Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction is a third-person shooter which takes place in the near future. It was developed by Pandemic Studios and published on January 11, 2005 by LucasArts. It is available for the Sony PlayStation 2 and the Microsoft Xbox. The Xbox version is currently compatible with the Xbox 360 as of the update dated 18 April, 2007; however, many have experienced issues such as frequent freezing with its emulation.
The sequel, Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, was released on August 31, 2008 in North America and on September 5, 2008 in Europe for the PC, PS2, PS3 and Xbox 360 formats.
The generals in North Korea were becoming nervous. There leader, the aging President Choi Kim, had extended an "olive branch" to South Korea, embracing their "Sunshine Policy" and reviving hopes of peaceful reunification.
In return, South Korea had agreed to pump money into North Korea on condition that they dismantle there military.
President Kim became a populist figure among the youth of South Korea, who saw him as a true leader for peace and prosperity.
No one could've known what was to come. President Kim's son, the brilliant and ruthless Choi Song, wasn't pleased with negotiations and peace treaties. He believed his father had lost sight of North Korea's true destiny. Fearing a dramatic loss of power, the North Korean military staged a violent coup under command of General Song.
Song staged the coup at an opportune moment-in the midst of a ceremony celebrating a road map to the reunification of Korea. Backed by an army of insurgents, he stormed the ceremony and brutally wiped North and South Korean political leaders alike in a hail of gunfire. Without hesitation, Song himself placed a pistol to the back of his father's head and squeezed the trigger. The coup was a stunning success.
After having his father and the rest of the countries political leaders wiped out, General Song then expelled all foreign embassy personnel and aide workers. The country went "dark", as Song forbade all communication with the outside world.
For weeks there was no news from Pyongyang. But when the Royal Australian Navy rescued the crew of a North Korean freighter that had been caught in a storm at sea, they discovered the ships sailors’ hasty effort to scuttle the ship. Their suspicions aroused, the Aussie sailors searched the ship and found a small but potent nuclear weapon in the cargo bay, bound for an Indonesian company known to be a front for terrorists.
The discovery that General Song was sending nuclear weapons to terrorists sent shockwaves throughout the world. More alarming news was soon to follow: Chinese intelligence released a report revealing that North Korea's missile capability was far more advanced then previously suspected- the North Koreans had ICBMs powerful enough strike targets as far away as Moscow, Tel Aviv and downtown Chicago. The fact that General Song had nukes- and the long range missiles needed to deliver them anywhere- galvanized the world.
An Allied Nation Task Force was hastily formed, consisting of troops from the US, the UK, France, Germany, Japan, China, and South Korea. They invaded North Korea, smashed through a division of North Korean regulars, and captured launch sites in Yangbong.
Their victory was short lived however- Allied Nations (AN) weapons inspectors found documents at launch sites that revealed that North Korea was building 30 nuclear warheads at another- still unknown launch site. Even worse, the documents made it clear that missiles would be ready to launch in just three weeks, and that only the elusive General Song had the launch codes.
The AN knew that its top priority was capture Song before the missiles were launch-ready-once the warheads were "live"; Song would be in the drivers seat. He'd have huge bargaining chips-the lives of millions of innocent civilians throughout the world, and the hundreds of thousands of Allied troops in North Korea would be obliterated should the AN retaliate with nukes of there own if Song was to attack.
The potential consequence of this nuclear blackmail was appalling. General Song would be in the position of gaining control over all of North Korea via a military "unification", and in the process create a dangerous new superpower.
The AN press conferences began to take an air of desperation. They soon distributed a "most wanted" list in the form of a "Deck of 52". Song, of course, was the Ace of Spades. His top military scientific advisors filled out the rest of the deck, along with a smattering of criminals that Song had hired to help out.
Obstacles abounded. Renegade squads of armed North Koreans were everywhere. In addition, members of the Russian Mafia had infiltrated the country, hoping to exploit the chaos and establish a black market.
Chinese and South Korean troops, while ostensibly a part of the AN Task Force, also had very distinct agendas of there own. The Chinese wanted to establish a puppet government that would operate hand-in-hand with Beijing. South Korea, understandably, was intent on thwarting the Chinese and wanted to install a ruler sympathetic to the needs and desires of Seoul.
With AN occupation growing by the day, South Korean military units began to slip across the DMZ, or Demilitarized zone, intent on seizing as much territory as possible. This put them on a collision course with Chinese troops pouring in from the North. Between conflicting agendas these forces, and the presence of civilians and "embedded" members of the media, battle zone became a state of near anarchy.
Then, after well-trained North Korean military force strange a surprise counterattack on the Allies at three different locations on the peninsula, complete anarchy erupted. Breakthroughs up and down the AN lines left much of the country in a fluid state. The AN's control varied province-by-province, city-by-city, block by block.
As the panicked Allies tried to counterattack, their search for Song went nowhere. The AN needed help, and they knew it.
An AN spokesman finally appeared on World News Network (WNN) and announced an "open Bounty" on General Song. The price? One Hundred Million Dollars.
"Exops", a professional mercenaries service in St.Petersburg, in Russia, responded immediately. Withen hours, the first mercenary climbed aboard a c-17 cargo plane, en route to a drop zone in the DMZ.
As soon as the merc hit the ground and saw the chaos around him, he realized that the task before him was immensely more complicated than he could've imagined. Given the country's state of anarchy, he knew he'd have to work with all of the factions-Allied Nations, the South Koreans, the Russian Mafia, and the Chinese- in order to get Song's cronies then Song himself.
Thumbing through the "Deck of 52", the mercenary begins his manhunt.
There are multiple endings to the game depending on whether the player disabled the nuclear missiles or not and the faction with the most trust at the end of the game.
All endings are with either the ICBMs exploding after receiving the self-destruct codes or the ICBMs hitting downtown Seoul, Tokyo, Moscow or Beijing and causing millions of casualties and the capture or death of General Song.
Immediately after Song's coup, the Allied Nations invade North Korea in an attempt to stop the launch of several nuclear missiles intended for cities such as Tokyo and Seoul. Other factions soon arrive in the area all with their own goals and ambitions. This creates a five way tug-of-war resulting in numerous conflicts and battles between forces.
The main enemy of the game. The North Korean
army is always hostile towards the player during the course of the game, and will attack the player on sight. Led by General Choi Song, he and his army want dominance over most of Asia
, and will stop at nothing to ensure victory. When the Allied Nations invaded North Korea, Song's men split up and created various outposts and bases around the landscape. When exploring the map, the player will encounter North Koreans in numerous places. They are the most abundant army in the game. The North Koreans have access to some very powerful vehicles-APCs, heavy tanks, and helicopter gunships-but can be considered the least technologically-advanced faction.
The North Korean army is divided into four ranks. The first, the common soldier, wears a brown uniform and usually carries an assault rifle or a Rocket Propelled Grenade. These are the most common enemies in the game, and killing them in the presence of another faction will increase that factions favor towards the player. Next is the Elite Forces unit, who wear black outfits and are armed with light machine guns or occasionally an anti-tank or anti-air rocket launcher. The elite soldiers are more intelligent, but are only encountered later in the game (during the Northern Province stage and the Aces missions). After the Elite Forces are Officers, who usually carry sub-machine guns and drop money, ammo, or grenades when subdued or killed. Officers can see through disguises, and killing one in front of a member of another faction causes the player's relationship with that faction to increase twice as much as killing a common soldier would. The fourth rank is the Deck of 52 (the name is an AN method of identifying High Value Targets). All members of this rank have a bounty placed on them, and the player will receive money for either killing or subduing them (though less money is paid for a dead target).
A replacement for the United Nations
, this global army is represented by Col. Samuel Garrett. The Allied Nations are in North Korea for one reason only: to stop General Song at all costs. They have collected a number of the "most wanted", and have named this group the "Deck of 52". It lists 52 High Value Targets, and are important in some way to Song. After the capture or death of Song and his men, the AN wishes to bring humanitarian aid to the people of North Korea. Col. Garret finds himself having to rely on the power of the mercenary to take out vital lifelines in Song's army.
The AN have a formidable army, which include APCs, powerful tanks, helicopter gunships and Humvees. The soldiers, who wear camouflage uniforms and blue helmets, normally carry carbines, and are generally much tougher than the average soldier. In addition, GSRN (Global Satellite Reporting Network) field reporters have been embedded with the Allied Nations. Their presence has made the AN's job rather more difficult, as the increased media attention in the North Korean battle zones means that the more covert and underhanded measures applied by the Allied forces are no longer going unnoticed. The AN controls the airspace over North Korea and provide 3/4s of the airstrikes available in the game.
While the regular South Korean Army is part of the Allied Nations forces, a separate detachment named South Korean Union (SKU) was a covert operation group funded, fostered and backed by the CIA
, in the person of Special Agent Mitchell Buford. These SK soldiers take their orders from Langley, VA. The South Koreans are after the reunification of Korea, and have moved aggressively to establish a strategic foothold. Needless to say, they are not happy about China's designs on their northern neighbors. The South Koreans control technology much like the Allied Nations, and provide access to stealth fighter and bomber support (courtesy of the CIA). Agent Buford typically tasks the player with rescue/recovery missions or crippling infrastructure attacks that he does not want traced back to the South Koreans, though by the third "act" the SK and Chinese forces are engaged in open warfare. SK jobs can vary, but most pit the player against the North Koreans, the Chinese, and occasionally, the Russian Mafia.
Most SKU soldiers are equipped with the same basic weaponry as their AN counterparts, such as carbines, grenades and AT/AA rockets. But their vehicle camouflage tends more towards a wintry white/grey/Blue pattern than the blue/green jungle/grassland color scheme of the AN machines, while their soldiers wear fatigues with entirely different color schemes (closely resembling the uniform worn by South Korean military police in the Joint Security Area of the DMZ). A few SKU Soldiers carry the prototype Rifles, which is also used by some of the all-female commandos of the ROKA 707th Special Mission Battalion. SK snipers carry sniper weapons, while some officers and 707th commandos carry silenced sub-machine guns. Some SKU troops have also employed RPGs and other anti-tank weapons. The SK motorized and mechanized forces feature TOW-armed variants of the Allied HMMWVs, APCs and powerful attack helicopters. However, since it is a covert unit, the SK forces lack heavy armored support. Speed and mobility are the South Korean forces' primary assets, as they do not have the heavy armor or manpower to engage in sustained combat with Chinese or North Korean forces.
Collecting WMD blueprints (small blue-grey metal boxes with nuclear symbols on them) and/or destroying NK monuments (usually giant statues of General Song) will increase South Korean favor toward the player. Killing NK, Mafia, or Chinese troops in the presence of SK troops will raise favor for the player as well.
It is worth noting that, while the South Korean forces are referred to as the SKU in the instruction manual, this title, or the notion that the SK operation is a covert one, is mentioned nowhere else in the game. Viewing a soldier through the binoculars brings up the acronym ROKA; Republic of Korea Army.
, commanded by Col. Zhou Peng, would like to set up a pro-China regime in North Korea and make the country a province of the PRC. This naturally puts them at odds with both Korean nations--South and North. The Chinese have access to a massive array of firepower, much of which is placed at the player's disposal when on Chinese missions. Col. Peng repeatedly sends the player on missions that his forces are too slow or unable to complete with sufficient precision, such as assassinations and other covert operations. When working for the Chinese, jobs will often involve work against SK or NK forces.
Although officially part of the Allied coalition, the Chinese forces operate independently and do not follow the standard AN equipment patterns - they wear winter/urban camouflage gear and use assault rifles, RPGs, and machine guns extensively. PLA Officers carry Type 85 SMGs and some PLA Soldiers carry heavier weapons, such as Anti-Tank and Anti-Air missiles. Being the largest single military force in the world, the PLA has access to some exceptionally powerful vehicles - these include a wide range of heavily-armed APC and tank variants and heavy-lift helicopters. The PLA also features vast artillery coverage and supplies the Fuel Air Bomb air strike.
Destroying SK listening posts (poles with an antenna dish and blinking red light on top) and/or recovering Korean national treasures (crates with a crest spraypainted on the side) will increase Chinese favor toward the player. Also, killing SK, NK, or Mafia soldiers in sight of Chinese troops will increase Chinese favor.
Peng returns as the leader of the Chinese Army in Mercenaries 2: World in Flames and he has been promoted to a General.
Though undoubtedly powerful, the Mafia is first and foremost a criminal organization and therefore has no major military presence in North Korea. However, its well-armed thugs and customized vehicles patrol the streets of many North Korean cities, including the capital, Pyongyang. Most Mafia Thugs carry SMGs and most Capos (officers) carry shotguns. The Mafia enforcers are equipped with light machine guns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, and RPGs. But the Mafia still have the lightest ground presence out of all the factions, with few men and no tanks or APCs, and very few helicopters. The Northern Province, however, has a vast presence of Mafia technicals and SUVs, presumably since at this point, there is no Allied or NK navy blockade to stop their import.
Any land vehicle can be sold to the Mafia's chop shop. High-end vehicles (such as tanks) are naturally worth the most money. The less damaged the vehicle, the greater the pay for them. This is the only way outside of missions and killing NK, SK, or Chinese soldiers to raise the player's standing with the Mafia. The Russian Mafia also run the Merchant of Menace shop, which can be accessed via your PDA. This shop allows you to purchase vehicles and supply drops, as well as air strikes unlocked throughout the game.
The three initially playable characters in Mercenaries
are sufficiently distinct to make the game somewhat re-playable. Each has a particular strength which will alter the player’s strategy somewhat, as well as a unique language proficiency which will render side conversations from a particular faction understandable. For instance Jacobs, who can understand Korean
, is able to understand the South Koreans; Mattias knows Russian
, which the Russian Mafia speak; and Jennifer, being born in Hong Kong
, and thus fluent with Chinese
, can understand the Chinese army. And since all of them know English, they have no problem understanding the AN (who speak English
- 35 years old
- American (Born in San Jose, CA)
- Speaks English and Korean
- Ex-Delta Force operator
- Years with Exops: 5
- voiced by: Phil LaMarr
- Can endure more health loss than other characters
- Takedown: knee to stomach, stomps back of knee, handcuffs kicks in back.
- 33 years old
- Overseas Chinese/British (Born in Hong Kong)
- Speaks English and Chinese
- Ex-MI6 agent
- Years with Exops: 7
- voiced by: Jennifer Hale
- Does not alert enemies as easily as other characters
- Takedown: When facing opponent-Grabs right arm and flips them to the ground, then handcuffs. When sneaking up from behind-hits them on the head 3 times which bring them to their knees, then hits them a final time, which knocks them out, then handcuffs. (Note: The latter one is the same for all three mercenaries.)
- 31 years old
- Speaks English and Russian (also Swedish, but this does not apply in the game)
- Ex-Swedish Navy artillery officer, in Swedish Army with the Lappland Rangers
- Years with Exops: 1
- voiced by: Peter Stormare
- Runs faster than the other characters
- takedown: headbutts, kicks in groin, elbows in back, steps on, and handcuffs.
Like many console games, Mercenaries contains unlockable perks as rewards for completing certain in-game tasks. Among these are secret characters/skins. For instance, picking up a certain number of National Treasures will allow access to playing with an NK Elite skin (However, this effect is only cosmetic and will have no effect on gameplay or the main character's attributes.). It is also possible to use cheat codes to unlock the numerous hidden characters.
This being a LucasArts game, it is also possible to unlock both Indiana Jones and Han Solo as playable characters.
General Choi Song
A fictional North Korean general, and the Ace of Spades. It is said in the game that when his father, President Kim, agreed to disband his military in exchange for money from the South Koreans, he staged a violent coup and took over. After that, North Korea went dark. But when a freighter full of nuclear arms Song was sending to known terrorist elements was captured by the RAN (Royal Australian Navy), the Allied Nations (a fictionalized United Nations) invaded, and his army was forced back. According to the game, he is the most dangerous man in the world.
President Choi Kim
A fictional North Korean politician. He is the legitimate president of North Korea and the father of General Choi Song. Kim is a peace-loving man who wants to peacefully reunite the Korean peninsula and establish a Western ideology. He is reportedly assassinated by his son during a coup d'état, although, once you reach the Ace of Spades, Song's capture, mission, you find Kim captured and had been tortured.
The Ace of Clubs, one of the trio of Aces working with General Song. Hwangbo is the former Minister of Foreign Affairs before the coup. He is also the leader of Division 39, a secret state-sponsored mafia that successfully kept all forms of graft, vice, and corruption under wraps in North Korea until President Kim dismised him.
General Chin Chang
The Ace of Diamonds, one of the trio of Aces working with General Song. Chang is the leader of Song's Chemical and Nuclear programs. He devises all sorts of missiles, artillery, and other various weapons including the Type 07 Supergun. General Chang is also the most experienced ace, making him a very difficult target.
General Chul Kang
The Ace of Hearts, one of the trio of Aces working with General Song. Kang was a very experienced nuclear scientist who was secretly building nukes for Song's revolt. He also made the ICBM technology to launch them anywhere on the planet.
The ExOps technical officer assigned to the Mercenary, and the point of contact for tactical, strategic, and geopolitical data. She uses her access to satellites, newsfeeds, and "secured" channels to advise the Mercenary during missions. She is voiced by Amy Lee.
Head GSRN reporter of the North Korean conflict. She reports the news after every successful Ace mission. She is voiced by Moira Quirk.
Kyle is a minor GSRN reporter, he delivers the final report on the Korean conflict at the end of the conflict.
Colonel Samuel Garrett
The colonel in charge of the AN forces in the country. He is a bit grumpy with the Mercenary at first, but after the Mercenary saves the AN HQ and captures or kills the Two of Clubs, he begins to show a grudging respect. He is playable through a cheat code. He is voiced by Carl Weathers.
Major Steven Howard
Garrett's personal assistant. He briefs the Mercenary on every AN contract mission via the PDA. He also hands out the Ace contracts after the Mercenary has gathered enough intel. He is very level-headed and loyal to Garrett, but respects the Mercenary's skills.
Agent Mitchell Buford
CIA agent covertly and unofficially in charge of the Republic of Korea (South Korean) forces. His enemies are the Russian Mafia, Chinese, and the North Koreans. His archenemy is Colonel Peng. He is very calm and cool-headed, and is glad to have the mercenaries work for him. He is playable through a cheat code. He is voiced by Bruce McGill.
Officially in charge of the South Korean Forces, in practice he acts as Buford's personal assistant. He briefs the Mercenary on every South Korean contract. Chris Jacobs can understand Park and Buford's conversations.
Lieutenant Yung Kim
Kim is the officer sitting at the console with a South Korean soldier standing next to him. He sends the player all e-mails from Agent Buford.
Colonel Zhou Peng
Head of the PLA (Chinese) forces and Buford's archrival. He opposes the North Koreans, South Koreans and Russian Mafia, and seems to have little interest in AN affairs. At first, he shows little interest in the skills of the mercenaries, but gradually begins to respect them. He is playable through a cheat code. He is voiced by James Hong.
Captain Kai Liu
Peng's loyal captain. He briefs the Mercenary on every Chinese contract. Jennifer Mui can understand his Chinese conversations with Peng. He is voiced by George Cheung.
The head of the Russian Mafia. He opposes every other faction. As his right-hand man Josef says,"he may act like an idiot but he is a ruthless killer." His behavior is highly erratic and Fiona doesn't seem to trust him at all. He operates a black market website that the Mercenary can use to order supplies, vehicles, and air strikes. He is voiced by Chris Cox.
Rumored to be a cold-blooded Ex-KGB killer, Josef is Sergei's assistant in controlling the Mafia organization. Much calmer than his paranoid boss, it is hinted that Josef is the key to maintaining order inside the Mafia. He briefs the Mercenary on every Mafia contract. In one of the last Mafia missions, Sergei attempts to have Josef and your character killed, but Josef and yourself escape. Josef takes over the Russian Mafia and has you kill Sergei. Mattias can translate what Josef and Sergei say in Russian. He is playable through a cheat code. It is also revealed that him and Mattias worked together on a case in Kosovo. He is voiced by Charles Dennis.
In the fourth "act" of the game, Misha will appear to brief the mercenary about missions.
Pavel and Mikhail
Pavel is the bartender in the Russian Mafia nightclub and Mikhail is one of the guys watching tv.
Deck of 52
Each card in the Deck of 52 represents a person targeted by the AN. The suit of a card delineates their relationship with Song:
- Clubs are financiers and businessmen (Division 39 members);
- Diamonds are important figures in the DPRK army;
- Hearts are biological, nuclear, and chemical scientists; and
- Spades are tacticians and Song's personal bodyguards.
Likewise, the value of each card represents the importance of a target to Song. The King of Hearts could represent a high ranking commander while the Three of Clubs is an unknown businessman. Song is denoted by the Ace of Spades.
The player is deposited in a vast "sandbox-type" environment, and set loose to pick up missions, perform side tasks, collect items, or just shoot stuff, all at the player's whim. To advance the story, one must perform certain missions, but the game doesn't lead the player around by the hand to do so. In fact, one can level all of the buildings in the playing environment, including the faction HQs. After an extended time away from the area of a faction HQ, the HQ and its guard (A doorman the player must interact with to enter the HQ.) are restored. Also, if the player dies or calls a medivac, then the HQs will be restored. In order to get back in the favor of an offended faction the mercenary must bribe the HQ guard.
The concept of the "Deck of 52" is borrowed from the method used by Coalition forces in Iraq to identify wanted members of Saddam Hussein's deposed government.
Executive Operations, the name of the fictional company the protagonist works for, is most likely a reference to Executive Outcomes, a private military company that ceased to exist in 1999.
The game's orchestral soundtrack was composed by Michael Giacchino
with Chris Tilton
. It was performed by the Northwest Sinfonia.
South Korean Ban
Mercenaries was banned from shelves in South Korea
for depicting war in its still-hostile theater, as was Ghost Recon 2
. The delicate situation between North and South Korea means that the government is under severe pressure to ban media that depicts war between the two nations, for fear that it could further strain an already tense diplomatic situation.
However, almost 2 years later, the Game Rating Board of Korea announced that the ban on these games would be lifted by 2007.
- There are a large number of humorous easter eggs in the names of the WMDs, such as references to software piracy (Key Generator Program, 1337 dIc7i0N4rY, SnM2 Software, etc.), hacks in video games (Speed Hack, Aimbot), and Star Wars (Kessel Run Star Chart, Plans for Death Star, Screenplay for Episode VII, etc.). Some of the more subtle humor is hidden away in the characters' non-English dialogue; for instance, during battles the Chinese soldiers will exclaim both "get down" and "duck" (literally, the animal) in their native tongue, and when the player visits the Chinese HQ, the HQ guard will occasionally say (in Chinese), "the capitalist pig is here to see the Colonel."
- A number of Star Wars references are made in the ticker headlines during the news announcements after each Ace contract: a mention of clones being cloned in Tipoca City, claims of an international committee finding that Greedo shot first, and reference to a lawsuit being filed on Coruscant regarding a faulty space station exhaust port, in reference to the Death Star. Han Solo is one of the unlockable skins. In one mission, Buford says "...like one of those star destroyers from that space movie." Finally, during the ending cutscene, a news reporter named Kyle Kowakian is speaking of the aftermath of the capture of Song. Kowakian Monkey-Lizards are a race in Star Wars.
- A number of Indiana Jones references are made, such as the headline "Egyptian artifact found packed in crate in government warehouse since 1936". Indiana Jones is also an unlockable skin.
- The film Aliens is referenced in one of the responses: "What am I supposed to use? Harsh language?!", by the character when an attempt is made to fire an empty weapon. Other quips in this situation are, "Hey, I could throw my shoe if you want!"
- In the first Ace Contract, the player is required to destroy "Song Tower" with a bunker buster bomb. The tower depicted in the game resembles the completed Ryugyong Hotel building, which has been standing vacant in Pyongyang since construction was stalled in 1992.
- In the game, in city of "North Pyongyang" there is a large, almost tent-like structure. This structure is the Pyongyang Ice Rink.
- Also visible in the game in "North Pyongyang" is a large, white, square, 4-sided arch-way. This structure exists in the real world as well. It is the Arch of Triumph (Pyongyang), and is the largest Arch of Triumph in the world.
- During the GSRN report of the capture of General Chul Kang in small lines it will say "Odo island scientists baffled by giant foot prints" this is a reference to Godzilla.
- Garret wears three stars on his uniform, indicating a rank of lieutenant general, contrary to his self-declared rank of colonel.
- There is also a reference to Speed: in "North Pyongyang", the player can do a side-mission in which he has to drive a bus, or a coach, above the speed of 90 km/h (about 56 mph). The mission ends if the vehicle goes below 90 km/h.
The game received generally favorable reviews from critics.
As of January 31, 2008 on the review aggregator Game Rankings, the Xbox version of the game had an average score of 86% based on 68 reviews. On Metacritic, it had an average score of 86 out of 100, based on 65 reviews.
As of January 31, 2008 on the review aggregator Game Rankings, the PS2 version of game had an average score of 84% based on 42 reviews. On Metacritic, it an average score of 84 out of 100, based on 44 reviews.
Ryan Davis, former editor of GameSpot, gave the game a rating of 8.8 out of 10, saying the action is greatly varied and "fundamentally satisfying", the world is immersive, and the game has "gorgeous graphics." Davis also said the exaggerated physics in the game is sometimes too much and the quality of the sound effects is uneven. Davis said the game is "a much better game overall" than Full Spectrum Warrior, a game that Pandemic Studios previously developed. Davis said that at first the game looks like a Grand Theft Auto knockoff due to similar elements such as a third-person perspective, the ability to get in any vehicle you see and "an irrepressible enthusiasm for explosive chaos", but that Mercenaries is more linear and mission-based. Davis said "most of the ground-based vehicles feel a little too floaty." Davis wrote "It's amazing how close the game scrapes to reality without actually breaking through, and its use of a slightly fictionalized North Korea as a setting can be a little unsettling at times. But despite the game's commitment to a quasirealistic scenario, the action is fast and loose." Davis noted the voiceover performances of Peter Stormare and Carl Weathers as particularly well done.