At Nintendo's recent 3DS preview event in Amsterdam, several hundred journalists and other important people from the games trade packed into a large warehouse-sized building, in order to get their sweaty palms on the 3DS. Divided into separate buildings, which had seemingly been hastily constructed out of plywood, the spacious arena was divided into smaller shacks, such as the Pet Shop (where Nintendogs + Cats could be found), and the Dojo Ono, where you could get your teeth stuck into Super Street Fighter IV. Near the back of the arena, however, conspicuous by its oddity, was a giant coach, that someone had seemingly rammed through the arena wall. Whether it was a coach load of raging Dutchmen, desperate to see the 3D effects with their own eyes, or simply a dozing coach driver who'd lost his way, we weren't sure - but, with time ticking on, and the evening drawing to a close, in the interest of journalistic integrity, we thought we ought to check it out.
And so, with great trepidation, we went to board the darkened bus; an eerie red glow spilling out from inside, unsure of what horrors may lay ahead. Suddenly, a man in a Nintendo shirt hopped towards us like a crab, his arms outstretched in a welcoming gesture. "Welcome to Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D!". Well, that answered that question, then.
So, it was on board this darkened coach, in the corner of a room in a Dutch convention centre that we found Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, a game that it's kind of hard to draw any comparisons about. If you're familiar with the Resident Evil series, either from the films or the games, you may be expecting a dark, scary, jump-out-of-your-skin-at-every-corner survival horror game, like the other instalments in the series. Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, however, is a different beast entirely...
Effectively a time-attack zombie killer, Resident Evil: The Mercanaries 3D pits you against a never ending onslaught of zombies. With two minutes on the clock (for the purpose of the demo - the full game we're sure will allow for longer), it's up to you to simply survive for as long as you can, scoring as many points as you can in the process. Points, as you may imagine, are earnt by killing zombies - and killing several in quick succession will net you a multiplier to boot.
After explaining that movement was on the Circle Pad, while you could aim by holding the right shoulder button, and shoot by pressing Y, our guide got to explaining the more intricate details of the game. With the time constantly ticking down, your second priority when playing Mercenaries 3D - after simply surviving - has to be to expand your time limit, which you can do in one of two ways. The first is by hunting down, and smashing one of the orange glass statues that have been hidden around the levels, which net you five seconds of extra time each. The second way, which our guide seemed very keen to encourage us to try, was by performing a melee attack on one of the zombies.
Far more than simply a mindless shooter, it turns out there's actually a lot of strategy that goes into Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D - especially if you want to clock up the highest scores. Rather than simply being able to punch anyone who comes into range, the melee attacks are a little bit more complex to pull off, and require you to momentarily stun a zombie first. The easiest way to do this is to shoot their leg, and then, while they stagger, run towards them, and press Y. Doing that will pull off one of your melee attacks, which vary from character to character - while some will perform a roundhouse kick or shoulder barge, others perform more elaborate moves, like headscissor takedowns on the unsuspecting zombies. No matter which move you pull off, though, these melee attacks earn you two seconds of extra time each - which can be vital when the clock starts ticking down.
Performing as many melee moves as you can, and keeping a short gap inbetween each kill to build up a combo, seems to be the way to win in Mercenaries 3D. But of course, things would quickly get a little bit dull if all you were doing was shooting wave after wave of identical zombies, so the Mercenaries 3D demo spices things up in several ways.
Firstly, when you're aiming at enemies, your character can't move. This means you have to be a lot more mindful of your surroundings, as you can't just pull out your gun when you spot a zombie in the distance, because, as soon as you do, you're frozen to the spot - and ripe for the picking for other zombies.
Also adding to the mix is the fact that not all zombies are created equal. Far from the standard brainless bunch that you usually think of, certain zombies can use weapons, such as crossbows, or even molotov cocktails, which makes your job a lot harder, as now, not only are you having to avoid getting attacked by the zombies, you find yourself quickly scanning every one you see to check if they're carrying a weapon. Far more of a pain, however, are the semi-boss zombies, who get introduced to the mix when you're doing well. One such zombie - the executioner, who wields a giant hammer that's as good as a one hit kill if it touches you, is bound to frustrate.
In all, though, from what we've played, The Mercernaries 3D is a fun little arcade shooter, with the short burst gameplay making it ideal for a handheld. The only problem, of course, is that this is another game, like Pilotwings, that it's hard to judge the lasting appeal of from a few goes on a brief demo. In the past, The Mercenaries has always been a bonus mode that you unlock upon finishing a full Resident Evil game - in order to stand up on its own, as a full price release, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D is going to have to offer something more than what we played, which, while it was impressive, was simply a decent foundation upon which to build a game that deserves a £29.99 retail price.
Thankfully, though, with a co-op mode letting you take on the hordes with a friend, and a challenge based mode apparently finding its place amongst the final game, it seems Capcom realise this as well. With its addictive, one-more-go appeal, The Mercenaries 3D is one to keep an eye on.
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