergi acts like a buffoon but in reality, is a cold hard killer.

Supported by his deputy Josef working behind the scenes with a secret agenda.

Game can be completed as fast or as slow as you want

Searching for a deck of 52

Scattered throughout the game are number cards.

Every time you capture or kill a number card, Intel is added to your PDA.

There are little blue icons, click on them and it gives you a vague description of where they are on the map.

If you fly or drive close to the vicinity of the number card they pop up on your radar, and you can go and take them down to get the Intel.

Just flying around the game world and searching for these number cards is fun. Without having to do contracts to get the Intel, it's really one of the reasons why I love this game so much.

Covert vs overt

This game allows you to be creative in your approach to targets if you want you can just fly around picking off tanks, sniping NK officers or taking out aircraft with surface to air missile launchers.

Covert my ass


The game world has essentially two boundaries, red no-fly zones at the edges of the map which are either controlled by allies or NK forces, anyone caught on in those zones will be blown to smithereens.

And strangely enough water. In this game world of impossible feats of heroics, is one where mercenaries cant swim.

Collectables For each faction

· Looted Chinese artefacts

· Weapons of mass destruction blueprints

· Listening Posts

· Monuments

Collecting or destroying one of these will increase your favourability with a faction and give you a small bounty of cash. This also has the effect of unlocking items in your PDA without having to complete a deck of 52 contracts.

Side missions

Just like GTA, the game is littered with side missions that give you access to weapons vehicles and can be a quick source of cash to go after Song

Game mechanics


· Contains the map and objectives

· Emails From Fiona

· Status on opened and captured bounties

· Access to the merchant of menace

Allowing you to keep up to date with your progress of missions within the game, plus your status with factions whether they are belligerent, friendly or neutral due to your actions in theatre.


All Vehicles in the game world can be hijacked or accessed, driven or flown, the only ones which cant be accessed are fixed-wing aircraft and boats.

My personal favourite were helicopters, there is nothing like getting in a north Korean MD500 to go rampaging around the game world destroying tanks.

Hijacking vehicles

There are plenty of vehicles that you cant find in the merchant of menace that are still accessible and can be used against your foes.

Just another way the game allows you to be creative as a player accomplishing missions however you choose.

In particular, aircraft like the mi 24 hind and the AH 64 apache helicopter with a full complement of weapons can fly around the map destroying anything In the sky or on the ground.

Speaking of hijacking helicopters

You can actually tear helicopters out of the sky, by shooting at the cockpit you'll either kill the pilot or the nose of the chopper will bear down on you and you can grab onto the skids and rip the pilot out of the helicopter; cool as hell.

Didn't have a ticket


There are a plethora of weapons from the M4 Carbine to the Chinese type 56 assault rifle; and everything in between.

It's fun to make combos, I would personally take the silenced mp5 and the anti-material rifle.


As a player you have simply spoiled for choice everything from a Spectre gunship to a fuel-air bomb, the range of air craft you can control is overwhelming.

Hours of fun can be had by running around the game map like a forward air controller blowing up anything and everything.

My personal favourite was selecting the A10 tank buster and calling it in on tank convoys.

Graphics and sound

Graphics engine

The zero engines used by Lucas arts on the star wars battlefront series, Pandemic used this engine as the mainstay of several of their titles.

Game audio

The score is truly Iconic, composed by Michael Giacchino

It announces the game and makes a statement every time I hear it, when the GUI opens up I feel a surge of pride inside my heart.

For the time, all the sound effects were pretty good, in as much as when you fired a TOW missile or called in an airstrike as the player you really felt like the character interacting with the game world.

That Galaxy C5 you hear in the game was recorded at Travis air force base, adding a greater depth of immersion to the gameplay.

The explosions and gun sound effects pack a visceral punch which helps to immerse you in the action of the game.

Sadly with time and experience of working in-game audio.

After several plays of this game you can hear repetitive loops; especially when travelling in cars.

This does degrade the overall gaming experience but we are talking about a game that came out in 2005.

Conclusion and why Mercenaries 2 sucks.

There is far too much to cover in the limited scope of this article, Suffice to say this game is truly immense.

I would love to come home from a night out with a greasy pack of chips, and play this game till the early hours of the morning,

Whenever you see videos of it online in the comment section you will see things like "underrated game of the decade.” and “Definitely a game that needs to be remastered.

This brings me to its seventh-gen sequel, Mercenaries 2, which was woeful. They gutted out what made that game great and made EA’s version of Just cause. Which after you completed the game didn't even let you fly around and explore the map like Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction.

In my opinion, it was a total waste of time.

Someone's hungry.

And sadly when Pandemic closed its doors in 2009 and was dissolved we lost one of the most interesting game series out there. Fun like GTA but without being bogged down in complexity like Operation Flashpoint.

Unfortunately this IP has been consigned to the dustbin of history.

If I were a rich man I would restore the game for the next generation.

Just to be able to relive the old times, and share it with a new generation.

Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction is what a really great gaming experience can be.

If you can find yourself the box to play it on, get yourself a copy of Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction here.

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Keep it Gamer. Keep it Commie.


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