Hide your kids, hide your wives, hide your husbands, cause there’s zombies everywhere up in here!
"Dammit, where the hell’s the next time extension? Shit, my combo’s running out! C’mon, where’s another guy to kill… yes! Phew, just in time… Oh fuck, a chainsaw guy! Shit, shit, shit… get out of my way you stupid Majini! C’mon, why won’t this chainsaw fucker die!? There goes my last grenade… oh man, that was close. Ugh, where are some more herbs? Oh, over there, sweet… Oh fuck, another chainsaw guy! Are You Fucking Kidding Me?!"
If you’ve played Mercenaries mode in either Resident Evil 4 or 5, then the above inner monologue (or outer, if you have a tendency to talk to yourself and find yourself alone in an Xbox Live Party) will sound very familiar. With Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, that same brand of frantic, “run, gun, and run again”, adrenaline-bursting survival action is now available in the palm of your hand.
As a full-priced 3DS game, however, we’re going to need more than just a port of side-missions to past games. Here’s the skinny: Mercenaries 3D offers 30 levels, 8 characters, and 30 customizable skills for you to blast hordes of not-quite-zombies for those precious high scores. Is that enough? Well, that depends on how much you liked Mercenaries mode before.
The game is a bit rough around the edges graphically, which is surprising given how high profile it is and how good Resident Evil: Revelations is looking (more on that later). The characters look good close up, but if you look around long enough at the environments, you’ll spot blurry textures everywhere you look. More noticeable are the graphical issues for distant enemies—the farther away they get, the choppier their animations. There’s also some glitchy hit detection with enemies who’ve been knocked down—quite a few times I tried to shoot a grounded baddie only to have my bullet go right through him. Guess that’s what I get for fighting dirty.
As for the gameplay, it’s impressively close to what you’ll remember from the console versions. The circle pad continues to function as a comfortable alternative to an analog stick, while the shoulder and face buttons take care of all your shooting and reloading needs. There’s also the option of going for a more FPS-style setup, where you move with the circle pad and control your view with the face buttons. This scheme has the advantage of moving while aiming, a first for the modern RE’s, but it doesn’t work as well because it’s clunky to use the face buttons that way.
The game box says 30 total levels, but that’s twisting the truth just a tad (kind of like saying Chris Redfield got that buff just from working out). There are 30 missions, each taking place in a familiar level from the RE4 or 5 story. They range from RE4’s village, castle, and island to RE5’s mine and docks, and while the locales are varied, they do get reused from mission to mission; the only things differentiating them are the types and difficulty of the enemies.
The skill system is a new addition that does go a ways toward extending the replay value for what would otherwise be a simple high score-chasing arcade-style game. The points you earn from completing missions go toward leveling up to three skills that you set on your chosen character. These skills run the gamut from extra healing from herbs, to increased damage with various weapon types, to luck-based additions to your remaining time. Each skill has three levels, becoming stronger with experience and giving an extra bonus upon maxing out.
But Mercenaries is only half as fun by yourself. Luckily, Mercenaries 3D takes a page from RE5 with duo mode, where two people team up via either local or online multiplayer. And just like RE5, the game only really begins to shine with co-op. The harder levels can get frustratingly difficult with one player, so it’s nice to play with someone who has your back, even if it’s just a stranger. And regardless of whether you’re capable of handling the missions solo, it’s just a whole hell of a lot more fun to work together racking up combo streaks and bringing down the huge mini-boss enemies.
Hooking up with someone online is a simple process, and whether you host or choose to join someone else’s game (you’ll get credit on your game either way), you’ll never have to wait very long to start shooting those noticeably ethnic zombies we know and love. Lag can sometimes be an issue, especially considering that the gameplay revolves around short windows of time where you can melee a stunned enemy. If your or your partner’s internet isn’t so hot, co-op may end up being a detriment rather than an advantage.
And the lack of online leaderboards is a big problem. This is a game based almost entirely around high scores. The inability to view your rank alongside other Mercenaries players worldwide, or even just your friends, is downright baffling.
Lastly, a short demo for Resident Evil: Revelations comes on the Mercenaries game card, but please, please don’t base your purchase on that. The demo, of the early part of Jill Valentine’s exploration of a dilapidated ship out at sea, is awesome—for about 10 minutes. Seriously, if you blink it’s over. Still, as just an added bonus, it’s a welcome addition. On the bright side for you survival horror purists, it’s a fucking scary 10 minutes. The Revelations demo is already way scarier than any moment from either RE4 or 5.
Mercenaries 3D is undoubtedly a fun and action-packed game, assuming you play with others. You can easily lose hours at a time online or, if you’re lucky enough to know someone else who owns the game, through local co-op. With the skill system and medals offered for completing certain tasks (read: achievements), Capcom’s made a marked effort to expand the Mercenaries mode into a full-fledged game. However, if you’re not into the whole arcade style of play where zealously gunning for high scores (that can’t be shared) is the whole point, $40 is far too steep of an asking price.