As sampled at the Nintendo 3DS showcase event in Amsterdam, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D takes the competitive, points-based, timed Mercenaries mode from Resident Evil 4 and 5 and fleshes it out as a full 3DS title.
Who's Making It: Capcom. Who else? (The House of Redfield has a second announced Resident Evil 3DS game in the works, though it wasn't playable here at the European showcase event: Resident Evil Revelations, which looks to be a more "traditional" story-based Resi title.)
What It Looks Like: Between the textures in the two maps we played on (Spain and Africa, a la Resident Evil 4 and 5 respectively) and the detailed character models (the pattern on the back of Claire's jacket, for instance), Mercenaries 3D impresses visually, quite apart from the 3D effect. This is one of the games that really sells the 3DS's graphical capabilities, upgraded over that of its 2D predecessor. Character animations are likewise impressive, as are occasional spectacles--such as the fiery explosion of the inevitable red barrel.
How It Uses 3D: As a third-person game with an over-the-shoulder view for shooting, Mercenaries 3D puts your chosen character into the foreground--though, thankfully, the pop-out effect isn't off-putting. The 3D is at its most obvious with a scoped weapon when you switch into its zoomed view; the scope really stands up off of the screen.
What You Do: You pick a character, of which there were four in our demo: Chris Redfield, Claire Redfield, Hunk, and Jack Krauser. Each has a different weapon loadout--Krauser came equipped with a bow and arrow as his main weapon, for instance. Then, with that character, you kill as many enemies as possible, facing off against robed, skull-masked baddies in the Spanish level and African Majini in the other.
As in the earlier games' Mercenaries mode, you are up against the clock as well as against the bad guys--are we still calling them zombies?--as you navigate the smallish maps. Killing a number of enemies in a row adds time to the clock, as does collecting (that is, punching) large red bonus crystals scattered around the level. Familiar item pickups such as healing herbs, ammo, and grenades appear as well. These, along with your weapons, are selectable by tapping your inventory menu on the lower screen.
The demo at the Amsterdam showcase was single-player, though Capcom has also promised cooperative play over a Wi-Fi connection.
How It Plays: The controls will feel quickly familiar to those who have played the recent Resident Evil games. It's stop-and-shoot rather than run-and-gun, with the usual over-the-shoulder aiming view. The circle pad is for movement, with a combination of face button and right shoulder for entering aim mode and firing, with the face buttons otherwise variously employed for collecting items, bashing bonus time crystals, shaking off zombies, jumping down from a roof, and the like. It's a touch fiddly at first, but only as much as, say, Resident Evil 5 was after a long break from playing 4.
The maps are strongly reminiscent of the Mercenaries maps in the earlier games, with staircases to climb and ledges to leap down from as you lead the slow-moving enemies on a merry chase. The key, as ever, is to keep moving, not let yourself get surrounded, and think strategically about extending your time for as long as possible to maximise your score.
What We Say: It's a technical accomplishment--one of the most visually striking games for the 3DS available to play here at the European showcase. It looks--and quickly feels--impressively close to Mercenaries mode in the home console games. Those hankering for a slice of overblown Resident Evil drama will have to wait for Revelations, as there's no plot to be had here.