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From its humble roots as a mini-game in Resident Evil 4 & 5, fan-favorite "Mercenaries Mode" is seeing its first dedicated release. Reflecting the Resident Evil series' shift in focus from survival horror to action-oriented gameplay, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D (hereon referred to as Mercenaries for mouthful's sake) is a point-wracking, c-c-combo-stacking run-and-gun-fest. And that statement is just as over-the-top as the gameplay is.
You'll be blasting away all sorts of monsters throughout 30 missions, spread over a total of eight maps based on locales from RE4 & 5. Missions can be played solo or using local or online co-op. While eight is certainly more than just five or three maps, it still falls short—especially for a full game. It's the perfect amount for memorizing and therefore maximizing your kill streaks, but we walked away still hungry for more, thinking of the five other Resident Evil games that could have been adapted into additional maps. Also, did I forget to mention that the first 11 missions are basically the tutorial?
Guns, grenades, and first-aid sprays are littered throughout the levels, and believe us... you'll need them. From pistols to the fabled "infinite rocket launcher," players will find their perfect arsenal for putting away zombies and other baddies. The goal is to try to kill as many enemies as you can within the time limit, aiming for a high score. Shoot a cultist in the leg, move in for the quick close-quarters combo, then lob a grenade at an oncoming horde. After that, jump through the window of a nearby building, smash the time bonus, heal yourself, and jump back into the fray. No fluff; just fighting. Combat is quick and dirty in Mercenaries, and rounds last anywhere from three to ten minutes, depending on how skilled the player is. Certain maps or enemies can frustrate you at first, but take our word for it when we say that the game is surprisingly fun.
What really impresses us about Mercenaries is the controls. Players will now be able to move and shoot at the same time—a feature new to the series. The buttons are responsive and the default layout works well on a handheld. To spice things up, the game offers three other control schemes: one that mimics RE4 & 5's console controls, a more standard FPS layout, and even the classic "tank" controls of the early Resident Evil games. Taking a console experience and condensing it into a handheld is an impressive feat, but making it feel more natural than the source material is a sign of true mastery.
Speaking of mastery, Capcom seems to know how to wring out some great graphics out of the 3DS, even if the 3D is a little unimpressive. While the effects aren't eye-popping, they are present, drawing attention to the well designed player models. Unfortunately, enemies' animation cycles drop drastically the further they get from the camera, leaving them to jerk around menacingly in the distance. The textures in the environment may also get a little muddy, but overall the game is a crisp, clean experience.
When you're not burying the next round of zombie hordes, you'll be... actually, that's all you'll be doing. If you want to do that with a friend, the Mercanaries "Duo" mode is actually functional and easy (Thanks, Nintendo!), and gives you access to all the same unlockables and upgrades. Speaking of unlockables, you can earn 50 in-game achievements (some co-op only) and unlock a total of eight characters from the history of Resident Evil, as well as bonus costumes, optional weapons layouts, and skills. Up to three upgradable skills can be used to give you an edge during missions, and each skill can be upgraded with points you can earn by completing many, many missions.
Most players might find the whole package short and sweet—though a little lacking at full price. However, if you're a master of unlocking, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D will have enough content to keep you satisfied.