The Resident Evil series was well known for its pulse-pounding solo survival horror gameplay, with all of its jump scares and creepy atmosphere. However, Capcom struck a bit of a popularity mine when they decided to try to move into co-operative play territory. Thus led to the creation of something a lot of us gamers probably assumed would never make it into the slow-paced series: a separate multiplayer mode known as mercenaries.
First conceived within the confines of Resident Evil 4, this mode allows two players to team up against an onslaught of enemies, whether they’re cultists, infected or gigantic deformities. It’s all in the name of fun, with high scores and lengthy survival being the end goals.
After receiving positive feedback from their implementation of this co-operative minigame into the series’ last two console outings, Capcom decided to make a stand-alone version for Nintendo’s new 3DS. Entitled, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, it forgoes the former prerequisite campaign and focuses only on the co-operative action, which of course can also be played solo. It’s nice to have the choice because some prefer to go it alone, while others find that gaming is much more fun if it’s a social experience. Both camps will be satisfied with the applicable options and capabilities.
You’re dropped into one of several different but familiar environments, along with a bevy of different foes, all themed so that the mode is canon to the franchise’s on-going narrative. They want you to cease to exist, and are willing to jeopardize their safety to put you in your place. As one of several different playable characters from the series’ rich history (such as Leon Kennedy, Claire Redfield, Hunk and Wesker), your only course of action is to fight back or meet an early grave. Each downed enemy awards a certain score to your total, which correlates towards a letter-based award at the end. Do well enough and you may succeed towards the next crop of missions.
This time around, it’s not just the slobbering infected who require your full attention. Time is also a factor. When it runs out, it signals the end of your mission attempt. Sometimes it’s a blessing, saving you from impending doom but, other times, it’s certainly a curse. To get an incredibly high score, players must survive for several minutes, which means that tactics must be put into play to allow for time to be extended when need be. Extensions are awarded after the destruction of glowing red statues, of which there are at least a couple in each map.
Each of the playable characters has his or her own weapon specialties. None of them play exactly the same, which is nice, allowing for players to find one whom they’re comfortable with using. There are the required pistols, machine guns and even electrified grenade launchers, as well as knives for close combat sticking. Though, what is arguably the best weapon in the game (other than the rocket launcher and its very limited ammunition) is the bow and arrow, which never runs out of arrows and packs quite a punch. Rounding out the assortment of damage inducers are explosive items such as mines and grenades.
As with most games, the first few missions are tutorial based, allowing gamers to learn the ropes before jumping into full-fledged combat. Those who are familiar with this mode from past games will have to grin and bear it, as the hint-based beginning stages are quite helpful for newcomers like myself. However, it’s a pretty straight-forward scenario: run, shoot and explode evil, while making sure that you keep up on the time aspect. There are some control intricacies which are covered that can be quite helpful, including the option to walk while shooting (which is done in a first-person or third-person viewpoint, depending on what you choose).
What would generally be considered the campaign, or the meat and potatoes of the experience, is a list of stages that numbers in the high twenties. The first tier are the aforementioned tutorials, and the game gets into full swing shortly afterwards, adding difficulty at a nice pace. Every stage takes an average of two to six minutes to finish, depending on skill. If you perish in battle, it’s all reset in game over fashion, so it’s important to utilize time so that it works in your favor. Herbs and a good knowledge of your surroundings, as well as those that go bump in the shadows, are all equally important in keeping your vitals.
Upon completion of this five-tiered ‘campaign’, a set of eight extra missions is unlocked, as well as a new playable character. These missions ramp up the difficulty, though you’re given an extra helping of experience per downed foe to make it worthwhile. Within this mode, the bosses are more prevalent. During the regular level set, boss battles only appear during a few set levels, and can take quite a while to go down. The standard stun and shoot mechanic used for the boss is archaic and leaves a lot to be desired. Fighting a boss is more of a hassle than fun, which is something that takes away from the experience a bit.
Multiplayer is available in two flavors: local and online. Whether you’ve decided to play with a friend who’s in close proximity to your location or prefer to find an ally online, you’ll be in luck. I didn’t have an issue finding games and actually had someone join my lobby almost instantaneously. Playing with someone else was fun and worked well, without any noticeable lag or issues. However, it must be noted that each player depends on his partner’s vitals, meaning that one downed hero sparks the end for both. It’s understandable, but makes things a lot more challenging than they would be otherwise. You need to hope that the guy on the other end knows what he’s doing, because he’s responsible for not just himself and must keep an eye on his health.
Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D is a fun take on the classic survival horror series. It’s a good short burst title to jump in and out of, but will disappoint those who are looking for a long-term investment. The problem is that there’s just not enough variety here. Every stage is almost identical in its objectives, meaning that you’re playing the same thing over and over again, which can get a bit tedious after a while. Luckily, the core gameplay works pretty well and is fun enough to keep everything entertaining for a while. The only replay value comes within the score-based grading system, meaning that gamers who love to make many attempts at betterment will love this. However, those who don’t really care about high scores will tire of this entry quite a bit earlier than others, after its several hours of gameplay concludes.
If you’re looking for an impressive visual treat to help show off your new 3DS and its graphics capabilities to friends, this is a good option. Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D is one of the best-looking handheld games I’ve played. The development team did a good job of converting the art style we’re used to on the consoles to the handheld screens. Although it obviously lacks the shine that the high definition outings have, it looks really good. Three-dimensional character models are used for enemies and heroes alike, with quite a bit of nice detail at close proximity. Though the detail and animation quality lessens when a foe is off in the distance. Many different models and types of foes are available, which was nice to see.
Though it certainly looks good in action and via still frame, there’s nothing special about the game’s 3D visual option. It adds a bit of depth to the procession, but doesn’t make a noticeable difference when on or off. I noticed it more during the menus than I did during gameplay, though it must be said that the menus certainly did look pretty cool with the added dimension. Despite this, it’s still quite an impressive visual feat considering how much they got out of the new handheld device, as opposed to what we’re used to with the DS models. The game runs well in both visual modes, though there’s some frame-rate slowdown at times.
Sound design has been a noticeable strong suit from day one of the series’ inception into our digital entertainment machines. This time around, it’s solid as well. The creepy guy who narrates the title is back, and he complements an audio track full of creepy sound effects, disgusting liquid popping bytes and some decent music. It sounds a lot like every other game in the series, which is a pretty good thing. You’ll get lots of guns, explosions and sounds of health sprays, as well. Though that’s all to be expected whenever you pop in a Resident Evil disc or cartridge.
Overall, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D is a pretty solid handheld title. It’s fun, though it can become repetitive during long sessions due to a lack of variety. Those who love minigames, high scores and shooting infected zombie-like creatures will get quite a bit of enjoyment out of this one, though it’s not a recommended purchase for everyone. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons to decide whether a purchase a good idea or not, depending on your personal preferences. You’re not going to be playing a lengthy campaign here – just some quick one-off missions created in minigame structure.
In closing this review, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention one major change that Capcom made this time around. There is absolutely no way to reset the game data, as there’s only one save file which is protected by some sort of used game protection scheme. The hope is that people will buy this game new, instead of picking up a used copy that they can’t start fresh with. Those consumers who do get a second-hand cartridge will have to carry on from where the previous owner left off. It’s not a huge deal though, considering that all of the missions will be unlocked and there will be high scores to compete against. Performance based medals cannot be earned more than once though.
Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D is an entertaining game with incentive to replay stages in order to better your personal scores. It's a fun take on the Resident Evil formula, allowing for some enjoyable co-operative play if you're into that type of thing. Considering this is a handheld title, it's quite an impressive technical feat as well.