Five Games that Prove You Don’t Actually Want to be a Mercenary

Less gold, girls, and guns. More death, dismemberment, and disease.
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It’s every guy’s dream, right?  Load up on guns and high explosives and go shoot bad guys in exchange for ridiculous sums of cash.  You’d get to see the world, do the Right Thing, and sleep with exotic women who fawn over you because you’re the badass with the assault rifle.

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WRONG.  Sure, the brochure looks nice, but we recommend you take a long, hard look at the following five games before you finish filling out that Blackwater application.

Soldier of Fortune II: Double Helix – We’ll kick it off with a real gem.  The sequel to one of the bloodiest games in history, SoF 2 has you travelling to Colombia to deal with an organization called Prometheus, whose interests include viral warfare and blackmailing governments.  Between dodging bullets and attempting to not become infected by fatal diseases, you’ll enjoy such varied activities as knifing strangers, or being betrayed by the agency that inserted you into this hellhole to begin with.  At the very least, you’ll cause enough carnage to mentally scar John Rambo.

Merc Hell Level:  Intense.  You can’t even SEE a virus, but it’ll make you real dead


Doesn’t look like a real hot travel destination, huh?

Mercs (Genesis) – This time we’re off to scenic Zutula, a fictional republic in Africa that’s a bit like a Sandals resort for hyper-violent mass murderers.  Sprinkle in all manner of heavy weaponry and vehicles, and it’s party time.

In theory, you’re in Zutala to rescue a former President from some nasty rebels, or some other group of people who it’s socially acceptable to shoot in the face with deadly energy weapons.  What this actually means it that you’ll spend your time committing violent acts of eco-terrorism, destroying the homes and taking the lives of countless civilians, and battling tanks and harriers while ON FOOT.  As a special additional bonus, you’ll be equipped with weaponry that completely malfunctions in the presence of moisture, so none of your guns will work on or near water.

Merc Hell Level:  Extreme.  Seriously, try shooting down a harrier on foot.  We dare you.

Army of Two:  This one’s an epic disaster from the onset.  After some shady bastard convinces you to join his PMC, you’re almost immediately subjected to chemical weapons which you’re not equipped to deal with.  Shortly thereafter, a former squad mate of yours gets blown to hell in a helicopter, possibly by your “allies”.  Later, you find yourself on a rogue aircraft carrier, loaded for bear with explosives and nuclear weapons, on a collision course with the Phillipine city of Manilla.  Good times, right?

 They should’ve been bankers

The hits keep on coming.  In a mission in China you’re framed for murder and become the subject of a manhunt by the Chinese military, which, for the record, has a lot more guns than you.  Also, pretty much every authority figure in the game is either trying to kill you or will eventually betray you and then try to kill you.  It’s a nightmarish roller-coaster of human brutality and epic backstabbing, all with an awkward undertone of repressed homo-eroticism.  Uhhh…fist bump?

Merc Hell Level:  Unprecedented.  Even the worst frat brah doesn’t deserve this.

Mercenaries 2: World in Flames – Off to another tropical “paradise”, this time that most stable of South American democracies, Venezuela, depicted here as a puppet of various foreign powers. 

 The mercenary version of walking off into the sunset

Mercenaries 2 wastes no time punishing you.  The game opens with you being shot in the ass and jumping off a balcony into the ocean.  After you’ve gotten the salt-water out of your gaping bullet wound, you spend the rest of the game being the monkey of a variety of factions run by douchey, mouthy leaders who seem to hate you.  Along the way you’ll sponge up bullets, air strikes, and artillery shells, all while the lovely terrain of South America pops into existence around you.  Sure, you’ll probably make some money along the way, but as it turns out, they don’t take the American dollar in Hell. 

Merc Hell Level:  Moderate to high, depending on how allergic you are to napalm

Mercenary: Escape from Targ – The fun begins when your ship malfunctions and you crash land on an alien planet teeming with things that want to murder you.  You quickly discover that the planet is consumed by a civil war between two factions, the Palyars and the Mechanoids, both of whom just barely want to destroy each other more than you.  In a fun twist, your only means of escaping the planet seems to be the wholesale genocide of one side or the other.   Sure, you could play both sides off of each other and try the “escape via politics” route, but the net result there is that you have an ENTIRE PLANET pissed off at you.

 Trust us, terrible things are happening in this screenshot

Doesn’t sound so bad, necessarily?  Maybe not, until you consider that you never intended to come to this godforsaken backwater planet in the first place.  Also, unless you’re REALLY clever, the only thing you’re accomplishing through the horrific atrocities you’re committing is an opportunity to continue your interrupted space road-trip.

Merc Hell Level: Moderate, varies depending on how you feel about butchering aliens and living on an 8-bit world

So yeah, shooting bad guys, cavorting with beautiful women, maybe even a little light regime change all sounds great.  What’s maybe not so great are all those parts where you’re manipulated, stabbed, burned, poisoned, gassed, infected, shelled, tortured, disemboweled, or drowned.  Unless you’re a remorseless psycho with no particular fondness for your own limbs/skull, maybe it’s not a mercs life for you.  You were warned.

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Alan Bradley
Getting played by video games since the '80s. Host of the Pictures Changing Podcast ( and notorious raconteur.