The Resident Evil series has had several transitions. Starting out as a survival-horror game with tank-like controls, it eventually evolved to a shooter with the unique feature that you couldn’t move while shooting. While this made the game more action-oriented, this immobility balanced the action with the horror aspects. Searching for the scarce ammo made the scenario even more intense. Now Capcom is trying to bring that experience to the 3DS with Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D.
The Mercenaries brings the Mercenaries mode in Resident Evil 4 and 5 to the handheld. The game is completely stripped of any kind of story and instead you are shooting as many enemies as you can until you either defeat the number of targets or time runs out. It’s the equivalent of a S.W.A.T. training raid, except that it has zombies.
The mechanic of not allowing you to move while aiming actually makes the game an effective shooter on the 3DS. The slide pad gives you more control over the aiming since you can slide the pad over a little or a lot depending on how far and fast you want to move your aim. You can switch the Y-axis controls if you are used to up moving the aiming reticule and vice versa. The only part that I didn’t care for was the fact that you needed to hold down the R button to aim. My finger would slide off that button sometimes and cause me to not get my shot in.
When there is a specific action to perform, the Y button will be your friend. Picking up ammo, getting herbs to heal yourself, firing your gun, and performing close-combat moves are all done with the Y button. The only problem is that because Y controls so many actions, you have to wait for the action to show up on screen, except when you are using your weapon. Needing to wait to perform a roundhouse kick until it shows up on the screen can be frustrating, but for some it just enhances the tension.
Your inventory is shown on the bottom screen. You are generally given two or three weapons, depending on which character you are playing as. Each character’s weapon set can’t be customized, but eventually each character can use another character’s set by finishing each mission with the highest possible rank. You can also unlock this feature by spending ten Play Coins, which is much easier to do.
As you play along, you’ll gain skills which can enhance your abilities. For instance, a weapon skill might enhance your reloading time or accuracy. You may get a skill that makes herbs more potent when you heal yourself. Once you get a skill, every character can equip it, so it pays to assign skills to everyone when you have unlocked them. As each character uses the skill, the skill becomes more effective.
Each of the eight characters plays very differently. One character relies on long-range weapons, while another relies on short-range guns and a knife. They also move at different speeds. The male characters are slower but don’t take as much damage. The female characters move faster but take more damage when hit.
The actual gameplay gets repetitive very quickly, even with all of the different characters and skills available. All you basically do is run through a level, shoot zombies, collect ammo and herbs, and kick time bonus obelisks. The maps have multiple heights, so you’ll need to move up ladders and stairs to gain a height advantage. Some maps feel like you are trapped inside a building, while other levels have you moving around through the streets of a city. Different enemies show up as you progress through the stages, but you’ll see a lot of the same zombies coming after you.
The levels are tough if you go at it alone. A few stages are available that allow you to team up with someone else. If you have a friend with a 3DS and The Mercenaries, you can play those missions locally. You can also play a game with a partner online through the wireless option. It works seamlessly and I didn’t experience any lag with the online mode. Having a partner on your side makes success a much greater possibility.
When you finish a level you are awarded points and a letter grade. The more zombies you kill, the more points you get, the better grade you’ll get. It saves the grade for each character. The cartridge stores your best score, and you can’t reset that save data, or any save data for that matter. Once it is saved on the game, it’s there forever. All of the previous stages are available, so you can try to go back and improve your score with that character if you like. This does ruin the resale potential of the game, but you can always keep track of your scores yourself, but you’ll never know what skills you should have unlocked.
The 3D is utilized throughout the game. At the main screen, whichever option is highlighted in the bottom screen moves to the forefront on the top screen. During gameplay, you get an idea of how far away they are because the depth of the enemies is easily seen. It’s a good use of the technology.
There is a short demo for Resident Evil: Revelations on the cartridge, although I use that term loosely. It basically involves running down a few corridors, opening up a few doors, and killing off a couple of enemies. While you get to see the look of a new enemy, this demo won’t take more than five minutes to complete.
Unfortunately Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D doesn’t feel very much like a Resident Evil game. It feels more like a zombie shooting gallery, except with blood spurts with each hit instead of the ding of a bell. The Mercenaries feels like a missed opportunity without any kind of storyline to tie the missions together and someone to watch your back. Only the most ardent fan of Resident Evil needs to sign up for The Mercenaries for the 3DS.