The score attack Mercenaries mode available in some of the console Resident Evil games offers a nice change of pace from the main game's survival horror, an action-oriented killfest in which the object is to kill as many zombies as you can in a short amount of time. It is also perfectly suited to on-the-go gaming, which is why the coming release of Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D for Nintendo's 3DS handheld is so exciting.
We got to take an up-close look at the game and even spend a little time playing it at Capcom's annual Captivate preview event last week. If you are familiar with past iterations of the series' Mercenaries modes, then the small screen version will be immediately familiar. If you're not, here's some good news: Masachika Kawata, the game's producer, explained it for us in an exclusive interview, through a translator.
"Resident Evil is a series that's all about horror, survival horror. But The Mercenaries is a survival action game. The action is at the forefront and that's really what makes the game fun and unique within the series," he said.
"Even though [this] is a full-on action game... it is still very definitely set within that Resident Evil world and that Resident Evil framework. The player characters, the enemies, the music, the stages... all of that stuff comes together to give the game a very Resident Evil vibe, and that is definitely unmistakable."
The game pulls in maps, settings, characters, and imagery from the fourth and fifth numbered entries in the series. It works like this: you choose a player character and a level, which you then run all around in search of zombies to kill, from the regular old one-headshot-to-kill shufflers to the bigger guys, like the Axe Majini and Chainsaw Majini. All of these kills translate into points, which end up on a high score board once your time -- which can be extended by smacking totems scattered through each level -- runs out.
Kawata revealed that the game supports both local and Wi-Fi cooperative play. Taking on a level with a second player at your side virtually guarantees a higher point count at the end of the match. There are two pairs of eyes and two sets of guns, which of course equals out to a doubled kill count. There are other point advantages to playing in co-op as well, however.
"The Mercenaries is, at its core, a score attack game where you're trying to get the most points in a limited amount of time," Kawata explained. "Co-op supports that by making it a little bit easier to chain combos, to keep things going when you're working together with another player."
"For instance, we've got the combo attack system where one player hits an enemy [with a melee strike] and that sets up the other player to execute a combo. That gets you more points, and it's a much more powerful attack. The co-op experience supports that limited time action game concept."
Each of the game's player characters, all of them familiar faces for fans of the series, are outfitted a little differently. Not just with their weapon loadouts either, though there's that as well. Some characters are slightly faster, others hit harder and still others can absorb a little more damage. Adding to this feeling of customization is a skill system; there are 30 skills to be unlocked, each one with three stages of progression, and three can be equipped in a given level.
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Kawata went into a little bit of detail on some of the skills. "If you have a skill like, say, the Fast Reload skill, as soon as you equip that, it expands the possibilities of what you can do in the same stage. There's another skill called Thunderbolt, which adds an electrical effect to your melee attack to help set up other enemies for melee attacks."
"The core concept is that these things just expand and customize the experience to fit your play style," Kawata continued. "You [unlock] these skills... by getting higher and higher scores. Also, as you use the skills, you get skill points and that can level up the skill [to] level three."
The controls take a little getting used to, but they add flexibility to the often-confining standard Resident Evil controls while still hanging onto the spirit of the series. You move with the 3DS's analog direction pad and bring up your sights by holding down the right shoulder button. The twist in Mercenaries is that the ADS perspective is a first-person point of view. Holding down the left shoulder button raises your weapon and locks your field of view, allowing for strafe firing from a third-person perspective.
Moving while shooting (or reloading or healing) contributes to the game's faster pace, but the 3DS's touchscreen is also a component in this. "We've created a system where all you've got to do is tap a target on the touch panel and you can change weapons, you can reload, you can heal yourself," Kawata said. "That helps to... make [the game] faster, more action-packed."
Although we didn't get to see any of it, Kawata also spoke a little bit on Resident Evil: Revelations, another upcoming 3DS game. Unlike the action focus in The Mercenaries, Revelations takes things back to survival horror. "The scale of it is very, very big even though it's on the 3DS," Kawata said. "If you are a Resident Evil fan, I think you're going to be very excited with some of the information we're coming out with. The demo that's included with Mercenaries is really just a very small part, enough to give you a taste of what we've got coming up."