Sunday, 18 December 2011

REVIEW: Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D

Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D
[3DS] [Capcom] [2011]
Reviewing Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D is like taking a trip down memory lane. My indisputable hype for this excellent-looking title following up to its release was quite shocking considering how the finished game turned out. This standalone package, containing an upgraded version of the love it or hate it Mercenaries mini-game from the fourth and fifth instalments in Capcom's popular Resident Evil franchise, received anything but critical acclaim from many journalists just before it came out. I'll be truthful in saying that I'm one of those strange people who absolutely adores Mercenaries mode. I was addicted to the stellar piece of after-game content in Resident Evil 4 and ended up playing it a fair bit. So, despite notoriously low review scores, I thought I'd enjoy the expanded 3DS version of the  game, and I must say that quite frankly, I did. A fair bit, as a matter of fact. However, that's not to say that the many problems surrounding this game that journalists. In fact, The Mercenaries 3D is infested with technical flaws in almost every department, which is odd considering it's such an enjoyable game if you're a fan of past Resident Evil games' Mercenaries modes.

Normally when reviewing any game, I tend to choose a linear structure that allows me to describe all of the brilliant bits of the title, occasionally touching on minor nit-pickings that surround these aspects, and in the penultimate paragraph, move on to the striking flaws (if any). This certainly won't be the case with my review of Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, as there's so much bad in this 3DS title that I can't help but point out these many errors throughout this whole review. Still, with all this negativity and talk of flaws, Mercenaries 3D still does a lot of things right. The most obvious of things that impress about the game are the brilliant visuals, which are no doubt up to the standard many 3DS games don't quite meet. These great graphics are made even more impressive when you turn up the 3D depth slider as the 3D in Mercenaries, while not the best I've seen on the system (that boast would go to Starfox 64 3D), still implements a superb usage of depth, making the entire foreground stand out more so than the background. Not to say that this isn't something we haven't seen before on the 3DS, but at least the 3D effects complement the superb visuals of this title. Unfortunately, it's clear that some sacrifices had to be made to keep this game a looker that maintains a steady frame-rate. Equip a sniper rifle, look down the scope and zoom in to near maximum and you'll see that pretty much everything in the far distance looks like a heap of manure visually, not to mention a heap of manure with a rather choppy frame-rate. Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D isn't nearly as disgusting as that analogy made it sound, though, so forgive me. Moving swiftly onwards, the next thing that makes Mercenaries 3D an improvement over its predecessors comes in the form of longevity.

Barry picked the wrong time to mimic that impression of an orangutan Ed did in Shaun of the Dead. Then again...
Resident Evil 4's Mercenaries mode housed five playable characters (only two of which were actually useful) and four stages. Seeing as The Mercenaries 3D is a full price retail game, you would hope that Capcom at least had the decency to boost up the replay value of the title in the form of more stages and characters to play as. Luckily, I'm happy to inform you that the developers did in fact inject more content into this title. A lot more. In the game, you'll find eight playable characters, each of which has a rather ridiculous alternative costume with different stats. Chris Redfield and his sister Claire are packed in there alongside HUNK, Jack Krauser, Rebecca Chambers, Jill Valentine, Albert Wesker and the legendary Barry Burton. All in all, despite the lack of a certain Mr. Scott Kennedy, this roster of playable heroes and villains from Resident Evil lore is anything but a disappointment in my honest opinion. The selection of stages on the other hand is also impressive, in a rather cheeky way on Capcom's behalf. You see, the back of the case boasts 30 stages to play through, which isn't a lie. What's not mentioned on the back of the case is the fact that almost half of these are tutorial missions, and there's in truth only nine varying landscapes in which to battle Ganados and Majini. While this is in some ways a good thing (when you unlock the highest difficulty of stages you can play any of the nine available on that difficulty) and is more than enough to keep you coming back for more as each character, it is a little bit of a punch to the nose when the consumer comes to expect thirty levels that they'll actually enjoy. And believe me, the tutorial missions are a complete and utter slog.

When you do get round to the missions that you'll actually have fun with, however, things get extremely addictive and very enjoyable indeed. The concept of Mercenaries mode goes something like this: You, as one of the eight available Resident Evil characters in either of their costumes, must use an array of weapons to mow, cut and blast down as many enemies as possible in order to earn as many points as possible. Quite often bosses that reap a large quantity of points are chucked into the mix, also. Sound simple? That's because it is. The real challenge and strategy of the game comes in the form of battling against a different kind of opponent: time itself. A daunting and ever closing in countdown is placed at the top of the screen, and when this timer hits zero (or if you've cleared out every single enemy in a stage) the game ends and the points you've earned are submitted, awarding you with a rank ranging from a very poor E to an exceptional SS. So, how exactly do you fight this evil, invisible beast? Two ways: The first of which is smashing up time statues, a number of which are found in each level. By performing your selected character's stylish melee attack in the direction of one of these statues with a tap of the Y button, you'll earn a specific amount of extra time depending on the statue you smash. The strategy of the game comes through keeping up a steady combo of enemy kills whilst making your way towards and obliterating each and every statue in order to earn the best possible score.

With only four seconds left on the ever-daunting countdown, it's a good thing that Jill's about to smash this Time Bonus, eh?
Things get even more strategic with the second method of fending off the time limit; through the use of melee attacks on enemies. Shooting an opponent at a specific part of their body will make them become stunned, and when this happens it's the perfect opportunity to move in and perform a melee attack. 5 precious seconds are awarded for defeating an opponent with a melee maneuver, so it's worth doing this frequently to ensure a maximum score. The gameplay of Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D sure hasn't changed since the fifth main game's escapades, which is no doubt a good thing. Quite simply, the best thing about this title is no doubt the actual core gameplay, as even the countless niggles and nit-pickings don't deteriorate the core experience in any way. It's extremely addictive stuff that will keep you playing for hours on end. As a matter of fact, I earned an SS Rank on every stage at just over 100 hours of play time, so if you enjoy Mercenaries mode there's a lot of game in here for you. Things get a lot less repetitive thanks to the new Skills system introduced in Mercenaries 3D, which allows you to customise your characters with unlockable upgrades that can be leveled-up by doing nothing other than actually playing the game. And quite frankly, you're given motivation to do so as maxed-out skills will offer even more special abilities. Some of these even variate the gameplay a fair bit, such as the 'Infinity 7' which grants you infinite ammo for the destructive rocket launcher at the cost of chucking the idea of points out of the window. Simpler ones on the other hand upgrade the firepower of your weapons, add extra time to the countdown when you defeat an enemy with a certain number on the clock, and so on.

In online co-op, you can support and heal up your partner as seen in this screenshot. You won't see a scene like this too often when you play the game, mind.
Another thing that Mercenaries 3D does right enters this paragraph in the form of a superb soundtrack. Reworked tunes from past titles, including a surprisingly fitting techno ditty, keep the adrenaline pumping as you blast your enemies in a race against the clock. The fact that they are reworked tunes may seem a little lazy, but the point is that they're very fitting and oddly rather catchy. And Resident Evil 4 fans should prepare for a surprise in the music department when they reach the final set of stages. Unfortunately, this takes us onto another flawed aspect of the game: The poor sound quality. The music sounds great, but voices are ridiculously low-quality and gunshots sound like pop-caps. It's not a major flaw, but it still remains slightly annoying considering how astonishingly good the sound design was in Resident Evil 4. What is a major flaw, however, is the online play. I've saved the most striking flaw of the game until last, so here's the bottom line: Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D's online multiplayer is completely broken. And I don't mean you regularly get disconnected, I mean you can't even get a game 99.5% of the time. I was excited when pre-release trailers for the game boasted co-operative ganado blasting through an online mode, but was severely let-down when I discovered that it's pretty much impossible to actually connect with another player in the game. It's a shame, because the three sessions I've played in co-op on the game were very fun, but I simply can't praise this title for that since you're rarely going to experience this co-operative fun. The online in this game genuinely doesn't work at all, and it's a real shame.

Ever wondered what happened to the old, black-suited Stig from Top Gear? Wonder no more! Just don't expect him to make a return, or anything.
In conclusion, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D is like a Kinder Egg. Tacky, low-quality milk chocolate surrounding a slightly tastier white chocolate mantle, with a love it or hate it trinket found in the centre. Simply put, this review is a recommendation of a very enjoyable game with many frustrating flaws surrounding it, only to those who enjoyed the Mercenaries modes in previous Resident Evil games. I poured just over 100 hours into the game before putting it down, and if I can put up with the silly parts of the game then so can you as long as you enjoy Mercenaries as well. It's still an extremely addictive, notoriously satisfying race against the clock at its core, and one well worth giving a try if you think you fit the bill. If you've never played Mercenaries mode before and aren't sure whether you'll be keen on this, pick up the brilliant Resident Evil 4 (preferably the Wii Edition), play the extra mode found in that title and see if you at least like it a bit. At the other end of the spectrum, if you know for a fact that you don't like Mercenaries having played it in past games already, this game certainly won't change your views. In the end, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D is a very flawed and very disappointing game, but I still had a lot of fun with it, so give it a shot if you fancy a nice pick up and play game on your 3DS. We can only hope that Capcom will fix up the injured body of Resident Evil with the next big installment on Nintendo's platform; Resident Evil: Revelations. Until then, perhaps The Mercenaries 3D is worth your money. Perhaps...



Tom said...

Nice review! Great structure and detail. Awesome work bro.

Kezz said...

Great review. I completely agree with the score you've given it. Fun game and all, but it is a real shame about the poor online play. Revelations should be much better! ^.^

Noodle said...

Heh, I hope so Kezz. You'll be seeing a Resident Evil: Revelations Preview here on the blog next month!

Kezz said...

I look forward to it! :D