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US Gold Ltd
1991
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
£10.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes

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39
Nick Roberts, Mark Caswell
Chris Bourne

As the former President of the United States of America toured central Africa on a quest for world peace, he was taken hostage by a group of revolutionaries. What jolly bad luck! Of course, the US can't just send the troops in to rescue him, as it could prompt World War III, so instead they send an elite corps known as the MERCS - professional soldiers trained in anti-terrorist tactics. And you're one of them (gulp). Your objective: to rescue the President and stop the rebels taking over the country of Zutula!

It's dead easy to describe MERCS - eight levels of non-stop arcade shoot-'emup action. That's it! Well, there's a little bit more. Two players can take part simultaneously and each can build up their weaponry from a simple gun to a three-way blaster or flame thrower.

You're going to need that weaponry to attack the many, many, many enemies you encounter on your mission and they come in all shapes and sizes. Rebels run around firing in all directions, mega-tanks attempt to run you down and, at the end of each level, there are such things as enemy supply trains, battleships and monster Hercules planes that'll make mincemeat out of you if you're not quick enough on the trigger.

You couldn't ask for much more colour in the graphics of MERCS. All the sprites and backgrounds use the block colour method, so some look a bit blocky but it allows loads of colour with very little clash.

Landscapes scroll in all eight directions and the terrain you run over changes from time to time. One minute you're sprinting along a concrete path, the next you could be up to your neck in quick sand or gasping for breath in the middle of a river!

There's so much to be blasted away it'll keep shoot-'em-up fans happy for hours on end. You don't have to stick to shooting the enemy, either. If you are feeling really naughty you can blow up any houses, trees or bushes you see along the way (and sometimes you have to, to clear a path, y'see).

MERCS is a real winner with me. The tune at the beginning may be a little, erm, grating but the rest is excellent. A real cool blaster, and I didn't say it looks like a updated version of Commando once (even if it does).

NICK ... 84%

CRITICISM

'Even though I've not played the coin-op MERCS is based upon, I like it. It's everything a computer game should be: fast, colourful and above all very (very, very) violent. It reminds me of another game from the arcades, Calibre .50, where one or two players battle against a horde of terrorists, with nowt to their name bar a machine gun and a few grenades. This is what always puzzles me about this type of game - the heroes run around with a feeble machine gun while the enemy carry some serious combat weaponry, six-barrel chain guns, M-203 grenade launchers etc. But, back to the game: it's sunshades, ahoy! time because the sprites and backgrounds are very colourful. My only niggle is that while the title tune and inter-level jingles are pretty good, they're too jolly and bouncy for an ass-kicking game. If you want a last-paced all-action game you need look no further than MERCS. So don't.' MARK ... 88%

The best shoot-'em-up for ages. Packed with colour and mega-enemies to blast!

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Screenshot Text

Player one launches an attack on the mighty MERCS train, blasting the train's gun emplacements in this vertically scrolling bit.

You're the blue chap coming up the screen ready to attach the missile-chucking tank (but we'll dispose of the yellow opposition first, shall we?).

Playing MERCS takes you all over the place. Here we're on baord a ship ready to trash the opposition's armoured boat.