Review: Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D
October 1, 2011, Author: Andy Corrigan
I am a huge fan of the Resident Evil series (you might even go as far to say that I am our resident Resident Evil fan…), but even I must admit to being surprised and cautious when I saw Resident Evil: Mercenaries 3D listed among the upcoming games for the 3DS. Sure enough, screenies and videos made their way onto the interwebs, and they didn’t look all that far away in quality from RE5 on the big consoles. Was I seeing things? I mean come on! I had no idea that the 3DS was capable of such graphical prowess. I was excited.
Then, of course, came the big controversy regarding non-deletable saves, as Capcom tested their mettle in the fight against the secondhand market. This killed interest in the title for many, but undeterred, I was still first in line when the review copy came around…
How does it fare?
A bonus mode, fleshed out!
Long time fans of the series will know exactly what the game’s naming convention means for this instalment. What started life as a hidden game mode as far back as Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (which itself was an evolution of ideas explored in Resident Evil 2), Capcom now feels is strong enough for its own game. Presumably, the bite-sized nature of these timed missions are surely a perfect fit for the mobility of Nintendo’s 3DS.
As such, there is no storyline here, nothing that fits in with the canon of the Resident Evil lore, just context-free missions that are all about getting the highest score possible for kills made in the allotted time. If you’re here solely for those classic Resident Evil B-movie-isms, stop reading; you’re not going to come away satisfied.
Thankfully, for everyone else undeterred by this, the core game is a lot of fun; there’s just not a lot of it…
Stop n’ pop!
For the most part, your objective in each level is simply to kill as many enemies as the game can throw at you, in the short time limit. You can increase your points intake by taking out enemies in rapid succession (classed as combos), extending your time by physically hitting the red pillars dotted around the map, or by finding the modifiers hidden in chests. There are some occasional twists on this, where your objective might be to kill all enemies or even a boss within your given time limit, but even then, the onus is still to rack up as many points as possible. At the end of each level you’re ranked accordingly. That’s as different or as complicated as it gets over the advertised ‘30’ levels.
How much you’ll play after that will depend entirely on your mindset. For some, going back in to better their scores or rank will be enough of a draw to keep them playing. For me, that kind of set up has never kept me interested for all that long. Hell, even the proposition of playing through the levels as other characters wasn’t enough to get me back into some of the levels more than a few times, let alone besting my own score.
Along the way you can unlock an additional six characters out of the eight available, or alternative costumes, both of which are small in number. More interesting, however, are the skills, which act as perks, boosting your ability in gameplay. With these, you can modify elements like the effectiveness of health sprays or your efficiency with a particular gun. These also level up the more you use them; although, you can only have three active at any one time.
On the subject of guns, I have to say that the controls are great. Movement is perfectly weighted and the shooting mechanics are solid. Even using the the right bumper to enter aiming with the slider feels entirely natural, which I found odd as it goes against everything we’ve programmed ourselves with over recent years. There is no camera control here, though, so while you might need to adjust to that slightly, you’ll be pleased to know that the face buttons are used for actions. This is arguably as they should be, and not as a makeshift d-pad/analogue stick.
Just like in the last two main entries into the series, your viewpoint is over the shoulder of your character, and you still use a laser sight to line up your shots. This time, however, in the gameplay options, you can change whether you aim while remaining in third-person, or switch to first-person. This is a neat feature, and having tested both thoroughly, I have to say that the first-person aiming has become my favourite method of choice. While it’s not a drastic change to gameplay, it’s something that I’m hoping makes it into future instalments of Resident Evil, no matter what the scale or format.
Switching weapons is also a piece of cake, with them and your other accessories mapped to the touchscreen. Should you take a hit (and you will, as you quickly get mobbed after the opening levels), a quick blast of healing herb is just one press away. It’s worth noting, though, that you start each level with a very limited number ammo and items; the rest will have to be acquired during gameplay. You’ll find these items either in the locations casually left around the map, or left behind after enemies disintegrate.
You do have to manually pick these up, but Capcom have removed the animation that goes along with it. At first this will look odd, but it was an essential design decision, considering that time is always of the essence and how quickly you can get overwhelmed. It prevents you from getting stuck in an endless loop of trying to pick items up and taking a hit in the process, which, with endlessly spawning infected, would have just made for frustrating gameplay.
The stages are literally ripped right from portions of both Resident Evil 4 and 5, meaning that if you’ve played both of those games before (and you should have), you’ll be instantly familiar with the layouts. In some cases, you’ll even know where you can climb, where you can kick a ladder down to buy some breathing space, and areas where you can jump without even realising it.
The enemies themselves are also ripped right from both games, with a decent variety in character models between them. Not only that; some of the bigger, tougher enemy classes also make an appearance. For example, I was surprised as hell in one of the RE4 levels when a seven-foot Shredder wannabe tore right through me as I fought off Los Ganados, changing the battle dynamic completely. It’s got that kind of Left 4 Dead factor in the way it spawns the more powerful enemies too, where just as you think you’ve got the hang of crowd control, you’ll hear that heart-sinking rev of a chainsaw.
The A.I. hasn’t really taken a hit either, as fighting them is still as frantic and panicky as it has ever been before. Some of the infected also still evolve in death as they did in the full games, so just popping heads doesn’t always cut it, leaving you to try to take out that resulting insect from a distance. You really need to prioritise your targets, but that’s not to say that the standard classes are pushovers, either. Stall or hesitate in the later levels and you’ll find yourself quickly surrounded with no escape. Try lining up your shots while they’re all winding up for both mêlée and projectile attacks.
This frantic nature is absolutely the game’s strength, so for what it lacks in length, it definitely makes up for in providing short blasts of intensely thrilling gameplay.
This is really running on 3DS?
Mercenaries 3D looks absolutely phenomenal. The character models are richly detailed and varied, and the environments look especially stunning on the small screen. Just look at the screenshots accompanying this review; they really don’t lie. At first glance and in motion, it at least looks as good as RE4 did on the Gamecube; however, as you play more, you’ll notice where the concessions took place.
As you’d expect, any such concession comes because of a lack of raw processing power, and when firing on enemies in the distance you’ll see that in action. Open fire on any distant figure, and you’ll clearly see that they’ve lost several frames of animation as they react to the hits. The closer they get to you, the smoother their animation gets.
I’d be at real odds to lazily label it as ‘frame-rate issues’, though, as the game still functions smoothly and perfectly in spite of it. In fact, that aside, I’d go on record to say that this is the best looking game on the 3DS thus far.
What about the 3D effect? Brilliantly used. Just enough of difference to add some real depth and make environments look extra impressive, but not enough where it’s overbearing or distracting. With this and Super Street Fighter IV 3D, it’s clear that Capcom have really got a handle on how to best manage this much-debated visual feature.
Is that a chainsaw I hear?!
Everything else here is pretty much the same as you found in Resident Evil 5, only at a slightly lower quality. Don’t get me wrong, it sounds great, with satisfying blood and squelch effects that let you know when you’ve hit the mark; however, some of it has that slightly digitised sound that follows when compressing audio. It’s not greatly distracting, but you can tell that it’s there.
In terms of soundtrack, you’ll find a more action-themed collection than what you’ll be used to from the main games, but it suits the rushed feeling you’re faced with in gameplay.
It takes two, baby!
The Mercenaries 3D allows you to play cooperatively locally or online at any point from the pre-mission menu, and this really is a great way to play the game. Being the only one in my household with a copy, most of my exposure to the multiplayer was online, and in the matches I had, it was absolutely flawless. There’s not a lot more you can really say about it, as everything above applies in exactly the same way online, just that there’s two of you on the map.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t add any new modes, but it does what it says on the tin. There is one massive oversight, though, and that is the lack of online leaderboards. For a game that’s all about getting the high score, the small addition of leaderboards would have helped extend the lifespan for many.
Worth becoming a permanent resident?
This is a such a tough game to call. While on one hand, it’s short (like, really short), it does provide exhilarating gameplay that’s both true to the series and has nothing else to rival it on the system.
The fun to be had is of unquestionable quality, but how long you’ll be playing it for is another matter entirely, and this period of time will be directly proportionate to how much pleasure you derive from repeating levels for the sole purpose of beating high scores. If like me, it’s not that big of a draw, you’ll be struggling to justify what is an expensive, permanent purchase for very little actual game.
As it stands, it acts more as a tech demo, showing off the levels of quality that Capcom expect to reach on the system in the near future, when they release a more complete package that’s in line the Resident Evil we know and love.