Resident Evil: The Mercenaries
The Resident Evil series has a long history of rewarding players with awesome unlockables like infinite rocket launchers and new costumes. Arguably, the best of these bonuses is Resident Evil 4’s The Mercenaries mode. Players took on the role of favorites like Wesker and Hunk, mowing down enemies in succession with preset artillery while racing the clock. Resident Evil 5 enhanced the addictive formula with two-player co-op and even more levels and characters. Like one of the series’ mutant abominations, the swollen appendage that is The Mercenaries has finally detached and morphed into a standalone experience for the 3DS, and it’s retained almost every ounce of fun.
Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D plays like a greatest hits of the RE 4 and 5’s modes, with new features like objective-based missions and a cool perks system. The cast is packed with familiar faces like Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine, each with well-balanced weapon loadouts. It’s easy to fall in love with Hunk’s devastating melee attacks or Krauser’s infinite arrows, but the fun comes from trying all the characters. Unlocking upgradable skills like handgun proficiency, increased heath recovery, and combo meter extenders makes outfitting each character a deeper, more rewarding experience.
Unfortunately, the meat of The Mercenaries’ score-based, kill-count-focused gameplay is buried beneath about an hour of tutorials disguised as missions. These elementary tasks are okay for newcomers, but everyone else will want to cut to the chase. These tepid stages are eradicated from your memory when the annoying disembodied guide takes a backseat to the wild action. Familiar levels like RE 4’s Spanish village and RE 5’s African market are packed with droves of infected residents, crazy chainsaw guys, and hulking executioners. Taking on these bloodthirsty bad guys is still a blast, whether you prefer to wildly spray bullets or blow out kneecaps and deliver melee finishers. Playing with a partner via the 3DS’s wireless or internet connectivity doubles the fun. Watching Barry Burton boot an enemy to the ground followed by Hunk’s surgical three bullet finisher is a treat.
Playing Mercenaries on the 3DS is a smooth experience. You can switch weapons and reload with a quick tap on the touchscreen – a more fluid mechanic than a console controller’s d-pad. Traditionalists can still aim in third-person, but the default setting pulls the camera into a first-person view when you ready your weapon. Gunning down Umbrella’s mutants in first-person makes the smaller screen a non-issue. Moving while shooting has been added, but I wouldn’t call the slowly strafing with your gun locked in one direction a huge advancement – I hardly used it and experienced no added trouble beating the game.
One annoying recurring visual hiccup holds back The Mercenaries 3D from being a true representation of its console counterparts. The game appears to conserve the 3DS’s processing power by deprioritizing the animations of distant enemies, allowing bad guys in the player’s face to move naturally. This results in persistently jilted, claymation-esque movements that would make the director of The Ring cringe. Considering that most of the action in The Mercenaries is close quarters, this doesn’t end up impacting gameplay too dramatically, but it’s less than ideal.
Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D delivers a fleshed out, faithful, yet slightly flawed version of the gripping bonus mode. Imperfections aside, playing The Mercenaries 3D with a friend is the most thrilling handheld co-op experience I’ve ever had. Fans and 3DS-owners looking for a shot of pure portable action with a rewarding progression system should definitely check it out.
A fun but flawed 3DS version of the undeniably addictive monster shoot 'em up.