Mercenary Ops Hands-on Preview -- Free-to-Play Meets Fun-to-PlayBy Rob Manuel - Posted May 18, 2012
Free-to-play games often get a bad rap, but Mercenary Ops is looking to change that. This third-person shooter lets you take on your friends or the world as you go head-to-head or jump into some co-op action, all without having to throw down any money.
As soon as you enter the game, you start to customize and design the warrior you want. Their open class system lets you take the biggest gun to the party or lets you sneak around with only a knife and a pistol if that’s more of your style. The encumbered system keeps the game fair by slowing down those carrying a sniper rifle and giving you a little more speed if you’re packing light. Even if you don’t feel like bringing a knife to a gun fight, players setup four load outs before each of the matches so you can switch between deaths.
Bouncing from cover to cover, we ran from ventilation duct to the next air conditioning unit on the rooftop as we tried to take out the opposing team in this 16-player match. Blind fire kept the opposition trapped behind cover, but we quickly learned that even a couple of well-placed shots at our hands could cause a lot of damage.
Even with two weapons at our side, we used whatever our opponents dropped to get a feel for a new gun or just one with a little extra ammo; you don’t get to keep these guns, only try them out. We also ran into rocket launchers placed around the roof of the building. As with each of the maps, there’s a little something special to keep you on your toes, like fighting with the lights out, a sandstorm, or in our case, a big explosion.
Besides grabbing a little cover, players can dodge out of the way instead of bunny hopping for their dear lives. There’s also an active reload that gives you super bullets if you hit it just right (one of many similarities you might have noticed between MO and Epic proper's Gears of War series). If you’re like me, then you probably get picked off from a distance just for walking five feet. That’s why I’m excited for Mercenary Ops’ co-op mode.
From the rooftops to the grimy city streets, our unit of four characters quickly found ourselves surrounded by an endless horde of zombies. Similar to Call of Duty's zombie mode, you rack up money with every kill to spend on fixing up open windows, setting up traps, or just moving to a new location. Occasionally, zombies drop power-ups that give you a little extra boost to get out of some rather tight situations. At the end, we ran into a rather rotund fellow with a mallet who made quick work of the crew.
After every match, players have a chance to receive a new item or mod for their guns. Higher difficulties give you a better chance for better weapons. As with most free-to-play titles, you could simply buy a needed mod, but as an added twist, the best weapons in Mercenary Ops must be earned. With everything being fairly balanced, you’re only playing for slight adjustments. And yes, there will be outfits as well if you really want to dress up your character.
With a beta for the game hitting relatively soon, and the notion of a new map every month, the team behind Mercenary Ops is certainly trying to put to rest the idea that free doesn’t mean fun.