Format: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: 1st July 2011
The big guns are starting to show their arsenal on the 3DS, and following on from Zelda just a few weeks back here comes Resident Evil. This 3D take on the Mercenaries mini-game from Resi 4 and 5 proves that the engine can successfully be translated to a hand-held format, but will leave many fans of the franchise feeling more than a little teased.
Mercenaries’ basic objective sees you trying to defeat as many enemies as you can within a set time limit. The more kills you make, the higher your score, which translates to a final ranking when the clock runs down to zero. Building combos will boost your score, while certain kills and bonuses will add extra time to your play, giving you vital extra seconds and minutes to improve your tally.
The individual missions start off simply enough, and allow you to progress regardless of your ranking. However, once the initial tutorials are out of the way, failing to score any higher than a B-rank will begin to hamper your progress. Later missions will remain unavailable until you’ve performed to a satisfactory level on earlier ones, with the enemies getting tougher and more frequent, while the thresholds for rank progression increase.
Improving your rank isn’t always just as simple as shooting more enemies or being more efficient with your killing. Sometimes it’s just down to making sure that you select the right character for the task at hand. Mercenaries 3D offers a total of eight characters, with only three (Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine and Hunk) available from the start. Each character carries a different load-out of weapons, some of which may prove more effective than others. For example, a showdown with a vicious B.O.W creature is over a lot quicker when attacking with Rebecca Chambers’ grenade launcher and machine gun than it would be when relying on Chris’ handgun, shotgun and rifle combo. Elsewhere, Jill Valentine carrying a knife means she won’t waste ammo breaking open crates and barrels to locate extra pick-ups.
That said, weaponry can be improved via a series of bonus skills unlocked throughout the game. Each character can have a total of three skills assigned to them, which can improve weapon performance, healing skills and a variety of other factors. Utilizing these skills during a mission allows them to level up and become more effective. Again, choosing the right skills is important, as there’s no point in assigning improved handgun skills to a character that doesn’t carry one.
In all, there are 30 missions to play through, including the rock-hard EX missions that are opened up after you’ve finally cleared (earned a B-rank or higher) all that come before them. Further replay value will come from striving to beat every mission with all eight characters, as well as trying to top your high scores. On the mission select screen, you can see the highest rank you’ve achieved with each character, along with your single highest score achieved for that mission. In addition, there are fifty achievement-style medals to earn for completing tasks throughout.
Game-play (as well as locations and enemies) will be instinctively familiar to anyone who has previously experienced Resident Evil 4 and / or 5, though there are some slight tweaks. Perhaps most importantly, the ability to move and strafe while aiming has been included. While holding the R button to aim, players can also hold L to switch from aiming their weapon sights to moving their player into a safer position – vital when surrounded by enemies but still needing to make a quick shot. Sadly, it seems that this added level of control hasn’t made it into the bundled Revelations demo, which will talk about more later on.
Sticking with the aiming, this defaults to a first person camera view. While it does show off the 3D elements better, and is especially useful for taking down enemies in front of you, it also leaves you vulnerable to bad guys sneaking up from behind. If this becomes an ongoing problem, there is the option to switch to a third-person aiming camera instead, which should give you a little more awareness of your surroundings.
Your inventory appears on the bottom screen of the device, allowing you to quickly switch between weapons or heal yourself by touching the relevant icon. There are also button-based shortcuts for those afraid of putting their sticky thumbs on their pristine screen, but these are far less instinctive than just touching first and cleaning up with a cloth later. Oh, and try washing your hands once in a while.
The visuals are certainly strong for the device, though from a quality standpoint they’re more akin to the previous generation of consoles than the current. It’s difficult to describe, but seeing enemies in the distance transform from possessed human to parasitic monster seems almost cartoon-like and a little less than smooth. This won’t destroy your enjoyment in any way, but it does remind you that there are still limitations to what the hardware can produce.
While the majority of missions are solo affairs, certain ones can be undertaken in Duo mode. This can either be played locally with two consoles and two copies of the game, or you can head online to find your Resi partner. As with Resident Evil 5’s co-op modes, you can help out your partner in need, saving them from enemies or bringing them medical help where required. Naturally two heads will be better than one and should help you earn bigger scores and better rankings on the missions that allow such play.
Sure to provoke debate amongst gamers is the save data for Mercenaries 3D. Opting to choose between having Auto Save on or off is not the hot topic though – it’s the fact that save data, which is stored on the game itself rather than SD card, cannot be deleted or reset. Naturally those players who occasionally like to restart their games from scratch will be disappointed, as will those who pick it up pre-owned and won’t be able to get the satisfaction of unlocking bonuses. Was this a conscious decision by Capcom to stick two fingers up at the second-hand crowd, or simply a poor oversight on their part?
As mentioned at the start, Mercenaries will serve as something of a tease for those waiting for a “proper” Resi game on the system. But it’s nothing compared to the big old suitcase full of tease that is the demo version of Resident Evil: Revelations that the box promises. In this day and age, most people would expect a demo of an action game to feature a full, or at least half a level. At the very least, somewhere in the region of 15-30 minutes worth of play would be particularly nice.
The Revelations demo, referred to in the menus as the “Pilot”, offers no more than a couple of minutes’ play, which involves running down a series of corridors and encountering a grand total of three enemies. All we seem to learn is that interactive objects will be signified by a button icon appearing on them, rather than at the bottom of the screen, and that instead of zombies or majinis, your foes look to be on holiday from Silent Hill. Of course, I know at least one person who will be left intrigued by that statement.
Ultimately though, with the box promising a demo, what we actually get feels a little lacking. Okay, it’s nice to have something from a game that’s not due out until next year, but with such a short run-time and no use of the touch-screen other than showing the controls, it’s like being presented with a big mug of coffee on a stressful morning and then told you can only sniff it for a couple of seconds. Feel free to insert your own drink of choice if you’re not a java person.
While Mercenaries 3D will provide a Resi fix for those impatiently waiting for more, it does seem unlikely that it will be able to fully fill the gap between now and Revelations’ release. Viewed as a tech demo for the future, then it certainly leaves you with a lot of hope and excitement. However, as a standalone game on its own, you can’t help but feel that it’s falling into the same territory than the Gran Turismo Prologue games have raced across over the years – only this does it at full price.