Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D has been heavily scrutinized by fans of the series since its announcement last fall. Many questioned whether the fun-in-short-bursts mini-game from Resident Evils 3, 4, and 5 could hold enough content to support a full retail release. Others wondered if it would be able to replicate the excellent gameplay from consoles on a then unproven (and still unproven) handheld. Falling short in some areas and excelling in others, The Mercenaries 3D is slightly lacking as an overall product.
Graphically, Mercenaries is a mixed bag. There were a few times when I couldn’t differentiate it from the console iterations in the series, and it is easily one of the best looking games on the system. Unfortunately, a few compromises had to be made. When enemies are more than ten or fifteen feet away, there is a noticeable drop in the quality of their animation, and their frames-per-second are significantly dropped. This is especially jarring with 3D enabled. Sound quality is fairly low on 3DS speakers, but sounds nice on headphones and earbuds.
Gameplay is as smooth, if not smoother than any othergame in the franchise. Mercenaries retains the time-based arcade-centric approach of the console versions of the mini-game, where the goal is to get as many points and kills as possible, while extending time through crystalling time bonuses. And not dying of course. Controls closely mirror that of Resident Evil 4, with the circle pad controlling movement and switching to aiming when the R button is held. A new and controversial addition to the franchise, moving while shooting, is performed by holding the L+R buttons at the same time. This is not a major change however, as you cannot aim while moving, so you sacrifice accuracy. There were few times when this proved useful, and most times I forgot it was there. Quick time events are back in a limited degree to break out of holds and dodge enemies, and they mostly work, but sometimes they occur with very little prior warning, and an unforgiving amount of time to respond, leaving your character severely wounded and royally screwed. Aiming with the circle pad works very well, and before long I played with a deftness I had never experienced in a Resident Evil game. If you loved Mercenaries on console you’ll probably love it even more on 3DS.
The game’s greatest failing is a total lack of content. The mission mode, which functions as the main single-player content is 29 missions long. Apart from the final chapter, it provides little challenge, and I finished the entire mission mode in less than 4 hours. After the completion of the mission mode, 8 EX missions are unlocked that play a lot like the traditional mode from Resident Evil 4+5. These EX missions could have given the game much more legs, but glaring lack of leaderboard support holds them back. There is also a co-op option for all of these missions that runs fairly well, provided you have a friend to play it with. There are 8 characters in the game, and all of them are unlocked by the end of the Mission mode. Their different arsenals and melee attacks manage to distinguish themselves from each other, and makes playing as each of them a little different. There a few strange omissions (Leon?) but the roster manages to feel mostly complete. A new perks system was implemented, but changes are so minute that most of the time I could not even tell if they were activated or not.
Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D has strong aspects, but winds up feeling incomplete thanks to a paltry mission mode, and total lack of content. Only dedicated Mercenaries fans can truly enjoy this package.
The Good: Strong gameplay and graphics
The Bad: Technical compromises had to be made
The Ugly: Total lack of content