The Merc-chant of Venice.
With Resident Evil Revelations still some months off, somewhere in Capcom it was decided decided that the company needed a Nintendo 3DS stepping stone to that release, and as a result we have Resident Evil - The Mercenaries 3D.
Anyone who knows their Resident Evil will be aware that The Mercenaries has been with the series since Resident Evil 3. A hidden unlockable game where you are against the clock. The Resident Evil 4/5 version of it was quite different to 3's and that's the version you see here - a combined version of both over-the-shoulder Resident Evil's packaged into one, full priced 3DS title.
Choose your character, choose your stage (or in this case - mission) and then spend the next few minutes blasting enemies away for that high score. Time bonuses are all over the stages to keep the clock going (the mission ends and your effort is graded once the time hits zero) and the score dramatically increases if you can keep a combo of enemy kills going.
That's sadly, all there is to the game. The missions change very slightly across the 30 missions given. Sometimes there's a preset amount to kill, sometimes enemies come in controlled waves, and on a couple of stages there's a boss taken from Resident Evil 5. But that is, for all intents and purposes, it. There's 6 other characters to unlock, and differing weapon loadouts and an alternate costume, but anyone who knows how the series works will be able to get most of the content unlocked within an hour or two, and then all that's left is a repetition of levels to increase a score. It's a woefully short experience, and indeed charging full price for what is essentially a sub-mode on Resident Evil 5 is cheeky Capcom, it really is.
More irritating is the lack of characters and fan pleasing extra's. As this game is essentially fan service, something to keep the core fans happy while they wait for Revelations (of which the demo here is pitifully short), Capcom could of filled the game with tonnes of characters, loads of alternative costumes, classic weapons, some classic enemies but we sadly have what we are given. So fans of the series, don't expect to be fighting Hunters, or playing as Leon, or anything like that. The decision is a baffling one, and I only hope it's not to shoehorn in some cheap DLC, but then that seems all too easy for developers now.
Whether you'll be interested in the game is another matter; it really stems down to whether you enjoyed the last two core Resident Evil titles. The game embraces carnage, and reasonably fast paced action, or at least as quick as the Resident Evil series can manage, but if you are coming in expecting a wonderfully atmospheric experience and a great story, then you'll find neither here - indeed there is no story to speak of at all, no cutscenes, no dialogue, nothing to really establish this as anything other than a quick money spinning exercise before the next game in the series.
Which is of course a shame, because as a series enthusiast, the gameplay is great and the game translates very well to the 3DS. It always looks the part and at times even looks a match for it's console big brothers. Some cuts have been made in the visual department, the stand out being the reduced animation once an enemy reaches a certain distance away from you, but on the whole it's a pretty nice achievement for the 3DS. The 3D itself looks great, really really effective, the sniper rifle HUD is a real stand out, and after some lengthy playthroughs it's not a strain at all. People always said Resident Evil 5 on PC was one of the best examples of 3D in gaming, and playing this it's really easy to see why.
The controls also work well, by default movement is kept to the analogue and is reasonably intuitive, moving and firing is now possible, although you can't change your aim once you are moving; the Y button does most of the work, including firing, melee moves and collecting items, which also works well. Inventory management is a combination of the D-pad or if you prefer, simply touching what weapon you want next as displayed on the touch screen. Healing is done from either touching the herb icon on the touch screen or pressing the A button at anytime. The game really controls well, and again a credit to the 3DS for effectively housing a game originally designed for not only considerably more powerful hardware, but doing so with less buttons. It really is impressive how many buttons you can afford to lose with a touch screen inventory.
Being as the game is a series of timed missions obviously it works really well as a handheld experience, but it always boasts co-op options and online play, and thankfully these work as well as anyone who's played the Mercenaries mode multiplayer on the consoles. It's slightly fiddly to keep the matches going; you have to unpair, select a new mission then pair again when you want to continue, but when it's working, it works very very well.
In closing then, is there enough here to keep anyone going for a vast amount of time? Probably not, and truthfully speaking only fans of the series will really get the most from the title. Capcom could of done more that much is true, and a lower, more budget price would of been a better reflection of the content of the game. It's hard to recommend something, that as I've touched upon often through this review was nothing more than a game mode on bigger games. Fans will lap it up - hopefully that will be enough for Capcom...