Resident Evil The Mercenaries 3D/Biohazard The Mercenaries 3D 3DS Review
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First let me state that I wrote this review based off the Japanese version of the game, called Biohazard so there might be some differences to the American Resident Evil version, and I will update this review when it's released.
The Mercenaries started as extra mode in Resident Evil 3. But the mode wasn't redesigned to version present in The Mercenaries 3D until Resident Evil 4. Resident Evil 5's Mercenaries and Mercenaries Reunion added both offline and online co-op. This is the first game in the series where the Mercenaries mode is the main attraction and not an unlockable extra after beating the game. In Biohazard The Mercenaries 3D players choose from eight different characters, each with their own individual weapons and eight different levels where the goal is to kill as many enemies as you can, and as quickly as possible. Given that the prior incarnations of the series were on HD consoles, the graphics have held up pretty well. However little attention has been given to expand the game out form its roots with new content or features.
There is no story to speak of at all in The Mercenaries 3D. You can really only infer the story from other games in the series. Such as the hordes of enemies you'll face are referred to as majini, and zealots and they all pretty much behave like fast murderous zombies. The only thing remotely related to a story is what you're off-camera commanding officer tells you over the radio before missions. In the overly long tutorial section of the game, he refers to you as a rookie, and says if you want to get better then you should fallow his advice. Most of his advice pretty much amounts to basic Mercenaries strategy; kill stuff quickly, use melee attacks, get time bonuses. There is a short perrendered intro movie at the title screen if you leave the game running that's pretty good and features all the characters. It would be nice though if there was at least a paragraph of text at the beginning and the end of the game to give some kind of story narrative.
Now I'll break it down how the game is played and what features it offers. Every mission in the game has a set amount of time to complete it. Initially you only have two minutes to complete the mission, but by collecting the five time extension markers within the stage the allotted time can be raised to 10 minutes or more. The goal of the game is to get the highest score possible within the allotted time. You increase your score by killing enemies. Different enemies are worth different amounts. For example a regular majini might take two or three hits to kill and be worth 300 points, but boss enemies, like a executioner are worth 10,000 points, but take about 10 hits or so to kill with a non-explosive weapon. There is also a score multipliers referred to as combos. Combos happen when you kill two or more enemies in quick succession, and last until you don't kill an enemy for longer than about 30 seconds. During a combo enemy kills are worth more points, especially during the effects of the hourglass item which triggers combo time which makes killing enemies worth even more points. Ideally the goal of the player is to keep the enemy kill combo going for the entirety of the mission for the maximum amount of points. However due to the sporadic nature of the enemy spawns, and the difficulty in killing boss enemies quickly, most players will find it difficult to achieve a combo over 20 when playing by themselves. When playing online or local co-op it is much easier to achieve a high or even perfect combo, since the combo score is shared between both players. So one player can slowly kill a boss, while the other keeps the combo going by focusing on easier to kill regular enemies. At the end of mission players are given a rank which judges how well they did. From top to bottom the ranks are; SS, S, A, B, C, and D. in order to advance in the game, you must complete missions with the least a B rank or above, which usually requires getting about 40,000 or 50,000 points on the level. Beating levels with a S rank usually requires a score of about 80,000, and doing so will sometimes unlock extra content, like an upgrade or a costume.
There are eight playable characters in the game, Jill Valentine, Chris Redfield, Albert Wesker, Claire Redfield, Rebecca Chambers, Hunk, Barry Burton and Jack Krauser. Initially only three are available; Chris, Jill and Hunk. Then by beating all the missions contained within a level you'll unlock another character. Each character also has a second costume. I think that costumes are unlocked by S ranking certain missions, but I'm not sure which ones. Each character has two or three weapons in their default inventory, making some characters better suited to particular place styles then others. Chris, Barry, and Wesker have a mostly balanced inventory with each having a handgun, and some combination of a shotgun, [Chris and Wesker.] a magnum, [Wesker and Barry] and a sniper rifle. [Chris and Barry] However Jill, Claire and Hunk have inventories that aren't quite as versatile, Jill for instance has a machine gun, a shotgun, and a knife but no handgun. Hunk doesn't have a sniper rifle or magnum to quickly take out bosses. Instead Hunk has a grenade launcher that only fires stun grenades, which is great for melee combos, but bad for quickly killing bosses. Claire has a semi-automatic handgun, a sniper rifle, and a grenade launcher, but no machine gun, which leaves her too dependent on handgun ammo, as using the grenade launcher will likely thin the crowd of enemies too quickly and break the combo. Rebecca is odd that she just has a assault rifle and a grenade launcher, which makes her prone to running out of ammo and therefore more likely to die. Krauser has the opposite problem, he has a bow and arrow with infinite ammo, a knife, and two RPG launchers. Clearly Krauser has the best inventory, and playing as him is like easy mode. Luckily if you love a certain character, but can't stand their sucky inventory, you can use ten 3DS system play coins to unlock the inventory of another character so it can be used by every playable character. There is also a bonus ninth inventory, which has a more powerful handgun with a small clip, and a double barrel grenade launcher. I'd also like to point out that it's likely that there is some other way to unlock character's inventories without using play coins, I just don't know it yet. Letting characters use each other's inventory goes a long way to making the game balanced, but the same time seems to make the action of picking a character rather arbitrary, and doesn't encourage people to play as any character but their favorite.
The only thing that really sets characters apart from each other are their special melee attacks that they use on stunned enemies. Each character has a different melee attack when facing the front and back of an enemy, like kicking and punching them in the face, or snapping their neck. When a enemy is on the ground melee attacks usually perform a finishing move, like jumping on them, kicking them, or curb stomping their head, which then explodes. Using melee attacks is important, since doing so adds 5 seconds of time to the mission. Generally melee attacks of male characters are stronger than the melee attacks of female characters. A male character can usually kill an enemy after it is stunned in one or two melee attacks, but a female character will likely take two or three, which can lead to losing a combo. However there are upgrades that increase the damage of melee attacks, and thus the weakness can be overcome.
A new feature in the Mercenaries 3D is that there are perks or upgrades in the game that increase the attribute or ability of a character or that of a weapon. I feel as though me reviewing the upgrade system is a bit premature given that the description for each upgrade is entirely in Japanese, which I cannot understand. However they do each have a pictograph icon which relates to what they do and I have gathered a decent understanding of them, so I will attempt to explain them anyway. Each character can be assigned up to three upgrades. These upgrades are shared amongst all characters, and can be changed at any time between missions. Upgrades can be leveled up to increase their effects by simply beating missions with them equipped. The difficulty level and your overall score for the mission determine how much experience points the upgrade gets. Usually a good run will net you 1,000 or 2,000 experience points. With most upgrades needing 10,000 to 20,000 experience points to max out at level 3. Besides obviously increasing its effects, maxing out a upgrade will sometimes unlock another upgrade with a similar but more powerful effect. There are about 30 different upgrades in the game with various effects such as; increasing the damage of weapons, reducing reload times, increasing the chance of head shots, increase the effect of time bonuses, increase the effect of health restoring herbs, increase the chance of ammo or herbs being dropped by enemies, and increase the damage of melee attacks. If you get hit a lot like me, I recommend using the upgrade that makes herbs drop more frequently. By the end of some missions I'll have as many as 15 herbs thanks to this upgrade. The time bonus increasing upgrade is also good for soloing missions. I like to use upgrades to offset the failings of a character or their inventory. For example, increasing the handgun damage for Chris and Wesker, or decreasing the reload time for Rebecca's assault rife, and presumably if there is a movement speed upgrade, then Barry and Krauser would need it. One interesting upgrade gives you infinite ammo for the RPG launcher, but using it makes your score stay at zero, so it's not useful when going for S ranks.
There are nine returning areas in the game from the other earlier Mercenaries games. These areas show up as the setting throughout the game's various missions contained within the games six levels. Each level has a different number of missions to complete. The first two levels function as a tutorial and only have three missions a piece. Later levels usually have five missions, with the last, level six, having nine missions. This might seem like a lot, but given the nature of the way the game is designed, missions can't really take any longer than 10 minutes to complete, with the average being 4 to 6 minutes. It really shouldn't take much longer than 3 to 5 hours to beat the game, maybe 12 on the outside if you're not very good at the game. The game is given replay value by trying to get a higher rank, but getting even a SS rank can be achieved easily by going online for co-op. So any way you slice it, the game is short.
All the enemies in the game are returning ones, from Resident Evil 4 and 5. Some enemies in the game are; villager majinis, military majinis, zealots, bui kichwa, big man majinis, chainsaw majinis, the chainsaw Ganado from 4, gatling gun majinis, iron maidens, executioners, red executioners, and Popokarimu. It's disappointing that the village los ganados, tribal majini, and reapers from 4 and 5 don't appear. Also not appearing are classic Resident Evil enemies like regular zombies, hunters, giant spiders and lickers which did appear in Resident Evil 5, but are absent from this game. The lack of enemy verity does make going through some of the missions a little tedious, but most the time they do put up a good fight and keep you on your toes. The game doesn't have a difficulty setting but as you progress through levels you'll notice that the enemies seem to get more aggressive and react quicker to your presence. Occasionally there will be a glitch where it appears the enemies have stopped spawning, when in fact 12 have spawned but on the other side the map. When you finally find these enemies they will stand in place unless you approach them very closely, then their A.I. will kick in and they'll begin to try to attack you again. Usually when I encounter this glitch I like to throw a grenade in the center of group which takes most of them out.
The game offers online and local co-op for two players under the Duo option on the main menu. When you host a game you'll select a mission and then wait for another player to join. Should the mission end in failure, the host can choose to continue or quit. Once the mission is competed both players are returned to the game's main menu. Despite living in California and presumably playing with people from Japan, I didn't notice any lag or glitches at all during online play, which is quite surprising. So I would say that the game has very good netcode.
Controls in the game can be a little confusing to someone not familiar with other Resident Evil games, but to veterans it should be fairly straightforward. The control stick moves your character, and while aiming targets you gun. Y is the action button, it can be used for melee attacks, opening doors, picking up items, reviving a teammate, jump across chasms, and climbing over or on top of things. When aiming the Y button shoots your weapon, or attacks with your knife. The X button makes your character talk which appears to be a taunt. The A button lets you quickly use a herb but only if you have one in your inventory. Since the default movement speed is run, the B button allows you to walk. More useful though is when changing directions and tapping the B button will allow you to quick turn in the opposite direction. Holding down the R button makes your character aim, which then allows you to shoot your weapon. When aiming with certain weapons, the camera will switch to a first person perspective, which can be a little jarring at first. The digital pad allows you to quickly switch to different weapons. You can also use the touch screen switch weapons and to use items, which I find to be more efficient then using the D-Pad.
The graphics in the game are generally pretty nice. The character models as well as the levels maintain mostly the same level of detail found in Resident Evil 4 and 5. The big hit though in the transition to a portable is the texture quality, which has downgraded to early PlayStation 2 or sometimes even N64 quality. Most the time however this isn't too noticeable, except on certain enemies like the gatling gun majini. The game appears to have trouble rendering large areas, which is why some of levels have been made slightly smaller. What I find very strange is that when you attack an enemy at very long range they usually won't react, since their A.I. hasn't been triggered yet, but when you attack from a slightly closer long range, they will react but their texture quality drops to that of a PlayStation 1 game, and they appear to be a flat sprite with only three or four frames of animation, until they reached a closer distance to the player and return to a fully detailed 3D model. This anomaly is most prevalent in the village stage and when fighting the Popokarimu boss.
The 3D effect is pretty impressive when used. It mainly gives a added sense of depth, but there are some pop out effects. Usually only what's closest to the camera pops out, so the players health, the timer, and the melee attack prompt jump out of the screen constantly. Sometimes when aiming the main character's arm or head will pop out since the camera zooms in. I must point out that since you have to run around and make quick turns all the time while the camera spins around fallowing you, having 3D on made me get dizzy pretty quickly. So I usually just leave the 3D turned off.
The music of the game is pretty good. Most of it being carried over from Resident Evil 5. I never got tired of the music and never had to turn it off which is more than I can say for most games. Sound effects of weapons, items and guns are clear and sound powerful. Although I would say that some of the guns sound a bit too similar to each other when being fired. A big problem in the game though is how horribly compressed the sound of enemies and characters voices are. Dialogue sounds garbled and robotic, almost reminiscent of a mid 90s Super Nintendo or Genesis game. This wouldn't be so bad if majinis and zealots weren't constantly muttering to themselves all the time, pointing out the obvious flaw. I really don't know what they were thinking, but I guess they were just trying to conserve space on the cartridge, but it's still unacceptable. The voice over for your mission briefings from the commander is luckily not affected by this however.
I must mention that the game includes a demo of Resident Evil Revelations on the same cartridge as the main game. Revelations is of course the next Resident Evil game that will be released for the 3DS, probably sometime next year. I think that it's really cool that they decided to include a demo. However it's not really that much of a selling point, given how little there is to do in the demo, and how terribly short it is. In the demo you play as Jill, armed with a handgun that seems to have infinite ammo, but still needs to be reloaded after 6 shots. Over the course of the about three minute demo you'll wander a cargo ship and find a shirtless man tied to a chair, empty lockers, some bats as well as rats that jump out at you but do no damage, and face off against three blobish enemies that look like albino versions of Clayface, the Batman villain. The graphics in the demo are quite stunning, and make you wonder why the main game's graphics aren't this good. The control is nice as well, being almost the same as in the main Mercenaries game. The only difference in the controls is that the default movement speed is walk, and holding the B button allows you to run. The demo is certainly a nice bonus, but most players will probably only play through it a few times before getting tired of it.
Resident Evil The Mercenaries 3D is a very fun game, with great combat and graphics, pretty good controls and terrific online co-op. The biggest problems are its short length, lack of even an attempt at a story, badly compressed soundbites, and most importantly the lack of new content. Had the title be given more time in development and added eight or so new or returning characters and stages, it would feel more like a complete experience. As it stands now those not familiar with the Resident Evil series, casual fans, and disgruntled Leon fanboys will probably find the game to be a 7/10. To hardcore Resident Evil fans like me, who love Mercenaries mode, which is probably the games primary demographic, I give it a 8/10.
A Story: It's ridiculous that there isn't some kind of pretense for why you're killing enemies and why they're attacking you in the first place before each mission. There's not even a description in the corner when selecting a mission. Also call me crazy but I think it would be nice if there was some sort of cut scene of the commander welcoming you to start your training once you select your character at the beginning of the game, and another when you beat the game since you graduated your training.
More Characters: I'm of the belief that you can never have too many playable characters in a game. It seems like if there is less than 60 characters in a game, fans will complain that someone's been left out. Here however there are only eight playable characters, so fan outrage is more understandable. There has been many a rant about why Leon, the star of Resident Evil 2 and 4 or Ada Wong, who was also in both games aren't playable in the Mercenaries 3D, but it doesn't make their exclusion any less outrageous. Sheva was a main playable character in Resident Evil 5 yet isn't in the game, as aren't Mercenaries Reunion characters Josh and Excella, which is strange given how easy it would be to add them. Hardcore fans also wanted older forgotten characters like Steve Burnside, Carlos Oliveire, Billy Coen, Luis Sera, or Brad Vickers to make their Mercenaries debut, although I guess it would technically be Caelos's second outing. Some people even wanted to play as monsters like Nemesis or Mr. X which I think would be pretty cool.
More Levels: It's a mystery as to why certain stages from Resident Evil 4 and 5's Mercenaries mode are absent, though I suspect it has to do with space issues, or the levels being too large to render on the hardware. How about Capcom make some brand new stages? Like the Spencer Mansion entrance, Rockfort Island, RPD headquarters, Umbrella Lab, the hospital from 3, the sewers from 2 and 3, Arklay Mountain Forest, and of course the streets the Raccoon City. Adding even only one of these would've given tremendous value to the game, tempting even the most frugal of buyers.
More Enemies: Since they are already recycling enemies from Resident Evil 4 and 5, why not include all of them? I can only speculate and say that perhaps because of space issues, but more variety would certainly improve the game. How about adding classic enemies like traditional zombies, crows, cerberus dogs, hunters, Lickers, spiders, or bosses like Tyrants, Mr. X, Nemesis, Nosferatu, Yawn the Snake, Regenerators, The Bella Sisters, or William Birkin. More villains, more fun I say.
Better, Longer Demo: This one's pretty trivial but the demo should start with a cut scene introducing you to the story. It should have at least three areas, with two or three different kinds of weapons and enemies. Then have a cut scene that ends the demo with a cliff hanger, so as to leave you wanting more. Then a trailer of the game should play. Most importantly the demo should be at least twenty minutes, especially if you mention it on the front of the box. I play a lot of demos, Capcom should know this, it's demo 101. To make matters worse, at the E3 convention Capcom showed off a much longer and polished demo than the one that is currently in the game. Had the game not been so rushed they could easily included the superior E3 demo.
Hopefully most of these features will be added to the game in the event of a sequel or a rerelease. Perhaps they could even be added by download content, although in that case it would be wise not to charge too much, since most people expected these features to be in the game in the first place, and might be further angered when asked to pay for them. For me personally though I would just be glad to have the game be improved upon, and wouldn't mind paying $10 for all or some of the new features I listed.