|“|| These adventure-seeking cutthroats come from all over the world and welcome even the dirtiest of work. Their motto is predictably ‘Money has no smell.’ They’ll keep fighting for complete control over artifact fields, so long as there’s demand for them. Mercenaries are equipped mainly with Western firearms.|
- Multiplayer description
The Mercenary faction is a group of private military contractors operating within the Zone, though their exact base of operations and their client(s) are kept highly secret. They appear in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky and S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat.
|“|| The most clandestine and secretive faction in the Zone; some don't even believe in its existence. There are those who regularly use the Mercs' services as they are true pros, able to quickly deal with any stalker and even annihilate a small group of opponents. Their services do not come cheap - the Mercs demand a king's ransom for their services in money or artifacts. The location of their base remains a secret, suggesting that it is deep inside the Zone.|
- Shadow of Chernobyl PDA description
Mercenaries are experienced fighters from all walks of life who offer their services as hired soldiers. They are perhaps ex-military soldiers, ex-special forces operators, or possibly underground fighters such as elite resistance/guerrilla troops, a private military company or notorious terrorists of various nations who offer their services to the highest bidder. Having seen combat outside of the Zone, the mercs are capable of dealing with virtually any kind of armed resistance using careful tactics, military precision, and excellent equipment. However, their only drawback is that they lack the extensive knowledge of the Zone that many Stalkers have.
Mercenaries often charge their clients large amounts of money or anything of the same value (artifacts for example). They are usually hired by wealthy and powerful corporations to retrieve artifacts and other unique objects in the Zone.
Because mercenaries have no established code of ethics to abide to, each mercenary group's sense of morality could be quite different from another. Thus, mercenary groups are ultimately unpredictable as there are those who are civilized enough to negotiate and reach a mutual understanding, such as Hog and Hatchet, while there are also those who will simply kill anyone that gets in their way or witness their brutality, such as Wolfhound.
It is this bit of unpredictability than has earned all mercenaries the distrust of most stalkers as they fear that they might get a bullet in the head than a mutual understanding when talking to mercenaries.
Mercenaries operate in independent teams. In fact, referring to them as a single faction is erroneous - mercenary teams operate independently of each other, completely autonomously. They have no set goal and no headquarters or central command. As such, mercenaries operating in the Zone can be violent thugs on the payroll of bandits (eg. Wolfhound's or Dushman's mercs) and at the same time well-equipped professionals who do the job with as little bloodshed as possible (Hog and Leshiy). Their modus operandi and organization in general depend on the employer and the assigned objective. Likewise, in Clear Sky, the Dark Valley mercs are hostile to Freedom while Hog's mercs aren't, meaning their contractors likely influence on their relations with other factions in the Zone. This is further proven by the fact that Scar, a mercenary, is hostile to the Dark Valley mercs, but not Hog's nor the Limansk ones.
Nonetheless, they seem to be at first a faction itself, considering they're issued the same gear - same suits and NATO weaponry.
In terms of equipment, the mercenaries employ a large variety of weapons in the Zone, often customized with scopes or silencers. Most often, they will use NATO weapons, the TRs-301 being the most widely-used of all, although they may sometimes employ Akm-74/2s in rare cases. In terms of armor, they eschew stalker suits in favor of the more combat oriented mercenary suits and exoskeletons. However, there are a few mercenaries that employ a variant of the SEVA suit, distinguishable by the large amount of blue coloring, this variant being only featured in Shadow of Chernobyl.
- Mercenary suit - The mercenaries' basic armor is the Merc suit, which is a lightly armored combat suit built primarily for combat.
- SEVA suit - Some mercenaries may opt to use their own variant of the SEVA suit, which is colored in a shade of blue than green and has a blue-colored reflective armband.
- Exoskeleton - Usually worn by high-ranking mercenaries and commanders, the mercenaries' exoskeleton is a regular exoskeleton painted to the mercenary colors of blue and white.
Shadow of Chernobyl
The mercenaries only respawn by the Army Warehouses, Pripyat and the Wild Territory. In the latter, they're allied with the Bandits due to a large payoff on the Bandits' part (according to the Barkeep), and the prospect of mutual benefit from the two factions hunting any Ecologists and Loners that travel the Wild Territory.
Mercs are involved in several missions, the main one being protecting and escorting professor Kruglov and his group of ecologists from a mercenary team led by Wolfhound. On the first trip there, several mercs will attack the player from the first building and the tower. The player will then have to fight Wolfhound and his guards near the crash site, and protect Kruglov from other attackers on the way to Yantar. After this mission, Mercs commonly spawn by the construction site along with Bandits.
Another quest, Deal with the snitch, given by Lukash, requires the Marked One to eliminate a mercenary named Ara, who was obtaining information on the Freedom faction by a snitch named Pavlik. A quest given by Voronin, Find the enhanced rifle, requires the player to steal a Sniper TRs-301 from a Mercenary camp in the Army Warehouses. Mercs respawn by their north-western camp, and commonly explore the area, usually to fight Loners in the area, or the Freedom guards/Monolith fighters at the Barrier. They also spawn at the entrance of Pripyat, although they hardly make any progress since they'll usually be gunned down by nearby Loners, or the Monolith fighters that appear at the windows.
Afterwards, several repeatable quests given by either Barkeep or Voronin requires the elimination of mercs at the Army Warehouses or the Wild Territory.
|“|| Shit man, what a screw up! What a rotten son of a bitch that Commandant. All that horse-shit he have us about the outpost was out of ammo. Those Freedom bastards wounded two of our boys!|
Enough yapping! Let's cover our tracks and get out of here!
- Mercenaries radio conversation
The player takes the role of a Mercenary, as Scar. Scar was employed by a group of Ecologists to lead them through the swamps. It is unclear exactly what they were searching for or why, but everyone except Scar died in an emission. Scar passed out and was rescued by the Clear Sky faction in the Swamps.
In Clear Sky, the Mercs are typically viewed as a neutral faction that typically busies itself with independent missions into the deeper parts of the Zone, usually in search of rare artifacts. It is suggested that the Mercs' primary employer is the Ecologists whoes either lack the proper military support or the proper gear for larger mission.
Mercs are first seen in the Dark Valley, during the rumors and raids on Freedom outposts in the Dark Valley. Lingov is giving the information to Mercs about Freedom's outposts in order to remove them from the Dark Valley passage. Lingov's betrayal is discovered once Scar finds out the recording of a PDA conversation about Mercenaries and Lingov's cooperation.
The player has only one opportunity to fight Mercenaries in Clear Sky, while assisting the Freedom faction. These Mercs are always hostile to Scar; whereas Scar can converse, trade, and even befriend the other Mercs in the game. The Mercenary Armor is surprisingly effective, and unlike Shadow of Chernobyl, Mercenaries do not carry Warsaw Pact weaponry.
Mercs appear more frequently as the story progresses. Hog's group appear in the Army Warehouses, and provides a quest that requires to rescue Leshiy and his group from a Space Anomaly. Leshiy later helps Clear Sky by securing the bridge to Limansk. A final merc appears in Limansk, having survived a crossfire between heavily-armed Monolith fighters and Bandits experts, and warns Scar about a RP-74-wielding Bandit in the nearby building.
Call of Pripyat
The Mercenaries take a more complacent, and less hostile role in the game. Only three squads of Mercenaries are active in the Zone, with two holding outposts blocking the way to Yanov, while the third has taken over for Duty in protecting the Ecologist laboratory. Owl pays handsomely for any information the player can gather on the squads, though eventually, the player will end up killing off all three on his own.
According to PDAs found throughout the storyline, the mercenaries seen in Call of Pripyat are under the leadership of Jackal, sent to recover documents about the secret researches that were made in the Zone before the 2006 incident inside the Lab X-8. The player can find out they work with a group of (possibly corrupt) Ecologists, who supply them with X-Lab keycards and other valuable information. The leader of this rogue Ecologist group, Serbin, is the target of an optional assassination mission, along with his counterpart Jackal. They also attempt their own raid on the X-8, but it appears it is unsuccessful - Serbin's second in command Barchuk dies trying to restart the generator, and the only remaining keycard to Lab X-8 was recovered by the protagonist, Major Alexander Degtyarev. Multiple squads were sent close to Pripyat, waiting for someone to uncover a way to Pripyat, where the X8 lab is located. A first squad, led by Ridge and Hook, occupied the waste processing plant in Zaton. Another squad led by Hatchet occupied the Zaton Substation Workshop, but abandoned their mission. Another one, led by Black, was guarding the Mobile Lab in Yanov, but went rogue when Degtyarev was sent by Hermann to find documents in the Jupiter factory and was wiped out in the process. There is also another standalone group wiped out by the player and Yar. Ultimately, when Garry found a way to the abandoned city, they threatened him in guiding them there. The mission One Shot requires the elimination of both Jackal and Serbin - the player's choice will later impact the Mercs' presence in the city.
As a result, these better funded Mercenaries pose a severe threat to a new player - there are several Merc experts that wear Exoskeletons (although this can be seen in the previous games as well), and nearly all of them employ scoped and silenced assault rifles, alongside the powerful Eliminator shotgun and even FT-200M and GP37 assault rifles at times. They can be found with Soviet weaponry more often than in Shadow of Chernobyl. However, once disposed of, the Mercenaries never return in Zaton or Yanov (unless Morgan has sent Mercenaries to kill the player, in which case squads of these Mercenaries will either stay in a random area and attack the player on sight, or act like a stalker squad and wander around until they find the player in Yanov) giving the player freedom to explore the areas they defend. During free play, Mercs spawn in Pripyat in larger numbers, commonly equipping the Exoskeleton and high-tier weaponry. They usually spawn by the Yubileiny Service Center and the School, though they also explore the city in groups like regular stalkers, and can be commonly found near the River Port where they will engage the Monolithians protecting the area.
It is never established who they work for, though it is suggested it is another faction interested not in artifacts, but rather the information developed inside the Zone, the X labs and C-Consciousness.
The only Merc group that is not hostile is Hatchet's group, who reside in a substation in Zaton. They seem to be idle because of their lack of food supplies, and they request to the player that they need a half-dozen pack of foods. They generally will not attack unless the player provokes them by drawing their weapon near the entrance and/or trespassing the area without doing their quest. After Black's team leaves, the player can recruit them to guard the scientist's bunker in Yanov.
Shadow of Chernobyl
Trained Mercenaries are the most common members of the Merc faction. These Mercs are experienced soldiers equipped with decent armor and mid-grade TRs 301 assault rifles. They are noticeably tougher than Bandits, and slightly tougher than standard Sunrise Suit-wearing Stalkers, being roughly on par with basic Military soldiers in terms of ballistic protection. However, they are not quite as strong as Veteran members of Duty, Freedom, or the Military Spetsnaz Special Forces. Mercs can survive about 7 to 8 shots from their own TRs 301 assault rifles, or about a dozen shots from an AK-class assault rifle.
Old Hand Mercenary
- Rank: Veteran
- Armor: Merc Suit
- Weapons: SGi 5k assault rifle, TRs 301 assault rifle (scoped)
Veteran Old Hand Mercenaries are similar to Trained Mercenaries. They have slightly better combat skills, and are typically equipped with slightly more powerful Sig Sauer 550 assault rifles. In the Wild Territory, several Old Hand Mercenaries, equipped with scoped LR 300 assault rifles, serve as snipers on the rooftops of a few of the area's buildings.
- Rank: Expert
- Armor: SEVA Suit
- Weapons: SGI-5k assault rifle
The highest ranking members of the Mercenary faction, Tough Mercenaries can be distinguished by the fact they wear SEVA Suits instead of Merc Suits. Their superior SEVA Suits give them better protection, allowing them to survive about twice as much damage as standard Mercs. Tough Mercenaries are fairly uncommon; a group of Trained or Old Hand Mercs may have a Tough Merc leading it into combat.
Tough Mercenary (Exoskeleton)
- Rank: Expert
- Armor: Exoskeleton
- Weapons: SGI-5k assault rifle
In extremely rare cases, a Tough Mercenary may be seen equipped with a power armor Exosuit instead of a SEVA Suit. Like any Exosuit-wearing soldier, they rank as some of the toughest Stalkers in the game. They usually appear in Pripyat.
Call of Pripyat
Semi-common in Pripyat, they use weak weaponry and usually do not last long on their own, as they will be usually quickly dispatched when attacked by mutants or Monolith fighters. They all wear Mercenary suits.
- Armor: Mercenary suit
- Weapons: AKM-74/2, Scoped/suppressed TRs 301, IL 86
The most common type of mercenaries. Identical in appearance to rookies, they mostly differ in gear, as they can be seen wielding now the IL 86, and in some cases TRs-301 assault rifles with attached SUSAT scope and/or silencer.
Semi-common, Veterans can be seen wearing now the faction exoskeleton, and are now seen with high-end weaponry, usually packing powerful GP37 assault rifles or the Eliminator shotgun.
- Armor: Exoskeleton
- Weapons: GP37, FT-200M, Eliminator
This dangerous and uncommon type of mercs use exclusively the faction Exoskeleton, and use the same gear as Veterans, with the addition of the rare FT-200M assault rifle. They are very though opponents and can survive mutants/Monolith attacks almost unscathed.
Behind the Scenes
Development and cut content
- Originally, the Mercs were supposed to literally be the U.S. Army, and this is reflected in their NATO weapons and Wolfhound's attacks on the Ecologists.
- During Shadow of Chernobyl, their base was supposed to be in a place known as the Dead City, where Doctor and later on Strelok were held captive. The city was shared between the Mercs and Bandits. While the town was removed from the game, Limansk shares similarities with it and is its spiritual successor, and was in fact believed to be a remodel or "reboot" of its design. The Mercs were also working for unknown foreign intelligence services.
- The mercenaries' original armor was supposed to be based on the Sunrise suit, recolored and refurbished to their faction's colors which were the current Duty's black and red at the time. This concept was removed and used a different layout that incorporated a professional and Special Forces look, the Merc Suit.
- If you play the russian version, if you are attentive, you can notice that most of the mercs speak with western accents (german, french, british, irish etc.) which gives an idea that most of the mercs are western by origin.
- ↑ Excluding Hog's group
- Mercenaries entry at the Shadow of Chernobyl official site
- Mercenaries entry at the Clear Sky official site