Amid the recent furore over Capcom’s decision to make Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D’s save game data permanent, it’s easy to forget that there’s a game buried beneath all the angry headlines and community vitriol. As it happens, it’s a pretty decent one, too.
Based on the score-based Mercenaries modes seen in Resident Evil 4 and 5, this release effectively qualifies as a quick and easy way for Capcom to sate the appetites of fans as they wait for what many see as the real deal: Resident Evil: Revelations.
Indeed, a short demo of that eagerly-awaited 3DS title is included on the cart, but aside from its pretty visuals it’s a curiously empty experience.
Resident Evil 3D isn’t a fully-fledged entry in the canon of the series. Instead, it hastily repurposes locations, enemies, and protagonists from previous instalments and mixes them together in a glorious cocktail of explosions, gunfire, and gore.
Craniums pop and entrails are spilled as you battle your bloody way through each stage, fighting not only the hordes of slavering foes but also the clock.
Missions are divided roughly into three key types. Some pit you against the timer, offering you an unlimited supply of enemies to slay. Others boast a predetermined number of opponents to deal with, but are again set against the clock. You’ll also find fraught boss encounters which call for tactical thinking and plenty of dashing around.
Some missions can be played with the assistance of another person, either via a local connection or online. The net code is pretty solid, and being able to tackle tricky missions in co-op is a real bonus.
Don't shed a tier
Resident Evil 3D features five different tiers, each sub-divided into missions. You have to complete each one to unlock the next tier, and as you do this you also gain access to additional playable characters and stat-boosting skills.
Each character can equip three skills at any one time, and these boost elements such as endurance, weapon accuracy and health capacity. They're vital to your success on some of the later, more challenging, stages.
Visually, Resident Evil 3D is something of a rough diamond. Capcom’s MT Framework Mobile game engine does an excellent job of replicating the graphics seen in Resident Evil 4 and 5, but, just as Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition was saddled with static 3D backgrounds, compromises have had to be made to keep things running ship-shape.
Textures tend to be slightly murky, audio is noticeably compressed and character models have reduced polygon counts, but by far the most disconcerting concession is the way distant enemies have their frame-rates mercilessly cut in order to keep the game running at full speed.
When you’re embroiled in hand-to-hand combat with nearby foes this isn’t a problem, as you’re barely registering enemies on the horizon, but when you’re using long distance weapons - such as Chris Redfield’s sniper rifle - you’ll find yourself aiming at far-off opponents that seem to have been gripped by some kind of shaking fit.
It’s not enough to entirely shatter the game’s appeal, but it does much to damage its immersiveness. It’s also a rather worrying indication of how lacking the 3DS is in terms of graphical power.
3D or not 3D?
Elsewhere, the 3DS’s much-hyped auto-stereoscopic display delivers a sadly flawed performance: the impression of depth is much more subtle than that seen in Zelda: Ocarina of Time, but the need to constantly feather the L and R triggers for aiming means your 3DS is rarely locked in position for long, and once the 3D ‘sweet spot’ is lost during an intense battle, it becomes hard to re-acclimatise. Conversely, you’ll more than likely end up setting the 3D slider to ‘off’.
Despite its technical niggles, Resident Evil 3D succeeds in delivering an engaging experience. Granted, the lack of any new content is frustrating, but the core ethos of the Mercenaries concept remains pure and unsullied - this is all about score-chasing, pushing your skills to the limit, and unlocking all of the available content.
On the topic of unlocking, it’s worth mentioning the save data hullabaloo. Once you begin to make progress through Resident Evil 3D’s levels, your data is written to the cart’s internal memory forever. You cannot delete your file and start over.You can never go back
If you’re the kind of person who only buys new games, this may not be an issue, but it’s worth noting if you’re looking to pick it up more cheaply on the second hand market. It also means that you can’t ‘share’ your cartridge with a friend or family member, as only one save game is permitted.
As an appetiser before the main course of Resident Evil: Revelations comes along, this title is perfectly enjoyable. Those of you expecting a significant instalment in the survival-horror franchise will be sorely disappointed, as will those anticipating a raft of fresh content to savour.
However, Resident Evil 3D offers enough action, tension, and gore to keep the majority of fans contented, although we could happily have done without the occasionally rough visuals and that accursed permanent save issue.