Review: Mercenary Kings (PS4)

Mercenary Kings wears its influences on its sleeve. It’s trying so very, very hard to be Metal Slug, as seen with its 8 bit pixel graphics, its frantic, over the top arcade action and quirky humor. And while imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Mercenary Kings falls short of reaching the same heights Metal Slug reached in its hey day.

Mercenary Kings isn’t a bad game… it’s just really average. It’s like it knows what it wants to be, but lacks the conviction, the polish, the shine to make it there. The humor is quirky, but it’s not actually funny. The action is frantic, but it’s hardly ever fun. And the graphics, while not exactly mind blowing by nature, are a far cry from the same level of low tech greatness that Metal Slug displayed. And while that series always seemed proud to have a tacked on story that made little sense, Mercenary Kings goes a step further with a tacked on story that makes little sense and just doesn’t even engage or amuse.


So while we’ve established that everything about Mercenary Kings is highly average, it fails in one spectacular way; arguably the most important way. The controls. They’re functional at best, just like everything else in the game, but at their worst they get in the way of your smooth progression through the game. Unlike Metal Slug, which featured fluid, responsive controls, Mercenary Kings features controls that seem to tug on the character like an anchor. Perhaps the most egregious example of this is how when your character performs a jump, he/she noticeably stops at the spot and then jumps. It’s a break in your motion which seems innocuous but in practice it can sometimes cause you to mistimed a jump over an obstacle or to another ledge, sometimes resulting in death. These poor controls tended to make me hate the game, rather than enjoy it, and if it wasn’t for the fact that the rest of the game is “alright”, I’d probably hate the whole package altogether.


The game does features some notable enhancements over its predecessor. It features online coop for up to four players, or you can get three of your friends together and you can all play the game on the couch together. But while these features are nice to have, it again shows a lack of polish in the sense you can’t mix and match the co-op. You can’t have, say, two players online and the other two on the couch. It’s either all online, or all in the same room.


Mercenary Kings is a game that hearkens back to yesteryear, when games like Metal Slug ruled the arcade. But it lacks the polish that made those games great, and when this is combined with the often sluggish controls, it leaves you grumpy more often than it leaves you happy.

Final Score: 6.5 out of 10.


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