Lewis Denby played Resident Evil: Mercenaries on a 3DS handheld system in a bus at the recent preview event in Amsterdam, and now he has some impressions to share.
Posted by Lewis Denby (January 25, 2011)
On Wednesday of last week, I experienced a first in my journalistic career: I went to preview a game on a bus.
It was parked inside, mind. Nintendoís European 3DS launch event in Amsterdam may have been infuriatingly thin on new details - even the UK price wasnít officially revealed - but if thereís one thing you have to give the company credit for, itís that they had obviously poured an astonishing number of resources (not to mention a frightening sum of money) into the show itself.
Behind the enormous conference room sat a doorway into an equally enormous gaming area, known as Nintendo 3DS Street. Red plastic trees lined the makeshift pavements, while food and drink carts served burgers, noodles and beers to the 1,400 journalists, retailers and special guests in attendance. Various Ďshopsí and Ďcafťsí played host to a variety of different playable 3DS titles, and pulled up at the far end of the room was a bus, with darkened windows, and Nintyís logo plastered onto the side. Fixed into tray tables on the backs of the seats were 3DS consoles, and running on them was Resident Evil: The Mercanries 3D, one of Capcomís launch window titles for the much-anticipated next-gen handheld.
Maybe the bus is set to be driven around on tour, showcasing the game - which is essentially a combined version of the Mercenaries modes in Resident Evils 4 and 5 - to people on the road. Maybe not. Maybe itís destined to sit on Nintendo 3DS Street forever, clamped into place, slowly rusting away until it disappears completely. Who knows?
Either way, though, playing Mercenaries on a bus served a purpose. I was curious to see how the 3DSí screen, and its glasses-free 3D functionality, were affected by different levels of light. When I went to see the console in action in London last summer, the units were rigged below bright white lights in a bright white room - pretty much optimum playing conditions, youíd expect. But I imagine Iíd be far more likely to play a handheld console while on a long, night time bus journey than I would in something resembling a futuristic operating theatre.
Fortunately everything seems to work fine - if anything, I found it to be easier to focus my eyes on the screen when no other light sources were vying for my optical attention. The Mercenaries 3D is by no means the prettiest game on the 3DS: it is, essentially, Resi 4 quality, only with enemies and items popping out of the screen as if in a low-poly pop-up book. That sounds like faint praise at best, but it still looks impressive, especially when your eyes manage to keep everything in focus.
The Mercenaries mode has been around in some form or another since Resident Evil 2, all the way back in 1998. But itís only since the seriesí overhaul with Resi 4 that Mercenaries has taken its current form. Basically: survive wave after wave of bad guys for as long as you can, blasting the horde to smithereens within an imposing time limit. Itís a fast, frantic mini-game. Or, at least, it would be, if only the game were more playable on the 3DS.
The controls are a real problem. The shooting setup is unusual, and I canít quite fathom why the folks at Capcom have felt it necessary to switch around an established setup. The 3DS has two back buttons, one on either of the consoleís shoulders, so youíd expect the left button to aim and the right button to shoot. Not so in The Mercenaries 3D. Here, the right button targets, and you press Y to take your shot - a straightforward but unintuitive combination of button presses.
That becomes easier the more you practice, but moving your character around is an even bigger task. The 3DSí circle pad, somehow, just doesnít seem to have the same flexibility as would be afforded by a full-blown analogue stick, and the sensitivity appears to be set ludicrously low. In a game where being surrounded by enemies is commonplace, itís an extraordinary fiddle to turn around quickly or otherwise escape their clutches, leading to frustration, time and time again. Is it really so much to ask to be able to have acceptable control over my character in a Resident Evil game, Capcom? You were doing so well in Resis 4 and 5, edging so nearly in the right direction. Controlling Mercenaries on the 3DS, despite the game sharing more with the seriesí latest incarnations, feels like a clumsy step backwards into the days of tank-like movement and getting stuck on scenery. Itís a shame.
Still, the control issues are ones that could be solved with a bit more testing or a quick recalibration. Even if theyíre not, no doubt a bit of extra practice will go a long way. But I do worry that thereís a much bigger, more fundamental problem at play here: The Mercenaries 3D is effectively a mini-game, stretched out to fill the boots of a full retail game.
Amazon.com is currently accepting pre-orders for $40, which is in line with other titles in the consoleís launch period. I canít find any UK prices yet - seems The Mercenaries 3D isnít really available for pre-ordering over here at the time being - but launch titles are going for £35. The US price is more reasonable, certainly, but I have something of a problem with paying full price either way: itís a game mode Iíve been able to play for free with my copies of far more substantial Resident Evil titles for the past few years. Iím not sure the addition of a third dimension is going to kick that fact from my mind any time soon.
There is, of course, co-op to keep people coming back for the multiplayer fun. This wasnít on display in Amsterdam, so I canít comment on how much value it adds to the game. But Iím struggling to get excited about The Mercenaries 3D: it feels clumsy, outdated and - most troublingly of all - insubstantial to a real fault.
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