What was once a bonus mode included with the console games Resident Evil 3, 4, and 5 has now graduated to full-game status on the handheld 3DS. The Mercenaries mini-game, when packaged with the aforementioned titles, always felt like a bit of largess on the publisher’s part, as if Capcom were saying, “Hey, thanks for buying our game. Here—have this, too.” But as a standalone experience, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D is the metaphoric equivalent of finding a leg-breaking goon at your front door demanding the cash owed for those previously gratis Mercenaries sessions.
The game’s objective: Defeat every zombie in the vicinity before the onscreen timer ticks down to zero. Any of the tense moments from Resident Evil’s surreal main quests—à la the pants-soiling moments when Nemesis gives chase in Resident Evil 3—have been excised. What remains is a competent, soulless run-and-gun experience—or rather, lumber-and-gun.
The controls feel at home on the 3DS. The right shoulder button shifts the view into first-person aiming mode. The Y button handles the weapon firing, and functions as the catch-all for any context-sensitive actions, like climbing, jumping, or delivering uppercuts to zombies. The touchscreen below is used for on-the-fly weapon-swapping or applying health-restoring first-aid sprays.
Though the action chugs on occasion, the 3DS hardware can handle a game of this magnitude. But the 3DS’ small screens and the extremely limited peripheral vision may leave players feeling like they’re operating the game through a peephole.
The larger question—the same one The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time 3D raises—is “Wouldn’t this game simply be more at home, and carry more dramatic weight, on a larger screen?” And yes, it would.
There are 30 stopwatch-timed missions in total, all set in environments lifted from Resident Evil 4 and 5, each of which can be worked through in a matter of minutes. Even with the inclusion of online cooperative play, the whole package winds up feeling small and miserly. As with all Capcom games, fan service arrives in the form of unlockable characters and outfits. But even the staunchest Jill Valentine-in-a-tube-top fans will find it difficult to justify the game’s $40 asking price.