Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D
3rd person shooter
June 28th, 2011
Capcom's first title on the 3DS is a straight port of the popular Mercenaries mini-game unlocked upon completion of Resident Evil 4 and 5. Is the arcade-style action in Mercenaries 3D enough to satisfy hardcore Resident Evil fans? Will gamers be repelled by the fact that you can only have one save file on the cartridge that can NEVER BE ERASED? Is Capcom really hatching an elaborate plan to undermine the used game market? Read on to find out the answer to at least one of these questions.
Mercenaries 3D utilizes both screens on the 3DS system. In pre-game menus, options are accessible via the touchscreen on the bottom while the top screen displays the character, skills, weapon loadout, and level currently selected. During the main gameplay, the top screen displays the action while the bottom screen serves as the player's inventory and map. Players can switch weapons and heal themselves by simply touching the appropriate icon on the bottom screen.
There are four different control schemes to choose from. The default scheme is similar to the default control setup from RE4 and 5, except your character runs automatically when pressing forward. The second scheme maps the strafe function to the slide pad and requires the player to press a button to rotate their character. The third scheme is similar to FPS controls: walking/ strafing is mapped to the slide pad, looking is mapped to the face buttons and the triggers are for aiming/firing. The fourth control scheme is identical to the default controls in RE4 and 5.
Unlike most Resident Evil titles, Mercenaries 3D is driven entirely by gameplay. The only goal is to complete each level with the highest score possible. The game ranks your performance in each level with letter grades ranging from C to SS. Obtaining higher ranks in the missions will unlock characters, costumes, weapon sets and skills for the player to use in battle. Fulfilling certain requirements in-game will also unlock medals that serve as an achievement system.
There are 5 missions, each mission is split up into 3 to 5 levels. The initial playthrough consists of 21 missions. Once the game is completed the player can unlock 9 EX missions, bringing it to a grand total of 30 missions. Each mission can be replayed any number of times after it has been completed by selecting it from the mission select menu.
A short playable demo of Resident Evil: Revelations is also accessible from the extras on the main menu.
Although the player characters are nicely rendered, the enemy character models are slightly less detailed and the levels themselves contain low-res textures. Also, enemies that are situated far away from your character suffer from a noticeable hiccup in their movements. The enemy's animation skips frames as it approaches you from afar, but corrects itself once it gets within your immediate vicinity.
It's possible that this framerate drop was purposely implemented to save system memory and prevent the occurrence of more noticeable issues. It seems beneficial, but it can be occasionally bothersome when trying to pick off an enemy at long distance with a non-scoped weapon. Still, these minor drawbacks don't significantly detract from the overall visual presentation. The graphics are surprisingly well done considering the game is on a handheld console. At a glance, they almost rival the quality of their high-res counterparts.
As always the 3D setting is completely optional, but it complements this game very well. The over-the-shoulder perspective tends to shift the player's focus down range, so the depth effect actually feels very natural. In this respect, playing the game in 3D really does add to the overall experience.
The sound in this game is exactly what you would expect in a third person shooter. Every battle is layered with sounds of enemies yelling, things exploding, and the frequent crack of gunfire all backed by overly melodramatic music. Mostly everything about the sound design in this game is utterly forgettable to the point of almost being superfluous. Since there's no plot to speak of, the voice acting is virtually nonexistant. The only noticeable voiceovers are the orders barked at you at the beginning of each mission and the grunts emitted by the players and enemies. Plugging headphones into your 3DS will give you the slight advantage of being able to hear which direction your enemies are bearing down on you from, but it's usually not even worth the trouble.
Overall, Mercenaries 3D has more in common with old school arcade games than any other Resident Evil game that's been released. There's no keys to find, no puzzles to solve, and no cheesy dialogue to wish you could skip through. It's all about repeated fits of action with an emphasis on high scores and rankings. Playing well allows you access to abilities that help you play better, creating a cycle that doesn't really end. Even when you have unlocked everything there is to unlock, there's always the challenge of besting your own high score.
The goal in each mission is very simple: players must race against time to dispatch as many hostiles as they can while taking care not to die in the process. In most cases, the player is dropped into the level and given 2 minutes on the clock. Players must rack up as many kills as possible before the clock expires and the level ends. Score and rank are calculated and assigned at the end of each level. The final level of each mission is a Boss level. In these levels players are required to dispatch a specific Boss enemy within the time limit. Time remaining on the clock will earn the player bonus points.
During battle, players will receive a Combo Bonus for killing consecutive enemies within a specific window of time. Being able to achieve and maintain these Combo Bonuses is key to succeeding in the game, as they vastly multiply your score. Knowing the specific layout of every level is also very important, as there are hidden items scattered about that temporarily boost combo multipliers or add extra time to the clock. Additionally, time bonuses are granted for successfully landing melee attacks on enemies. Extra time and boosted Combo Bonuses help to increase scores and earn higher rankings which, in turn, grants the player access to locked content.
Before jumping into a mission, players are allowed to choose characters, customize skills, and choose a weapon set. There are a total of 8 characters, though 5 are initially locked. The roster includes Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Rebecca Chambers, Claire Redfield, Hunk, Barry Burton, Jack Krauser, and Albert Wesker. Each character has unique stats and is equipped with a set of weapons that is initially available only to them. Playing and ranking in the missions with all the characters will unlock the weapon sets, allowing you to equip different character's weapon sets on your desired character. Weapon sets can also be purchased with 3DS play coins after the corresponding character is available in the character select screen.
Ranking in each level unlocks skills that can be equipped to give your character advantages like improved weapon technique, reduced damage and improved critical hit rate. Skills equipped during a mission gain points and eventually level-up to advanced skills that yield greater benefits. Players can also unlock alternate costumes for each character that impact that character's base stats when equipped.
Despite its looks, Mercenaries 3D is essentially a dungeon-grind RPG dressed up with shotguns and rocket launchers. The bulk of the gameplay lies in replaying the levels over and over with each character in order to maximize score and acquire/max-out your skills. There's a ton of content in this game: 30 levels, 20 unique abilities to level-up, and 50 medals to unlock. The 8 characters all possess unique styles and can be equipped with different weapons and costumes, allowing for a large number of combinations to explore. The missions are designed to provide short, focused bursts of action, perfect for a handheld system like the 3DS.
It should, however, be pointed out that certain aspects of this game that would appeal to some audiences can also be seen as the games biggest weaknesses. Traditional Resident Evil fans might feel unsatisfied with what is essentially a glorified port of Resident Evil 5's mini-game. Others might be turned off by the Mercenaries' heavy emphasis on constant replay. Still others might grow bored of the game after a few minutes because the action feels so repetitive.
This is not a typical Resident Evil title by any means, and it's definitely not for everyone. The game's defining feature is that it's repetitive by design. Mercenaries 3D requires continuous grinding in order for the player to really progress. This type of gameplay structure is more akin to an RPG than an action/adventure or shooter, and that can be seen as a huge drawback to some.
Ultimately, if you want an experience that's reminiscent of RE4 or RE5, it's best to steer clear of this title. If you really enjoyed the Mercenaries mini-games and would like an expanded version of that formula, or you're interested in checking out an arcade-style shooter/RPG hybrid, go ahead and give Mercenaries 3D a try. It may not do much in the way of variety, but the gameplay and presentation are solid enough to make this an enjoyable title.