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Slick ‘Mercenaries’ portrays war for oil

This is undoubtedly the year of stupid, stupid oil. As you know, 2008 started with Daniel Day-Lewis winning an Oscar for playing a tycoon who kills people for oil in “There Will Be Blood.” Then, gasoline prices skyrocketed. And at the Republican National Convention, people in the crowd literally were screaming, “Oil!”

At the same time, some video games this year have portrayed very fervent wars for oil. The latest is the slick and addictive “Mercenaries 2: World in Flames,” in which you portray a mercenary who kills for money and steals giant oil tanks from rival military factions in Venezuela.

So, a typical scene goes like this. You run down the street, hijack a motorcycle, drive said motorcycle to a military unit’s forest headquarters, blow up its buildings with a rocket launcher, kill 20 or 30 henchmen, then call in a friendly helicopter pilot to snatch the military’s big oil tankers and fly away.

Then again, if you’re like I am, and you’re sick of hearing about oil, you don’t call in the helicopter thief. Instead, you steady the rocket launcher on your shoulder, aim at the oil tanks and blow them to smithereens. Take that, you tiresome political issue.

Unlike the other war-for-oil games this year, the story lines of “Mercenaries 2” are less about oil and more about money. Your job as a male or female mercenary (your choice) is to accept bribes of $300,000 and more to do dirty work for competing military outposts.

In other words, one minute you find yourself working for an oil company that wants you to seize territory held by the Chinese — in Venezuela. The next minute, you’re working for the Chinese to seize territory from the oil company. Or, you could be working for Rastafarian pirates.

Although some other critics have been slightly turned off by the game’s occasional technical glitches, I like the sequel better than the original. Yes, the glitches can be annoying, but they’re not even nearly fatal. The entirety of “Mercenaries 2” is just too much fun to let little things overcome good times.

In the first 10 minutes alone, I shot people, drove a boat, raced a Jeep, fired a tank, hijacked a motorcycle and swam across a river. That’s entertainment.

It’s also a “sandbox” game like “Grand Theft Auto.” You can tool around Venezuela on your own and cause as much havoc as you want, away from your central missions. The only real negative: The online gaming is only cooperative mode, and not head-to-head combat.

But the game smartly doesn’t take itself too seriously. Your character says things like, “You’ve got the most expensive haircut here. You must be in charge.”

And the craziest part? You can set off little nuclear bombs on your enemies. That is insane. But as you know, bad things happen to those who get between someone who has oil and someone who wants it.

(“Mercenaries 2” by EA retails for $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3; $40 for PS 2 — Plays fun and addictive. Looks great. Rated “T” for violence, use of alcohol, use of tobacco, language. Four stars out of four.)

Contact Doug Elfman at 702-383-0391 or e-mail him at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He also blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

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