As the former President of the United States of America toured central Africa on a quest for world peace, he was taken hostage by a group of revolutionaries. What jolly bad luck! Of course, the US can't just send the troops in to rescue him, as it could prompt World War III, so instead they send an elite corps known as the MERCS - professional soldiers trained in anti-terrorist tactics. And you're one of them (gulp). Your objective: to rescue the President and stop the rebels taking over the country of Zutula!
It's dead easy to describe MERCS - eight levels of non-stop arcade shoot-'emup action. That's it! Well, there's a little bit more. Two players can take part simultaneously and each can build up their weaponry from a simple gun to a three-way blaster or flame thrower.
You're going to need that weaponry to attack the many, many, many enemies you encounter on your mission and they come in all shapes and sizes. Rebels run around firing in all directions, mega-tanks attempt to run you down and, at the end of each level, there are such things as enemy supply trains, battleships and monster Hercules planes that'll make mincemeat out of you if you're not quick enough on the trigger.
You couldn't ask for much more colour in the graphics of MERCS. All the sprites and backgrounds use the block colour method, so some look a bit blocky but it allows loads of colour with very little clash.
Landscapes scroll in all eight directions and the terrain you run over changes from time to time. One minute you're sprinting along a concrete path, the next you could be up to your neck in quick sand or gasping for breath in the middle of a river!
There's so much to be blasted away it'll keep shoot-'em-up fans happy for hours on end. You don't have to stick to shooting the enemy, either. If you are feeling really naughty you can blow up any houses, trees or bushes you see along the way (and sometimes you have to, to clear a path, y'see).
MERCS is a real winner with me. The tune at the beginning may be a little, erm, grating but the rest is excellent. A real cool blaster, and I didn't say it looks like a updated version of Commando once (even if it does).
NICK ... 84%
'Even though I've not played the coin-op MERCS is based upon, I like it. It's everything a computer game should be: fast, colourful and above all very (very, very) violent. It reminds me of another game from the arcades, Calibre .50, where one or two players battle against a horde of terrorists, with nowt to their name bar a machine gun and a few grenades. This is what always puzzles me about this type of game - the heroes run around with a feeble machine gun while the enemy carry some serious combat weaponry, six-barrel chain guns, M-203 grenade launchers etc. But, back to the game: it's sunshades, ahoy! time because the sprites and backgrounds are very colourful. My only niggle is that while the title tune and inter-level jingles are pretty good, they're too jolly and bouncy for an ass-kicking game. If you want a last-paced all-action game you need look no further than MERCS. So don't.'
MARK ... 88%
Have you ever wondered what it would be like if life was lived as a computer game? If you could have three lives (with an extra one at the end of each level)? If you could go around blowing things up without feeling guilty or worried, and you never felt pain? And what if you could stick in another 20p every time you made a mistake and got wiped out? I'd be pretty good, wouldn't it? (Not really. Readers voice)
And talking of blowing things up (albeit on a dodgy old colour TV screen) that's exactly what we've got here. MERCS is very Op Wolf-ish in terms of plot, but designed in a sort of 'looking down everything from above and behind' 3D thingie. You're the head of some crack-force team in Africa, bashing it out with a load of thoroughly unpleasant cannibals who (more through luck than judgement probably) have kidnapped the President of the USA. It's hardly worth rescuing him, I reckon, but your little bloke is determined to wade through all sorts of swamps, forests and jungles to get to him. There must be a lot of money in it for him, I s'pose (hence the 'mercs' of the title - it stands for, er, 'mercenary', fact fans).
Your bloke starts off with a single-shot rifle and a bazooka which he rushes up-screen with, destroying everything in sight. This includes a lot of jungle foliage and countless baddies. They charge at you with their rather pitiful weapns and you simply swing your rifle around (it's an 8-directional jobbie) and waste them. If they manage to get you, it doesn't really hurt. All that happens is you lose a bit energy (shown on a bar to the right). A bit pathetic, I'd say.
Dotted around are other weapons, such as 3-way firing guns and, er, faster 3-way firing guns (oh, and a very handy flame-thrower). All this extra firepower is seriously useful because close friends of the annoying guys (who you've been slaughtering) are still milling around, determined to diminish your chances of survival.
There are 8 levels, ranging from landing on the beach and running up and down on a ship to wiping out an entire HO and spraying graffiti over the government buildings. But all the levels are a bit short so you tend to zip through them rather than get really involved. Each has an end-of-level machine like a tank, helicopter or armoured boat to destroy. You'll need to don your extra-nippy shoes for these because they move around a bit, spraying you with all sorts of unpleasant gunfire. So it's probably a good idea to make a grab for the bazooka and blast the tank/plane/hovercraft thingie to kingdom come (along with any bad buys still hanging about). Three cheers and a might hurrah!
Actually, sometimes you won't have the foggiest idea which way to go. Your rock-hard Merc stays pretty much in the centre of the screen, and each level covers a large area, so it's quite possible to dash through a stinky swamp, blow up a couple of lean-to sheds and waste 200 enemy soldiers before finding out you've set off in completely the wrong direction. Drat and double drat! (That's what I tend to say, anyway.)
MERCS doesn't have the most incredible graphics you'll ever see, but it's strength is said (by US Gold, naturellement) to lie in the gameplay. Hmm. I'm not sure. It's good fun, certainly (and even better with 2 players). Oh sure, it's fast, and it's also action-packed, so no quibbles there. But I reckon it's pretty easy and it's not often I find arcade games particularly easy. Basically I'm just concerned about how long it'll take you to complete it. Caring, aren't I?
Mercs, I thought. Great! At last, a game dedicated to the famous Tour France cyclist, Eddie Mercx. But what a disappointment when I found this was just another all-shooting, all-exploding combat action, rather than an exercise in pedal-pushing. Only joking... OR AM I?!
In fact Mercs, (short for Mercenaries, see) is a sort of Commando-derivative in which fearless gun-toting Arnie Shwarzenegger-types (depicted in all their bulgy-muscled glory on the intro screens) do their best to make the world safe for freedom, democracy and the Pepsi-Cola Corp by snuffing thousands of international terrorists.
A former US President (no names, but I guess it's either the one who told a lot of lies or the one who couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time) has been kidnapped while on a visit to central Africa. Direct military intervention must be avoided, so an elite group of mercenaries headed by yourself has been chosen to rescue the Ex-Prez and wipe out the rebels who aim to take control of the country of Zutula.
What this bolls down to is eight levels of multi-directional scrolling, with a host of enemy soldiers falling under your weapons. Each level must be completed within a time limit, and there are arrows along the way to direct you to the end of the level; but since barriers such as trees, rocks and huts bar your way, these must be destroyed with an appropriate amount of pyrotechnics.
At the end of each level, there's a special challenge; on the first, a VTOL jet fighter which hovers over a plateau taking potshots at you, on the second a line of tanks moving back and fore between fortifications, and so on. To take some of these out you'll require weapons heavier than the assault rifle with which you start the game; these you con find in supply chests along the way, and the same applies to medical supplies and so on - in fact. In this respect too the whole exercise thing is rather like Commando or Ikari Warriors.
Though the graphics aren't terrific, featuring some blocky designs, awkward spite masking and uninspired choice of colours, there's enough action to make Mercs fairly absorbing, and the two-player option is fun. But since I completed the first two levels in around two minutes, you might wonder how long the excitement will last.
Label: US Gold
Price: £11.99 Tape
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
PHIL FISCH: Not bad game play ruined by poorly defined graphics. If you like your games to have a psychedelic haze this is for you.
Spectrum £10.99, Amiga £24.99
The unthinkable has happened - the President of the United Stales has been kidnapped! The fiendish guerillas have taken him to the the African country of Zutula and due to the delicacy of the situation (and the bad US relations with Zutula), no military action can be taken against the terrorist organisation. However, the Secretary of State has called in the MERCS - a two-man mercenary outfit with years of combat and espionage experience. Their task is to travel into the heart of the terrorists island hideout and rescue the President, whilst wiping out as much of the organisations military muscle as possible!
This involves one or two players battling Commando-style through eight levels of action, blasting ground soldiers, gun emplacements, tanks and aircraft as they go, whilst collecting more powerful weapons, power-ups, missiles (which cause widespread devastation, but are limited in number) and food. At the end of each level lies a large enemy attack vehicle, which will try to halt the mission in its tracks. When destroyed, the two mercenaries continue on their mission if they fail, the President is doomed.
MERCS is a fun coin-op to play, and is certainly addictive enough - playing brought back old memories of blasting away on Commando for hours on end. Tiertex, the team behind the Amiga conversion, certainly have to be commended upon this - the graphics are brilliant (if a tad small), but still retain the feel of the arcade, and move rapidly enough to keep the adrenalin-pumping pace intact. The gameplay is the main thing, however, and this has been captured perfectly haring around the screen, guns blazing, is certainly as much fun here as it is on the coin-op. MERCS is by no means easy, but with either one or two players, it's a real hoot. If Commando-style action is your bag, go forth to your local Softshop, and get this now!
I definitely agree with Rob on this one. MERCS is a great blast whichever way you look at it with big levels, big guns and massive explosions! The Commando theme may be quite a tired genre, but it's one that hasn't exactly been done very well on the Amiga. All of the features of the arcade have been successfully translated, even down to the massive gun turret that the Mercs can commandeer and use to their great advantage! The eight-way scrolling playfield works well and is a nice innovation. The graphics themselves are as close to the coin-op as can be expected and there's a nice variety in all of the backdrops and sprites. For the most part, the sound and music fit the bill perfectly (though the music at the end of each level is a bit lacking) with nice raucous explosions and hard tunes to accompany the frenetic action. MERCS is a nice conversions that fans of the coin-op original will love to bits.
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