Sometimes it's Fun to Get Ripped Off
When I first learned Mercs was being sold by itself on 3DS, I also felt like Capcom was…well, pulling "a Capcom"; that is to say, they were gouging their fans. To be sure, I think there's definitely some of that going on here, but I also think Capcom's primary objective with Mercs 3D was simply to get something out there as early as possible to keep fans satiated and the franchise relevant on 3DS until Revelations arrives.
Honestly, Mercenaries for both RE4 and RE5 was, to me, a great game mode that deserves its own space in the RE universe, so I have no problem with Capcom selling it as its own product. Unfortunately, Mercs 3D doesn't hit its full potential, and though I'm having a great time with the actual gameplay, the package is still somewhat disappointing.
With Mercenaries 3D on 3DS, you get eight characters and a variety of settings spread out across five levels, each with about three to five missions, plus additional EX missions unlocked after you've cleared all of the main missions.
From the very first moment you pop this game in, the incredibly meager amount of content is all too apparent. The 3DS version of Mercs adds skills, which act similar to the perk system in modern Call of Duty games, and it's definitely a cool addition. Each character also has an alternate costume that can be unlocked, as well as their weapon loadouts.
These are cool tidbits, but where are the other characters, costumes, and actual new content? Claire's cool, as is Rebecca, but come on – if you're going to ask the full retail price for a 3DS game, you've got to bring your A game. When you compare the enormous amount of free DLC folks got from Samurai Warriors Chronicles (SWC), Mercs 3D comes off as a completely paltry package. Heck, just the main content in SWC alone was huge in comparison, with something like 50 playable characters and about the same amount of missions. There's not so much as a practice mode in Mercs 3D. No competitive play, nor a true survival mode.
Considering the nature of Mercs and the fact Capcom are presenting the mode as its own game, it's surprising just how little has gone into making the most of what's here. There's no fanfare when you unlock skills, medals and such, and the presentation – though attractive – is pretty uneventful. Mercs is an arcade shooter; why not make a parade when you unlock something or earn a medal? Why no online leaderboards? For a game like this, it's the small details that really count in terms of making the player feel like they're getting their money's worth.
There are other little things, though, besides the lack of content I found to be annoying. In order to select a mission, you have to first navigate from the main menu to the mission menu, select the mission you want, and then go back to the main menu in order to start the mission. Why? It's a simple thing, but it feels like a laborious design flaw in practice.
Additionally, though you can select a different character before starting a mission if you're hosting a game, you have to back all the way out to the main menu (logging out of the network) to change characters if you're the one joining a game. With Capcom's long history of top-tier content, these feel like such amateur oversights on their part.
The game also has its fair share of glitches, though nothing game-breaking that I've come across thus far. Often during co-op play enemies will get stuck on walls in an attempt to go after your partner, and occasionally the enemies will become invincible due this issue.
On the flipside, the Mercs gameplay is still as fun as it ever was – perhaps more so, since the inventory selection is easier than ever. The controls also feel fantastic on 3DS, and if you want to move while shooting, you can. But this is Mercs pretty much as you've already played it before, with most of the same characters and levels shoehorned onto 3DS from RE4 and RE5.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the game's visuals. I know some reviewers claim the game is "almost" as good looking as the console versions of RE5. No, it's not. It's a decent looking 3DS game, but the colors look kind of washed out and the textures aren't great, especially up close. Luckily, I haven't really experienced any framerate issues, though I know many folks have complained about that. The game runs fine for me, even when playing co-op online.
And that, to me, is Mercs 3D's greatest asset: online play. It's cool to run through levels solo, but the variety of players in the RE community is what will keep this game feeling fresh for a good, long while. Players range from total noob, to score hunters, and everything in between, and it's just nice to be able to clear missions with a helping hand. The wait for a partner usually isn't too bad, though I often have to make several attempts to connect to the network. Of course, communication between players is pretty much nonexistent (aside from a handful of preset voice commands), and since there's no way to message a buddy on the 3DS, hooking up with friends for a mission is a hassle.
It's worth mentioning that the music and sound effects are pretty stellar. The pseudo-surround sound on 3DS is generally very good, and Mercs 3D makes admirable use of the hardware in that respect. My only gripe is that the voices are a bit garbled and too low in the mix with the other audio. I've greatly enjoyed the variety of themes, though. There's the frantic stuff that really drives home the urgency of keeping your combos going, but there's also some cool techno stuff that jives surprisingly well with capping infected heads.
Resident Evil The Mercenaries 3D is probably the most fun I've had on my 3DS since running through (twice) Ocarina of Time 3D – I'm not going to lie. The gameplay translates incredibly well onto this system, and the online cooperative play is undeniably addictive. Do I feel like I got my money's worth? Yes and no. I paid $40 knowing exactly what I was getting, so I can't really complain. But I absolutely feel like I settled for something less than what Capcom should have offered fans. The lack of fanfare throughout the game as you unlock things, the poor menu design, the less-than-stellar visual quality and general lack of content (or new content) are all disappointing aspects of what could have been a substantial standalone product.
I got Mercs 3D because, in all honesty, it is one of the best things out there right now for 3DS. Check back in six months, though, and we'll all likely be snickering at Capcom's shenanigans. Videogames, much like any other media, however, are usually reliant on the times (with a few rare exceptions), and at the moment the Mercs 3D community is kinda hoppin'. So, if you're looking to mine the online gameplay for all its worth, this is the time to get in on the action.