Mercs (U. S. Gold) Review | ST Format - Everygamegoing

ST Format

By U. S. Gold
Atari ST

Published in ST Format #25

Arcades are full of "murder-mayhem-and-death" games these days and none more so than Capcom's latest military blast. Now that US Gold have converted the coin-op hit to the Atari ST. Should you join in? Maff Evans mans his guns and finds out...


Can you imagine what it must be like to be hard? Really hard - like those blokes with big guns that run around the jungle? Nobody would mess with you then - especially that guy with the funny haircut that looks at you strangely in the pub. Well, now you can stop dreaming because, with a friend of your choice, you can be as hard as you like - playing weather-beaten, gun-toting, enemy-blasting soldiers in US Gold's conversion of the hit coin-op, Mercs.

Joe Gibson and Howard Powell are two highly trained tactical soldiers who have moved on from normal military service to provide a crack trouble-shooting force for the US Government. Their job is to infiltrate enemy holdings and defeat them without standard army intervention. One such job has now come their way.

The former President of the United States has, since leaving office, dedicated himself to promoting world peace. He travels from country to country talking to various important leaders in an attempt to improve diplomatic relations and with a hope of bringing about peaceful resolutions to the world's problems. Unfrotunately, a team of rebels from the Republic of Zutula manage to break past the tight security and snatch the President while he is touring in central Africa.

Naturally, such a crusader for world peace cannot be left as a hostage for the Zutulan rebels to exploit. However, the US Government can't affort to send in a full army attack force because the political climate in Africa is far too sensitive. Some kind of small commando infiltration unit must be sent in to neutralize the rebels and rescue the President. Step in the Mercs.

You and a friend take on the roles of Joe and Howard as they attempt to break through the rebel ranks and smash their defences. The battle starts off at the Zutulan beach head, where you must overcome dug-in emplacements and other ground forces before taking on an attack jet at the entrance to their camp. After storming the camp and smashing the enemy tank line, you must breach the naval base and neutralize "Scorpion", the rebels' crack attack unit.

Next is a swamp - infested with creeping ground troops and boat forces. Once you have penetrated the mountain pass, you must smash the enemy headquarters and cut off their train supply line. Finally you must battle through the airbase and rescue the President before the plane holding him takes off.

As well as storming through enemy terrain on foot, you can also use abandoned vehicles which you find scattered throughout the game. Just jump into tone of the jeeps, boats or tanks and you can blast your way up the screen without receiving any damage from enemy gunfire. These vehicles only last until the fuel in the vehicle runs out though, at which point they explode. You then have to continue the rest of your mission on foot.


The graphics in Mercs are certainly colourful enough and some of the enemy vehicle sprites are of an impressive size, but that's about where it ends. The scrolling is incredibly jerky and the slow screen update makes the animation look far from fluid. The general layout of the levels is there, but that essential spark that made the coin-op look so good has been lost. On the audio side, things aren't really any better. The tunes are far from aggressive and conjure up little of the warmongering atmosphere that you need in this kind of game.


This style of game isn't really anything new. Years ago, games like Commando and Ikari Warriors covered the same territory, so these days a game has to have some extra gimmicks to make it attractive. The coin-op version of Mercs has its fair share - the ability to take over gun emplacements, for example, and the fact that three people can play at once. Sadly, these functions are lacking in this version. This makes it pretty much a run-of-the-mill shoot-'em-up.

There are also a few annoying quirks which make the game frustrating: disk access is too frequence and slow, and the game has a rather frustrating knack of launching grenades without being asked! This means that you don't have enough of them to tackle the end-of-level guardians - and this is where they're needed most. However, the action isn't really too demanding. If you have any experience with shoot-'em-ups, you'll be able to polish off the mission in about two days flat. We're hardly talking long term gaming here.

On the whole, Mercs should be the kind of game that converts well to the ST, but the hassles that you must put up with and the lack of long lasting interest make it look sadly as though the game is just half-baked.

Maff Evans

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