mercs 2
Pandemic describes Mercenaries 2 as "Bruckheimer meets Tarantino," drawing a distinction between its sequel and the narratively drab original. Mercs 2 is "sexy" and campy, and wildly destructive. "I'm just hooked on the destruction!" shouted a developer into a Canadian cameraman's lens. Bridges and building burst into flames and debris (and then respawn later), only to be demolished again.

Much like Burnout Paradise, Mercs 2 is played in a virtual sandbox that feels lonesome, even boring without the company of a human co-player. Luckily, Pandemic will include full co-op support (though unlike the E3 Burnout preview, this feature was not on display). Without the promised structure of a hearty narrative and "three-dimensional" characters, our demo felt like long stretches of the first Mercenaries game, as we leveled structures and mowed down unsophisticated AI combatants with little purpose.

The danger of many open-world titles is the possibility of wondering off onto redundant tangents that don't offer much to discover, just more to destroy. Ironically, as much ballooned, generic action as Mercs 2 provides, it feels like a niche game. A fun buddy romp for sure, but Mercs has now slid out to the peripheral of our radar, no longer a must-look-for during this year's rich holiday season.

Note: Xbox 360 box art is used above to reflect that Pandemic and EA are currently previewing Mercenaries 2 on Xbox 360 only.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.

E307: Contra 4 video wins E3