The Resident Evil games may be best known for their story-based survival horror zombie action, but anyone who had the nerve to finish entries 4 and 5 in the series will also have had the pleasure of playing the Mercenaries game modes. These unlockable extras set you against increasingly difficult waves of foes with limited ammunition, racing against the clock to take down enough baddies to rack up a high score. Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D for the Nintendo 3DS marks the first time the mode has been packaged as a full retail game in its own right.
With the addition of a very comfortably placed analogue stick on the 3DS, The Mercenaries 3D is actually very well suited to the new handheld console. X, Y, A and B buttons are used for melee attacks, contextual actions and item usage, the touchscreen for item and weapon selection, the left and right triggers for shooting and aiming respectively, and the afore-mentioned control stick handling movement and pointing your gun’s laser sights. It’s a very console-like set-up, instantly familiar to anyone who has played the game’s big screen counterparts.
Which is a relief, as the pressure is on from the very start. You begin by selecting a map on which to challenge your top scores. Maps will be a “Best Of” collection from the greatest cuts of Resident Evil 4 and 5. We tested out Resident Evil 4’s Los Ganados village and the opening shanty town from Resident Evil 5. You then pick a character and get straight into the action, with a two minute count-down marking your time-left in the arena.
Points are rewarded by felling your deranged foes, and there are multiple ways to slow down the ticking clock and push your score higher. Littered around each map are time-totems, each offering an extra 30 seconds play time when smashed, which discourage camping and encourage you to take risks to reach. Alternatively, nifty kills, often those that involve stringing together multiple “combo” shots or melee attacks, also add a smidgeon of extra time. All is lost of course, if your foes take you out first.
Four characters (Chris and Claire Redfield, Hunk and Jack Krauser) can be selected, each with specific abilities to suit differing play styles. Chris is well rounded, while Claire is fast for instance, with Hunk soaking up damage like a bloodied sponge. Our favourite so far was the slower Jack, whose unlimited bowgun ammo and rocket launcher made him a real threat to the infected villagers. Local multiplayer via StreetPass will allow gamers to compete and co-operate across the maps too, while online multiplayer modes are also planned.
Visually, the game stands as the most impressive 3DS launch title we’ve seen so far by some margin. Sprawling levels are detailed, with destructible environmental objects and menacing animations given to the too-life-like-for-their-own-good baddies. We’d put the graphics somewhere between a Wii and Xbox 360 in terms of quality. The 3D effects were solid too, comfortably adding a sense of depth to the action without any cheap jumping-out-the-screen scares too often seen in the 3D Resident Evil movies.
Does the Mercenaries mode have enough thrills and scares to warrant a stand-alone retail release? It’s hard to say right now, as full details are scarce and only two playable levels have been seen so far. What we can say with some certainty is that it’s easily the best looking 3DS game so far, and is a blast to play with great controls. We very much look forward to seeing how this one turns out, perhaps even more so than the more tradition, story-based Resident Evil: Revelations.