Published on January 8th, 2014 | by Darik Kirschman0
Mercenary Kings: If it moves, shoot it
Guns and jungles go hand in hand, don’t they? It seems like every time I’m running around, shooting bad guys and gals, I’m in a dense rainforest of some kind. Killing endless waves of evil henchmen just feels so right when surrounded by lush, green foliage. Makes me feel like a commando; a predator; an apocalypse, now. It’s a good thing, then, that Mercenary Kings continues the time-honored tradition of jungle-murdering alive. In fact, most everything that Mercenary Kings does is rooted in tradition — and then blown the hell up in the biggest, most radical explosions possible.
Mercenary Kings puts you in the place of a soldier-for-hire working as part of the eponymous team, ready to mow down the legions of CLAW — a band of ne’erdowells that plan on being bad and shooting people and probably destroying the world, or something. Look, it doesn’t matter; you’re a good guy, they’re part of an evil, shadowy cabal. Shoot them. Taking cues from some of the greatest run-n-gun action games of all time, as well as some of the greatest action flicks ever made, Mercenary Kings is light on exposition.
After getting settled into the Kings’ base encampment, I found Colonel Tasker and reported for duty. Being such a courageous and daring operative, the good Colonel let me choose my own mission, each with different objectives and variables to consider. Without hesitation, I chose a particularly dangerous assignment: infiltrate a POW camp, eliminate enemy combatants and rescue the eight hostages. After all, the reward was $500 and I needed a sweet new electro-knife bayonet for my rifle. The life of a soldier is tough.
Mercenary Kings plays out a lot like a Metal Slug or Contra game, with an emphasis on tight shooting and quick reflexes. Each area is filled with nameless grunts just waiting to be fed a hearty diet of lead. What sets it apart from those titles it takes inspiration from, however, is its extensive crafting system. The sniper whose head you just decimated might have dropped a bit of metal, or maybe you killed a rabbit and got a pelt for your troubles. All of the materials gathered on a mission can be used to create better weapons or add-ons to existing machinery. In war, it’s not just about who has the superior firepower, but how bitchin’ said firepower looks.
After securing all the hostages, we were airlifted back to our secure base. A bit of light shopping — a good serviceman never leaves home without at least a few grenades — and then I returned to the Colonel for another mission. New intel just arrived of a CLAW goon terrorizing the locals in a gigantic mech suit. Always one to help the helpless, while earning some scratch and loot, I volunteered to take down the Boss.
Boss encounters work much as you’d expect; you find their lair, and then strike at them using whatever weapons you have available to you. Each boss — and many regular enemies — have weaknesses to exploit. The Steel Soldier, as the CLAW baddie calls himself, has an unfortunately-exposed fuel system on its back. Naturally, with some agile maneuvering and liberal use of the dodge-roll, I managed to get behind him long enough to fire a few bullets into the weak point. Eventually, the entire thing exploded spectacularly, leaving behind some rare items for cobbling together new shooty-or-stabby bits. All in a day’s work for a well-trained and totally badass mercenary. Maybe for the next mission, I’ll call in a few other operatives to join in the fight — CLAW needs to be stopped, by any means necessary.
Mercenary Kings isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel for its genre, instead content with iterating on many of the concepts found in other titles. That isn’t a bad thing. With a charming, bat-shit crazy and incredibly detailed art style led by Paul Robertson (of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game) and solid mechanics in place that pay respect to the classic action games of yesteryear, Mercenary Kings is poised to become a strong entry in the genre. It’s currently available on Steam Early Access for $14.99, with a PlayStation 4 release to follow in “Early 2014.”