Senior producer Jonathan Zamkoff is a lively man to talk to.
Bustling with enthusiasm and energy, he happily tells a room full of journalists about how he volunteered to be shot in the arse to capture the perfect sound effect for... well, being shot in the arse.
Yet arse anecdotes aside, he's here to watch over journalists play through Mercenaries 2 and answer questions. OXM grabs a few words with him inbetween carpet bombing Venezuelan villages...
Tell us about Mercenaries 2: World In Flames.
So, Mercenaries 2 is a follow-up to the number one selling original IP of 2005. A game that we are super proud of, open world sandbox game, high action military stuff. We felt like after the end of Mercenaries 1, the big thing we could have done a bit of a better job with was really driving home the humour and the tone of Mercenaries, change the setting a little bit, make it sexier.
This time around, we still wanted to do that 'ripped from the headlines' feel, so we picked an oil crisis in Venezuela, which has become a pretty pertinent world thing. I don't know about you guys overseas but in the States, gas prices have become pretty obnoxious. So even though the game is purely fictional, it does have tones that resonate with the average gamer. Again, not taking ourselves too seriously, we're not taking any of the real landmarks from Venezuela or any actual people but as a setting, it's beautiful. There's jungle, there's rainforest, there are cities, there are shanty towns, just a great place for an open world sandbox game.
The other big thing we wanted to do was we really wanted to focus on the exposition of the story of the game. This time around, we went with a classic Hollywood revenge fantasy. You come into the country, you think you're doing a contract for a handsome, dapper billionaire named Ramon Solano. Which you are indeed doing, except what you don't realise is that's the beginning of a coup that takes over the entire country of Venezuela.
Had you left it at just that, you probably would have been okay to take your suitcase of money and head to wherever you were going to go next. But in addition to taking over the country he betrays you, he doesn't pay you for what you do, he tries to kill you... even trying to kill you isn't that big a deal except he shoots you in the ass, which really p***es you off. This sets the stage for a three-act story of you tearing down the entire country trying to find this guy Ramon Solano, culminating in a huge battle at the end. I won't give you the outcome but obviously you're a mercenary, you're a pretty tough dude, I'll let you interpret between the lines how it's going to wind up.
This must be the first game where being shot in the arse is a major plot twist.
[laughs] I would say we're the first to bring getting shot in the ass to the market.
There was a bit of fuss from the Venezuelan government when it was revealed Pandemic were setting the sequel in their country. What came of that?
There was in fact a line that came out that said "Mercenaries 2 was a propaganda tool of the United States of America to prepare the American people for the inevitable invasion of Venezuela." If only we were so important! Let's put it that way.
We have no beef with the country of Venezuela, we think they're wonderful people, I have Venezuelan friends. It's purely a fictitious setting in a real world country. There's no ill intent from our end and any controversy that's been courted is probably publicity for the folks down in Venezuela.