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Review: Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D
by Tom Acres

The Resident Evil series is, first and foremost, part of the survival horror genre. It has terrified gamers for over a decade now, with shambling zombies and creepy Spanish villagers, giving many a player plenty of nightmares as a result. The more recent entries in the series - most notably Resident Evil 5 - have taken the controversial route of being far more action-orientated. Capcom's decision to do this has left many hardcore fans baffled, as the well-recognised clunky controls and somewhat awkward gunplay have never been strong points of the series, so for Capcom to dedicate an entire game to this awkward gunplay would seem like a bizarre choice.

Well, with Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, that's just what they've done.

As the title suggests, this 3DS release is solely based on the Mercenaries 'mini-game' found in both Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5. It's a basic score-attack mode, in which you take on the role of a famous character in a range of locations, and try and kill as many zombies as possible in the time limit given. Even in the aforementioned prior games, it didn't have the depth of similar modes such as Gears of War's Horde mode, or the Terrorist Hunt of Rainbow Six: Vegas, but as a little extra it could provide at least a couple hours of light entertainment once the main story was over. Making it the focus of its own game and then charging full price for it, however, seems completely absurd.

Make no mistake about it, this is literally the same mode ripped straight out of the prior games, right down to the characters and locations. Enemy types are copied from Resident Evil 4 and RE5, there are no new weapons or maps, and very few new gameplay mechanics to push it beyond what fans already expect from Mercenaries 3D. Killing enemies scores you points, smashing crystals earns you more time and you just keep doing the same thing until the time is up. There are no objectives, not much in the way of enemy variety and the whole design just seems lazy. The overriding feeling I have towards the design of Mercenaries 3D is that, even as an extra in prior games, it wasn't all that engaging or fleshed out, and it has not been improved or enhanced at all for transition into a fully-fledged release.

Initially at least, there are just eight maps to choose from, across only five different locations. Capcom has hinted that there might be some DLC further down the road, but at the moment, everything is recycled. In terms of characters, there are a decent number to choose from and unlock, but they do little other than providing lip service to existing fans. Medals can be earned and weapons are unlocked, but none of these unlocks are reason enough to plough through the same generic and same-y missions over and over again.

Resident Evil 5 was a very action-heavy experience, and the somewhat dated gunplay struggled to keep up with the design of the missions and levels. Whereas in Resident Evil 4 the clunky combat was offset by the slow pace at which the enemies attacked and the chilling atmosphere created, the fifth entry just felt a bit like a laboured version of Gears of War. In Mercenaries 3D, the combat is not particularly exciting either. The way in which Capcom seems to try and get round the fact that the gunplay is slow and clunky is by making the enemy AI completely shambolic. Enemies will walk at you at a snail's pace, stand in front of you for a good few seconds before even thinking about hitting you, and are basically lambs for the slaughter. This type of gunplay can be excused in a careful, methodical environment, but in a fast-paced score-attack setting, it just doesn't work.

Capcom has tried to modernise the setup slightly by offering perk-style abilities, such as being able to use healing items more effectively or allowing players to execute instant kills at certain points during a mission. Overall, though, it just feels like a cheap and tacky attempt at trying to introduce something worthwhile into what is still essentially a mini-game.

The game becomes slightly more enjoyable when played in co-op, either locally or online. The process of hooking up with friends or strangers is quick and easy, and the ability to heal each other and link together kills for score bonuses is a nice touch that makes having a second player there feel worthwhile. What's most baffling about the online functionality of Mercenaries 3D, however, is the lack of leaderboards; this is a game entirely about trying to achieve high scores, and yet you can't even compare them with friends and the rest of the world. It really is strange, especially when you consider how brilliant the online component of Capcom's last 3DS title was in Super Street Fighter IV 3D. The lack of leaderboards is just one more reason why players will find very little incentive to keep coming back for more after they've played through each mission; that is, assuming they can stomach the clunky combat.

Mercenaries 3D's strongest card is probably its visuals, with character models that honestly don't look much worse off than the stunning ones offered in the recent console games. The environments look decent enough, but effects such as explosions and bullet damage look incredibly poor when compared to the rest of the visual presentation overall. Animation is very impressive for the player characters, but enemies move stiffly with rather jarring animation routines. The audio is laughable, with poor audio quality rendering weapon sounds and character voices obsolete. The music is just as corny as you'd expect from the series, too, so you might want to play this game on mute.

There is no getting away from the fact that Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D lacks the content and longevity required for it to be a full priced release. Not only that, but the clunky gunplay and baffling lack of online leaderboards represent areas in which the series desperately needs some renovation. As it stands, Resident Evil's gameplay simply does not fit in well in a fast-paced score-attack format, and asking consumers to spend £40 on an experience like this just seems like daylight robbery. I would say a weekend rental might give you some light entertainment, but Capcom's braindead decision on the save-game front has practically killed that option as well. If you're finished with the brilliant Ocarina of Time, and are looking for the next big thing to keep your 3DS from gathering dust, then I'm afraid you're just going to have to keep on looking.

3/10 [?]

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- Tom Acres

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