Originally in Resident Evil 4, The Mercenaries originally started it’s life as an additional mode to the action packed campaign of that game. While the campaign skillfully bounced between building tension and overwhelming the player with some excellent action set pieces, The Mercenaries isolated the latter part of that equation and turned it into a score-chasing arcade style romp. It was a bigger addiction than anticipated, with players around the world sharing strategies and uploading their best runs to YouTube to no end. Now, several years later, it’s a game of its own, but like the boxart describes, you’re getting The Mercenaries in 3D, for better, or worse. Can what was previously an extra mode stand up to the pressure of being the main attraction?
Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D
For: Nintendo 3DS
Release: 6/28/2011 (North America)
Throw out any expectancy of terror, horror, or foreboding from this entry, because The Mercenaries is all about action. Like in the original, you pick a special agent from Resident Evil’s storied history (though curiously, no Leon?), and cast yourself into a variety of stages based on the battlegrounds from Resident Evil 4/5. The objective is to go to town on an increasingly aggressive horde of enemies before time runs out. Strewn throughout the stages are extra weapons, clocks to increase your time, and bonuses to increase your multiplier. Should you survive, you’ll be awarded a score and rank to gauge just how effective you were at eliminating the undead (?).
Normally, there would likely be another paragraph going in depth about the story, but there is none to be found here. The above paragraph summed it up just about the entirety of the experience, so what is left is the game, which depending on your speed, may be entirely too familiar, or potentially lacking. The game is played out via selectable missions, starting with tutorials, (of which there are a LOT) and moving on to straight-out survival or boss encounters. Series veterans will recognize each location, which are still expertly designed, filled with choke points and vantage spots to maximize one’s killing potential, while newcomers will be introduced to a more action-packed, tactical side to Resident Evil. The fun of playing The Mercenaries is figuring out the nuances of each stage, and using it to your advantage as you figure out better and more efficient ways of taking enemies out, racking up higher and higher scores and putting friends to shame.
The problem here is that the missions and the way they’re laid out just isn’t very interesting
. Starting out, the entirety of the first two “levels” are filled with tutorials from running, to moving, to shooting, and the core fundamentals of the gameplay (such as the combo system) are held off until the third set.. This means that for a vet, the entire first quarter of the game is an abominable slag that doesn’t go anywhere, aside from acclimating you to controlling the characters with the 3DS’ circle pad. The later missions do open up a bit and finally have you facing off against bosses and enemies, but they also are a bit underwhelming and over far too quickly. You also have the option to tackle them with any number of the game’s characters, but nothing changes aside from the equipment and appearance, which can make things easier or harder depending on who you select. Overall, a sense of story or at least objective would have been appreciated, but without those things, the game feels little more than a disconnected series of bite sized missions. The fact that there are only 30 or so may turn some off as well, because unless you’re looking to continually improve your high score with each
character, the experience will be over fairly quickly.
Gameplay is another fairly touchy spot, as the controls have retained their tank-like clunkiness from previous titles, but with the added ability to select weapons from the touchscreen, reload while running, and strafe. Strafing is a very welcome addition that allows you to sidestep while running and even move while aiming(!!), but shoehorned into the old playstyle and requiring a button to work, it isn’t as intuitive as it should be and could have been done better. Likewise, while having the touchscreen inventory is convenient, it can distract from the top screen in the thick of the action, and every character no longer have a default knife, leaving those who do to select it awkwardly from the touchscreen. This also means that if these knifeless characters are caught with no ammo, it’s curtains. There’s also a multiplayer aspect to the game that sees two players working together to dispatch enemies and build up a high score either local or online, but for some reason, you’re only allowed one map per session, so unless they’re on your friend list, be prepared to make new friends each time you log in.
Graphically, the game is surprisingly a mixed bag. When I’d heard that MT Framework, Capcom’s flagship engine , had made it into the 3DS, I was elated just thinking of the possibilities. When I saw Super Street Fighter IV
I was blown away at its faithfulness to the originals. Here, not so much. While at a glance (and definitely in screenshots) the game looks astounding, in practice, the visuals look detailed enough, but suffer from an erratic framerate and questionable LODs that have enemies (and bosses) animating jerkily from afar, and leveling out the closer you get. Scarier than the boss itself, I was more freaked out by a giant stop-motion blob that eventually morphed into the bat boss from RE5
the closer I got than the fact that it was, well a giant mutated bat.
. Portable games are known for having a compromise here and there, but personally, I would’ve taken a hit to the number of enemies on screen to have them be individually more detailed.
————————————————- —The 3D Effect ——————————————————————-
You could be forgiven for not even realizing it’s on, but Capcom opted for a more subtle 3D effect with this one, giving the visuals a bit of depth while making the HUD stand out over the action, similar to Super Street Fighter IV. Perhaps it was a design decision due to the game’s camera and the way it’s always centered on your character no matter where you move, but in practice it’s not too impressive. What it does do right is sharpen the visuals a notch and make aiming feel more tangible, but when turned off, the visuals get a bit muddy and washed out. What this means, at least to this reviewer, is that players who can tolerate the 3D effect will have a slightly better looking game, the ones who can’t will have to deal with a few muddled greys and browns.
The effect in the Revelations demo curiously, is a bit more pronounced and effective, but this could also be due to the slower paced nature of the game, giving the effect more time to stand out.
I wanted to say that at the least, a redeeming quality of the package is the demo for Resident Evil: Revelations, a story-based prequel set to release next year, but it’s woefully short, clocking in at just over 5 or so minutes. What I can say however, is that the graphics are noticeably sharper than the core game with a better 3D effect, and from what little I played, they’re definitely heading in the right direction with a RE5: Lost in Nightmares sense of atmosphere and pacing.
I really wanted to like The Mercenaries 3D
, but it’s too much of a mixed bag for me to recommend to anyone while the game is still full priced at $39.99. While the unchanged mission based structure is perfect for a portable game of this nature, it leads to a full retail experience feeling in more ways than one, unfinished. The graphics and 3D effect are nice, but have visual glitches that drag it down. The controls are improved, but still clunky and unintuitive. The multiplayer is fun, but has no lasting social aspect. The demo is intriguing, but over just as it begins. It seems that for each pro, there’s a con waiting right behind it, and while the game was never perfect to begin with, before, it was a minigame part of something larger. Here, it’s under a magnifying glass in the front seat, and the flaws are too great to ignore. If it had released as a budget title and acknowledged what it was, it would’ve gone down much better. As it stands, there are much better buys for the asking price here. Unless you absolutely need an action fix that your current library can’t provide or you really
like the Mercenaries
, I’d steer clear until a price drop. A significant one.