When the Nintendo 3DS was officially unveiled one of the first games to be announced for the system that really caught my attention was Resident Evil: Mercenaries. To those not in the know, Mercenaries is a score based mini game, first introduced in Resident Evil 4, in which you battle against the clock to eliminate as many enemies as possible and earn the best score you can. I have lost count of the number of hours I dedicated to besting every level of The Mercenaries on Resident Evil 4 and 5.
This formula was changed slightly in a downloadable expansion for Resident Evil 5, which added a competitive online multiplayer mode to The Mercenaries, with a four player all against all mode and a team based two vs two mode. Needless to say many critics, myself included, felt that Resident Evil’s very deliberate shooting system did not really suit an online multiplayer game.Â None-the-less, my love of all things Resident Evil, and initial excitement for the 3DS Mercenaries game, led me to diving head first into Capcom’s Resident Evil Mercenaries VS for the iPod touch without hesitation.
The basic gameplay remains unchanged from the other Mercenaries games, although everything is on a far smaller scale. You run around one of three arenas, trying to avoid taking damage from other players, and kill as many enemies as possible. One significant change from the console version is that you will never face off against large crowds of enemies, instead you will be attacked by about two Resident Evil 4 Ganados at a time. When performing exceptionally well you automatically summon a super powered Ganado, be it a chainsaw man or one of the large ones that look like Saddam Hussain with the Gatling gun. These will attack the other players, sort of like a Call of Duty kill streak, allowing you to hunt down a few more Ganados.
There are three characters to choose from: Chris Redfield, whose special weapon is a shotgun, Jill Valentine, armed with a machine gun, and Albert Wesker, who carries a Magnum. According to Capcom there will be additional characters and stages unlocked with future updates to the game, although some of these will need to be purchased. All characters also have a pistol and an assortment of grenades to choose from. Points are awarded for killing Los Ganados as well as landing blows on your opponents. As ever, defeated enemies drop health and ammo, with more powerful enemies dropping special items, such as first aid sprays.
However, as similar to the console version as it appears to be, the real problem is the way it controls. Much like any third person action game on the iPod/iPhone the implementation of the digital analogue sticks is a real pain; more often than not, in difficult situations, I found myself instinctively pushing too far on the analogue stick, which causes the character to stop still. It would have been nice if Capcom had taken note of EA’s Dead Space for iPod, which designated the entire left hand side of the screen to movement, which would put an end to this issue. As things stand this game feels almost exactly the same as the other iPod Resident Evil games -take from that what you will.
Another serious issue arises when facing off against other human opponents. Battles essentially come down to the two of you just standing still and firing at each other as quickly as possible. The inability to move while shooting has a detrimental effect on the entire game in general, but it is never more apparent than when facing off against another human player.
One new game mode is the blue coin hunt mode: 15 coins are hidden around each level and you must shoot them in quick succession in order to complete the level. Your score will deplete as time passes between destroying each coin, so in order to get the highest rank you will need to be incredibly efficient.
You can play local multiplayer games through bluetooth, but make sure to disable your wireless internet first, or else games will lag terribly. When playing online against strangers one significant problem I have experienced is when other players drop out of the game everyone is booted back to the main menu. It would be nice if the game could continue even if poor sports quit early, or in the (incredibly likely) event that one player’s battery runs out.
Graphics 3/5: The environments are mostly sparse, with very little to distinguish them from each other. Character models are recognisable, and look perfectly fine for an iPod game.
Sound 2/5: Despite featuring some recognisable Resident Evil music, the overall sound quality is fairly low. The few sound effects there are, such as gun fire, cut out from time to time during particularly crowded parts of the game.
Gameplay 2/5: With some clunky, stiff controls, and awkward button placement on the screen, Resident Evil Mercenaries Vs is quite challenging, but for all the wrong reasons.
Longevity 1/5: While there is a single player mode, in which you play against computer controlled opponents, there really is very little to do in this game. As of writing there are no game centre achievements, despite game centre tracking the game. The main meat of the game, the online multiplayer mode, frequently falls apart when one player leaves the game or is disconnected, leading to the other three players being booted out to the main menu.
Overall 2 out of 5
As things stand Resident Evil Mercenaries Vs is a hollow experience with some clunky awkward controls. While Capcom has promised to make regular updates to the game adding more characters and levels, that will not change the fact that this game handles quite poorly and has completely misunderstood what was so engaging about The Mercenaries in the first place, namely fighting off dozens of enemies at once, frantically trying to get the highest score possible. With some perseverance you may find the game enjoyable enough in short bursts, but it does not stand up to scrutiny.
Those wishing to play a portable version of Resident Evil’s Mercenaries mode would do well to wait for the 3DS version, which is due to be released some time in June.