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Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D Review

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  • 3DS

Even the most devoted fans of the Mercenaries mode from the modern Resident Evil games will be ill-served by this insubstantial and expensive cash-in.

Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D--the first handheld RE game since Deadly Silence--faithfully captures the gameplay nuances and visual aesthetic of the most recent console releases in the franchise. Having achieved this respectable feat, Capcom has opted to utilize this technology in a supremely disappointing way: by recycling the content of an unlockable mode from those games into an entire retail-priced game. Less of a port and more of a compilation, The Mercenaries 3D dutifully recreates the Mercenaries modes from Resident Evils 4 and 5, and that's just about it. Even if you previously enjoyed the Mercenaries mode, you'll find little to be excited about here; there are no new maps to explore, no new enemies to fight, and you'll have exhausted the game's meager offerings before you know it. With virtually nothing new to offer and not enough content to justify the price, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D is a straight-up bad deal at $40.

Wesker is cold-blooded.

This modern version of The Mercenaries was introduced back in 2005 as a feature unlocked upon completion of Resident Evil 4. The Mercenaries strips out the traditional Resident Evil story structure in favor of an arena-based, score-focused survival mode. Players will come to blows with hordes of Resident Evil 4 and 5’s not-zombies, trying to rack up as many kills as possible within the time limit. To maximize one’s score potential, players must quickly kill enemies in succession to build and extend a kill combo throughout the match. Completing certain score milestones will unlock the usage of additional playable characters, complete with unique weapon sets, which can impact the ways in which you can take down enemies. In contrast to the typical Resident Evil experience, The Mercenaries is more akin to an arcade game, focusing on playing and replaying short levels to obtain high scores.

Console-to-handheld ports can be tricky, and rife with control compromises, but The Mercs 3D makes the jump to the 3DS with relative ease, thanks to the fact that the modern Resident Evil games are built around single analog stick controls. Movement and turning is mapped to the circle pad, holding the R button brings up your weapon sights for aiming (and, in RE tradition, locks you in place) and the face buttons are used for shooting and utilizing context sensitive prompts. While the top 3DS screen displays the core action, the bottom screen serves as a quick-select inventory screen, allowing players to quickly switch between weapons, reload guns and use healing items.

In perhaps its most notable advance, The Mercenaries 3D finally brings the RE games in line with more modern third-person shooters with an alternate control scheme that allows players to move and shoot at the same time. In this mode, the circle disc will handle movement and strafing while the four face buttons are used for aiming (similar to the way shooters have been adapted on the PSP). It's not a perfect substitute for a second analog stick, but that’s the price you have to pay in order to bring a little modernity to RE. The Mercenaries 3D plays about as well as the series’ console counterparts, with very little of the gameplay nuances sacrificed in the translation.

Even on the 3DS, Chris Redfield has monstrous guns.

The problem with The Mercenaries 3D, however, has to do with the content. Specifically, there isn’t enough of it. All eight of the game's maps come directly from Resident Evil 4 or 5, and these aren’t full Resident Evil campaign levels, complete with the some of the best interactive cutscenes, set pieces, and boss fights found in modern action games. These are small, corridor-heavy maps that don’t last more than three to six minutes. The only noteworthy addition to The Mercenaries 3D is the skill system, a Modern Warfare-style perk structure where players can take up to three passive enhancements into each match. The skills level up as you accrue skill points from completing rounds, but the bonuses aren't so impactful as to dramatically affect your chances of success in-game. It's not long before you’ve exhausted the few available maps on the cart, and if you've ever played those Mercenaries modes before, you'll be familiar with virtually all of the content in this game.

As if to add insult to injury, you won’t actually get full access to the eight maps and eight playable characters when you start the game for the first time. Instead, players will be forced to complete a series of missions so disjointed that it does injustice to the word “campaign.” There is zero context for these missions, so if you’re playing through the campaign, you’d better really love Resident Evil’s combat.

The missions are almost all identical, and they don’t necessarily do the best job in instructing you how to deal with enemies or move effectively through the map. The only significant departures from the core Mercenaries gameplay are a penultimate boss fight against the Popokarimu bat monster from Resident Evil 5 and a final boss fight against... that bat monster again. That the game actually runs a full, unskippable credit sequence after the second bat boss fight feels like some kind of cruel, miserable joke. The whole campaign can be completed in less than two hours and and amounts to little more than a slog through soulless, boring content. The campaign problems are further emphasized by an awkward menu structure that makes progressing through missions more of a hassle than it should be.

Rebecca Chambers, as you might imagine, starts each match with extra herbs.

The series’ high quality visuals haven't had the smoothest translation to the 3DS. Capcom’s MT Framework engine recreates the environments, character models, and effects of the past two console RE games onto the platform, and some assets have made that transition better than others. Character models for the playable Mercenaries, the Ganados cultists, and Majini infected look sharp with striking animation and detailed texture work. Mercs 3D also utilizes the 3DS' stereoscopic visuals to good use with a pronounced-but-not-overwhelming depth enhancement that I was happy to leave on as I played the game. Textures in the actual environments, however, can appear blurry and muddled (not unlike the RE4 port to the PS2). The game's weirdest visual quirk, however is its habit of cutting out frames of animation on enemies in the distance. Enemies move stiffly until they cross some determined point in the environment relative to the player, upon which their animation fills out the missing frames.

The sound design fares even worse than the visuals. The Mercenaries 3D features plenty of music tracks and effects from the other Resident Evil games and those sound fine, but the vocals--from both Mercs and not-zombies-- feature some of the lowest quality sound recording I've heard in any modern video game. Though the low-bit rate recordings of the vocals may have been a result of low storage space, the vocals in Mercs 3D sounds like bad digitized voice circa the early 90's. It's awful stuff.

Not even Barry Burton's rugged beard can salvage this game.

The Mercenaries 3D also ships with local and online co-op, allowing you to team up and work together on maximizing your scores. Like much of Mercs 3D, the online functionality is identical to that found in RE5, though, like the visuals, it hasn't arrived without problems. In testing the game, lag issues popped up sporadically, resulting in enemies teleporting to new positions in order to catch up, as well as enemies taking too long to register bullet collision and death. In a game mode entirely based around skillful weapon and ammo management, watching ammo wasted on enemies that have already died can seriously mangle your strategy and timing. On stable connections, the feature is functional, but if you’re looking for online co-op versions of The Mercenaries, you should go back to play Resident Evil 5.

And that’s the reaction I come back to over and over again as I played through Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D. If I wanted to play the Mercenaries game mode, why would I pay $40 for this handheld version when I could ostensibly get both Resident Evil 4 and 5 for way less? The gameplay in Mercs 3D has been competently recreated on the handheld, but it’s all to recreate an experience that is done (mostly) better and way cheaper on other platforms. Not to mention the fact that both of those games come with supreme single-player campaigns. If you’ve never played the modern Resident Evil games, you could pick up both Resident Evil 4 and 5 for less than the price of this cart. And if you have already played Resident Evil, the only worthwhile additions in Mercs 3D are portability, a present-yet-inessential skill system and the opportunity to play as several characters who have never been in a modern RE game--hardly $40 worth of additions. Even on a platform suffering a from a drought of software, The Mercenaries 3D still feels like a bad deal. It’s simply too much money for too little original content.

115 Comments
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Posted by Gerhabio

100 comments no more!

Posted by Gutterkisser

Sounds like handheld developers keep cutting corners in the sound department, which is absurd - strong sound design is such an economic way to elevate a game.
 
Then again, we're talking about the bitrate of Capcom voice acting, which is some of the most immersion breaking sound I've heard in a game.

Posted by JauntyHat

First response to looking at the review: "Who the fuck is that?"

Posted by Xpgamer7

And so begins the age of Kessler.

Posted by dogbox

Matt, great review. I feel like you made and justified your criticisms well. It may have been advertised as "just Mercenaries," but that doesn't change the fact that there's limited value for a full-priced game!

Posted by Airickson

@Mezmero said:

Although the staff are passing the buck onto bodega to review a clearly inadequate product I'm pleasantly surprised how well written the review is.

This seems like what it means to be an intern! I agree - this is a well-written article, and I'm glad the interns are getting a chance to do some reviewing!

Posted by Moofey

I'm in agreement with this review. From a gameplay standpoint this may be an okay game to have but only for a quickie session of about 5-10 minutes. There isn't really anything to keep the focus on this game and it could've been much better.

That, and I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that the revelations demo included with the game wasn't that great. You walk around, you watch a guy get his brains blown out, demo ends.

Posted by Cathryn

Congrats on your first GB review! Nicely done.

Posted by Galaxian

If you like Mercenaries mode then you'll enjoy playing this. Sure I can sit and play this game on a console or PC but they don't have the play anytime/anywhere factor which I like. The 3D is a nice touch and adds to the whole experience.

I've played the game for just under 10 hours and haven't completed all the levels yet. Yes I assume you can breeze through the game in 3 hours if you're not bothered by score or rank but that's not really what Mercenaries is about. Trying to get SS rank on each level is going to take me a long time.

The low bit sounding character audio is a curious thing. I don't know if this was a design choice or if they really struggled with space on the cartridge. From memory the character audio sounded a bit static'y in the last RE5 game also. In contrast the music quality is great with a good selection of tunes.

Where I feel Capcom have messed up with this title is by not supporting any of the 3DS features of Extra Data or Streetpass. That means there's definitely no extra characters or costumes coming at a later date which is odd as Capcom supported these features in their launch title, Street Fighter IV. The lack of any Leaderboards is also crazy as there's no sense of competition.

The level up system is nice and I hope they include this feature in RE6... that's assuming RE6 will have a Mercenaries mode.

Posted by NorseDudeTR

Liked this review. Kessler seems to be doing great as an intern (although his time is up AGAIN, I guess), and if the WM folks didn't like him, they wouldn't rag on him like they do.

And making a RE game that focuses on the absolute worst part of RE seems totally insane.

Posted by Rapid

Matt's Pic Scares me....

Posted by President_Evil

Well that's a shame. If this were to come to XBLA for $10, or as a character/level pack for RE5, I might consider it.

Good review, Kessler.

Posted by Tobbi

The graphics look awesome but a new map and characters would be nice

Posted by Godlyawesomeguy

I feel like this would be a solid bargin bin pick-up for a fan of the previous games.
 
 
Also, Kessler should do more reviews.

Posted by Captain_Wesker
First I have to note that I have not yet bought this game. 
 
But I have seen the gameplay, graphics, ecetera. And it seems to be, as you would say, epic. True, Leon Scott Kennedy not having made a return [Along with Ada Wong] did dampen it, as did some to most of the alternate costumes. If they weren't going to put Ada or Leon in it, instead of Rebecca and Barry why not have put Nicholai Ginovaef and Sheva Alomar? 
 
Better yet, why not put a couple members of Bravo on there? Put Richard Aiken and Forrest Speyer; they never really got any game play. Richard received a bit of attention in Umbrella Chronicles, 0, 1, and Remake. Forrests only time on screen was as a T-carrier pecked to death. 
 
 Those are just my opinions of course. But overall I believe that this game is worth buying and playing.