Those following Nintendo 3DS developments will be well aware of Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D. Next to Resident Evil: Revelations and Super Street Fighter IV 3D, The Mercenaries 3D caps off the triumvirate of perhaps the most visually eye catching titles for the system. Additionally, all three titles represent some of the stronger support from a third party, with Capcom apparently intent on delivering high tier products to a system suffering an unfortunate software drought. If neither of these points gained your attention, perhaps you're aware of the recent controversy surrounding the save state system, which prevents players from ever erasing their saved information.
It's also possible you're aware that The Mercenaries 3D comes bundled with a demo of the much anticipated Resident Evil: Revelations. To start with; yes, the demo is gorgeous, and yes it gives a solid indication of what to expect from the full product. However, we must emphasise that the demo is extraordinarily short. Compose of only handful of hallways and rooms, and even less interactive content, the Revelations demo is best described as a teaser. Due to it's length and minimal content, we will not be factoring it into our opinion of The Mercenaries 3D.
With that out of the way, lets get to the game.
Originally built as an extra game mode in Resident Evil 4, and further capitalised on in Resident Evil 5, many are likely surprised by the choice to release a stand-alone The Mercenaries title. Taking the experience from home consoles to the Nintendo 3DS, The Mercenaries 3D focuses on the core of The Mercenaries gameplay; action packed high score seeking gameplay.
Despite the arguably limited hardware power and surprise shift to portability, The Mercenaries 3D is remarkably faithful to the established formula, sentiments easily acknowledged once the nearby roar of a chainsaw triggers a familiar adrenalin rush of panic, as you desperately run for the most advantageous defensive position. This excitement is felt in equal measure when mastering game mechanics, juggle limited ammunition and pin-point headshots in quick succession to maximise combos and score, all the while racing the clock for the highest mission ranking.
The experience is enhanced further by local and online two player co-op, which allows practically all available missions to be played with another player. Here the aforementioned scenarios really come into their own, as players develop an unspoken comradeship, working together to maximise kills, and watching each others back for super instant-kill enemies.
To keep the experience fresh, The Mercenaries 3D introduces perks. Acting as perks would in any other game, these attributes can be applied to characters for bonuses such as extra healing, improved handling of certain firearms, extra criticals when close to death, and more. Mixing and matching perks with characters and weapon load-outs adds a welcome level of strategy and customisation, while the ability to increase the level of each perk up to three grants replay value for those who love to grind. An achievement style set of medals that are awarded under specific conditions complete the package.
As great as this might sound, it is when we dig a little deeper into The Mercenaries 3D that the package begins to fall apart. If we could describe it in one word, it would be 'cheap', with the first offensive lurking in the game's presentation. Visually, The Mercenaries 3D is certainly quite stunning, at least on first impressions. Character models are nicely detailed, environments are painted in variety of textures, and most impressive of all the game makes full use of the GPU's shader system for increased detail. Then the audio plays, and disappointment sinks in. Musical tracks are a solid highlight, but the rest of the audio production rates as some of the worst on the platform, with almost all sound effects downsampled to an abysmally low quality, resulting in tinny, weightless sounding gunfire and staticy grunts from enemies.
The second call for concern relates to content. Though the game offers a sizable amount of missions, the variety between objectives is practically non-existent, with all but the opening tutorial stages and a boss fight limited to score and wave challenges of increasing difficulty. Moreover, the game might feature a wide variety of stages, and eight characters to chose from, yet all of this content has been ripped almost directly from The Mercenaries feature in Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5. With very little truly new content of its own, you'd expect The Mercenaries 3D to, at the very least, act as a compendium of all things The Mercenaries. Instead, content available in previous The Mercenaries modes, such as the characters Leon, Ada and Sheva, are missing without any reasonable excuse, making it hard to shake the feeling that additional content was deliberately held back for future iterations.
As the rotten cherry on top, The Mercenaries 3D is ripe with clumsy feature design. Of note is the lack of any obvious 'skirmish' mode, the very mode that The Mercenaries was established on. Instead of allowing players to simply pick a stage they wish to play on with their chosen character, one must dig through the missions to find the challenge that fits their needs, made all the more clumsy by the lack of any actual mission description. Battling against the clock or fighting waves? You'll be stuck trying to remember for yourself.
Take the above and throw in a lack of online and/or friend leaderboards, messy menu navigation and inexcusably locked saves, and you've got yourself a mess of backwards design and nonsensical feature execution. As for the 3D? Serviceable, yet ultimately underwhelming, especially up against awe inspiring depth found in titles like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D and Pilotwings Resort.
There is nothing more tremendously disappointing than to see such genuinely enjoyable gameplay held back by discouraging execution. This is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the entire package - The Mercenaries 3D is desperately begging for a greater degree of thoughtful design and polish, and had it received such treatment it would have been a guaranteed 'must have'. Instead, inconsistencies and baffling decisions in content and presentation relinquish a high recommendation, reserving the tile to dedicated The Mercenaries fans and software hungry 3DS owners with money spare.
Still, even with its serious flaws, The Mercenaries 3D keeps the integral experience intact, which guarantees fun to be had. Best of all, the core The Mercenaries gameplay has proven surprisingly adaptable to a portable format, with short, score driven gameplay perfect for killing time on those long commutes. It underwhelms in meeting potential, and is rightly suspectable to criticism, but The Mercenaries 3D is worth a look for gamers who enjoy arcade style games and take pleasure in besting their own scores.