Mercenary Kings

Game Review by Tom Hillman | 14 Apr 2014
Game title: Mercenary Kings
Publisher: Tribute Games
Release date: 1 April 2014
Price: £15.39 on PS4 (free on PS Plus for April 2014) and £14.99 on PC and Mac.

Do you ever find yourself starting sentences with “I remember when…”? If so, you’re officially old and harking back to a time when videogames were as tough as nails. Mercenary Kings is a cross between Metal Slug and Terraria, or perhaps even Monster Hunter. It’s also one of those games that’d have you spending your pocket money in less than five minutes and then coming back for more.

You play as The Mercenary Kings, a group of soldiers who’ve been brought back from the dead to cleanse an island teeming with ‘bad guys’ called CLAW. With 100 levels to complete, there’s plenty of opportunity to level up, and whilst the missions do vary, you’ll become overly familiar with your general surroundings as the game repurposes its levels for multiple mission types.

Gun customisation is the bread and butter of this affair and precisely why you’ll be combing each level with an insatiable desire for loot. You can mix and match gun parts to create some truly weird and wonderful contraptions. How about a gun that looks like a toilet, fires like a machine gun, and shoots acid rounds? No problem. Or how about a laser pistol that fires bouncing projectiles? The world’s your oyster and the glee you’ll get when ranking up and knowing you’ve got access to new, more powerful weapon parts is exhilarating. On the visual and audible front, Mercenary Kings is also a treat, evoking memories of SNES games but in crisp HD.

Unfortunately, the game isn’t without its problems. Enemies respawn far too quickly – it can literally be as soon as you move out of frame – even if you killed them a couple of seconds earlier. This is exacerbated by time limits, and whilst some of them are fairly lengthy, the levels are expansive and the in-game map too obtuse. You’ll find yourself running in circles and exploring buildings that you’ve been in many times before whilst time ticks away.

Local and online co-op alleviate some of these frustrations by giving you another three potential players to help out but this also opens up a different can of worms. You’ll sometimes find yourself getting matched with far higher ranking players and being thrown into levels that are too difficult for you to take on with your current gear.

Even though Mercenary Kings has all the aforementioned problems and a few presentation issues to boot –such as fairly lengthy load times and skipping audio – it really is the epitome of a rough diamond. For all the negatives there’s a game in there that’s so much fun to play and a blast when you can get a few friends together. If you can look past Mercenary Kings’ flaws you’re in for a great time – just bring your patience along for the ride.