Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D

Anything but two-dimensional

Anyone who has played Resident Evils 4 or 5 may well be familiar with Mercenaries. Previously an unlockable mode offered as reward for beating the main campaigns, this time out Mercenaries gets a stand-alone 3D release on Nintendo's upcoming handheld.

It's a survival mode, essentially. Your character gets plonked into an environment and must survive an onslaught of nasty zombie types, all while attempting to rack up points and multipliers against the clock. There's no story and no puzzles, just pure combat.

It's also an odd decision, on the face of it. There's already a proper, fully realised Resident Evil title - Revelations - on the way for 3DS, so why choose to slap a Ł40 price on this and flog it on its own? Could Capcom not have included it as a bonus mode, as they usually do? Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D

I'm not sure. Perhaps there simply wasn't enough room on Nintendo's diminutive console for both a full campaign and Mercenaries. But either way, it leaves Resident Evil: Mercenaries with something to prove.

Thankfully, in some respects it's outstanding. It certainly hasn't scrimped on the visuals. Alongside Super Street Fighter IV 3D, it's probably the best looking of all the launch window 3DS games Ive seen. Capcom have certainly got to grips with what it takes to draw out the handhelds extra power.

Character models are huge, chunky and wonderfully detailed. The infected are grotesquely realised. Even the environment I saw, a Resi 5-esque shanty village infested by Majini, retained much of the sepia-toned, sun-bleached menace of the home console versions.

It looks strikingly good. But unfortunately the 3D here is wasted. You could be forgiven for thinking that perhaps the extra dimension would add to the scares, but it adds nothing. Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D

Indeed, as a result of the 3DS's particularly pernickety screen, I ended up slipping the slider down and playing Mercenaries in good old fashioned 2D. Hardly a glowing endorsement, but that takes nothing away from the game itself, which is still solidly engaging.

As it stands you get the choice of four different characters to play as; Chris Redfield, Claire Redfield, Hunk, and Jack Krauser. Each has a different weapon loadout with their own strengths and weaknesses. Hunk starts with a rocket launcher, Krauser has a bow and arrow, while Jack has an infinite use knife, for example. Unlocks are promised too, yet details have yet to be revealed.

The controls are improved over the console versions. Weapons are mapped to the 3DS's D-pad, while healing items (if you have any) are assigned to the A button. All that no-pause menu shuffling is now eased - your inventory is accessed through the bottom screen.

You can move as you shoot too, something that will please the grumblers. Yet this isn't how I played it. Most of the time I retreated to a safe corner and blasted the lumbering infected chaps as they approached. Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D

But safe nooks and crannies don't stay safe for long. As ever, the level design dictates that if you get too comfy, something will inevitably pounce at you from a blind spot. Coupled with the ticking clock it adds a palpable sense of unease to proceedings.

Various pick ups are scattered around too, including guns, ammo, herbs and first aid spray. In fine survival horror tradition these are relatively meager in quantity, meaning you'll have to keep moving to stay armed.

You can also pick up time boosts by killing a number of enemies in a row or collecting bonus crystals. All add a few precious seconds to the clock.

The demo available at the 3DS's Amsterdam showcase was single-player, but Capcom is also promising co-op play via a Wi-Fi connection. Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D

Which is all great. What I've seen so far is a well made, fun experience. But Mercenaries 3D finds itself in a void created by the 3DS's increased power. The relatively short, arcade-y, round-based combat here is perfect for play on the move. The only problem is, with much larger adventures soon to be available on the system, it feels a little lacking. Let's not forget, 3DS games don't come in cheap.

Thankfully, Capcom are promising more to come, including extra characters. More environments will be unveiled too. The question remains, however, will it be enough to convince gamers to pick it up come release time?

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