The war on horror returns as Capcom serves up Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D as their latest offering for early adopters of the Nintendo 3DS.
As seasoned veterans of the survival horror franchise will immediately recognise from the title, this release isn’t designed as being a core entry within the series. ‘The Mercenaries’ mode, which first featured as an unlockable mini-game that was available upon completion of Resident Evil 4 and a revised version of which was later included in Resident Evil 5, is adopted as a central concept here and expanded to be fleshed out into a lengthy game in its own right.
For those unfamiliar with the mode, players will find themselves in a stage plucked straight from either Resident Evil 4 or 5 in which you are tasked with eliminating as many enemies as possible within the time limit. Consecutive kills begin to rack up a combo meter, in turn allowing you to accumulate a greater score and smashing red, glowing crystals allows you to add valuable extra seconds to the clock. Make no mistake, this is a score-based challenge experience and means therefore that fans expecting some form of narrative experience will have to await the forthcoming 2012 release of Resident Evil: Revelations – for which a short, playable ‘Pilot Demo’ is included on the cart.
Whilst the character roster boasts eight characters spanning the history of the series, only Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine and Hunk are initially available to choose between. As you naturally progress through each level of missions the additional five will soon unlock and include Jack Krauser, Albert Wesker, Rebecca Chambers, Claire Redfield and Barry Burton. Each offers a distinctively differing experience, distinguished by carrying their individual array of weaponry and able to perform a unique physical attack against stunned foes.
Your equipment is all located on the lower screen alongside a small mini-map, allowing you to freely switch between weapons, grenades or heal after a quick tap. If you allow your health to get too low, you’ll have to rapidly press Y to resuscitate yourself back to a combat-ready status before taking further damage. It’s therefore important to keep an eye on it, as well as on ammunition levels so that you know when to rush to grab whatever is dropped by enemies. Melee kills also add extra seconds to the countdown timer, so dropping your foe to the floor and then kicking them in the head is advised!
A new addition to the series, as far as I’m aware, is the ability to select Skills to aid you. Once unlocked up to three may be equipped and you are then able to increase their level, and in turn their capabilities, through the accumulation of ‘Skill Points’ that are acquired upon completion of a mission. It’s an intriguing inclusion, ensuring a further opportunity for players to play to their strengths in providing benefits such as greater accuracy or reload speed with specific types of weapons, or allowing you to gain a greater quantity of health when using herbs.
There are 21 missions spread between Level 1 to Level 5, with the player required to achieve a B rank on each mission before being able to progress to the next level. I’m sure that the majority will breeze through the initial batch of missions which seemingly act more as an introduction to the concept of the game rather than posing any real form of challenge, but the difficulty soon ramps up to the point where you’ll soon find yourself backed into a corner at every turn and struggling to maintain your health and ammunition – especially later on! Thankfully, completion of the game will not only reward you with the option to play as Albert Wesker but will also unlock ‘Level EX’ encompassing an additional 8 missions for you to plough through.
Those looking for a certain degree of replayability may be disappointed to find that beyond completion you’ll only be able to occupy yourself with aiming to better your scores, or collecting a series of 50 Medals by performing certain conditions such as ‘Crush your enemy with a hand-to-hand combat blow after shooting them.’ Whilst this objectifies your time with the game, I’m not sure whether many will invest the time necessary to unlock them all.
Luckily, Capcom has also seen fit to expand Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D beyond providing a purely single-player experience, enabling a number of missions to be played within ‘Duo’ mode. This, as you can probably guess, allows you to connect with a co-operative partner either locally or through the use of a Wi-Fi connection, the latter of which providing the option to host or join games globally or with friends.
You’ll easily be able to find games relatively quickly, as the matchmaking works particularly well and picks up available sessions within seconds. Needless to say, fighting alongside a co-operative partner makes the entire experience all the more engaging, assisting each other in times of need and generally laying waste to the amassed Majini hordes exuberates a sense of grim satisfaction.
Visually, this is also one of the best games to grace the Nintendo 3DS so far. The seemingly narrow vision angle keeps you on edge, and it also becomes a necessity to crank up the volume or use headphones as the audio plays just as an important part of ensuring you can be aware of when a crazed Executioner Majini or Chainsaw-wielding sack-faced… thing… is chasing up behind you.
There are a few disappointments, however, with only a small number of stages that you’ll find yourself battling across. ‘Night’ variants of such stages are used to disguise such fact, yet even though your focus is on neutralising as many enemies as possible within the quickest time, a lack of variety in the surrounding environments is soon evident.
Similarly, even though the visuals are particularly strong, it would seem that a development shortcut that has been taken means that if you shoot enemies within the distance, the animation is limited to a slideshow where each direct hit causes them to immediately change posture without movement. It’s hard to describe, yet those that pick up the game will be sure to see what I mean…!
This is still one of the best Nintendo 3DS titles currently available and one that early adopters certainly won’t want to be missing out on. The war on horror has indeed returned, and the Nintendo 3DS offers the perfect call to arms.