Name: Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D
Genre: 3rd Person Shooter / Survival Horror
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Price: £29.91 from Amazon
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What would you get if you stripped away the often-rubbish story flak from the most recent Resident Evil games and focussed purely on the baddie-blasting action? Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, that’s what. The first truly adults-only game for the 3DS, can a title that began life as bonus game mode stand tall against other entries in the veritable horror series?
Unlocked after beating the superb Resident Evil 4, The Mercenaries was probably the greatest game-completion reward ever devised. A tense survival mode, it distilled Resident Evil 4’s core over-the-shoulder shooting gameplay and stripped away any remnants of the story and instead challenged gamers to rack up kills against the clock, earning rewards for hitting high kill streaks and making it to the end of a round without giving up the ghost to the possessed baddies bearing down upon them. It made a welcome return in Resident Evil 5, turning its intricate levels into a series of arena-like maps. Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D could be seen as a compilation of both Mercenaries modes’ best bits, with added 3D visuals added to the mix.
While some will undoubtedly bemoan the lack of a story mode, fans of the recent Resident Evil games’ killer shooting action shouldn’t miss out on The Mercenaries 3D. The tense mixture of quick-fire, risk-reward gameplay in timed rounds is perfect for short bursts of play on the go, with the series’ now-signature tight gunplay translating remarkably well here. Guns crack off with a satisfying punch even in this diminutive handheld form, and weaving your way through each map’s web-like series of passages and alleyways makes for an experience as tense as that found with any of the console versions. We found the game to be a little more forgiving in terms of difficulty than the console versions though, despite the fact there seemed to be an even greater number of enemies out for our heads. Having said that, unlock the end-game EX missions and you’re in for a stomach-churningly tough challenge.
Local offline and online co-operative multiplayer modes are supported with The Mercenaries 3D. It makes the game again substantially easier, and much of the tension of facing a horde of enemies unaided becomes lost. However, it’s always good fun to be able to take on monsters with pals, and it’s a welcome addition that brought with it no visibly dodgy side effects, such as lag or reduced frame-rates, to the table.
Chasing high scores is as addictive as ever, but the added challenge-based medal and weapon rewards give added depth to what essentially began as a pure arcade mode. As such, each character now has a skill tree that they can upgrade as they play through the game. Three skills can be assigned to each character, offering buffs like raised attack power of health levels, upgraded through 22 levels. Long time fans of the series will be pleased to see quite an eclectic cast of characters playable in The Mercenaries 3D too. Stalwarts such as Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine join six other cast members that include Barry Burton, Albert Wesker and HUNK, who himself was a bonus reward for finishing Resident Evil 2.
It’s not only by re-introducing little known characters have Capcom heeded fan’s requests for the title, as there are also a number of key gameplay improvements that make the whole experience far slicker than Mercenaries modes have ever been. Once-sluggish movement controls are now improved through the addition of strafe-sidestepping controls, while the messy inventory system of previous titles is made far more streamlined thanks to touchscreen weapon swapping and item selection. Being on your last legs is also a little easier to fix thanks to the ability to quickly heal yourself with a single press of the “A” button, provided you have healing items of course. The last “improvement” may divide fans a little however; while now being able to run and reload at the same time gives you far more breathing space than statically fumbling over cartridges in the console versions, it does take away a little of the strategy and tension that topping up bullets once did.
There’s no denying that the 3D visuals are a welcome addition though. Watching gangs of enemies creep ever closer is even more terrifying when they appear to be coming physically closer to the screen, and the effect also helps make it easier to judge whether or not long shots are worth the risk too. In purely artistic terms, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D also represents the current cream of the crop for 3DS games. Chunky character models animate with both smoothness and ferocity, with particularly crunchy animations reserved for the melee attacks and close-quarters finishing moves. While the environments spread over the six missions are a little bleak in terms of their colour pallet, it’s totally in keeping with the oppressive atmosphere of the game, and feature highly detailed textures.
Though many thought that the Mercenaries spin-off game couldn’t hold its own as a full stand-alone retail release, it turns out that it’s exceptionally well suited to mobile play. A few key gameplay improvements over the first versions and superb visuals make this the second must-have 3DS title in as many weeks. Looks like the Nintendo 3DS is finally getting the triple-A games it deserves.