Resident Evil has been scaring the crap out of gamers since 1996. At first, it was the horrific controls that scared the savvy gamer, but eventually (with Resident Evil 4) the series figured out how to make things challenging and terrifying without resorting to cumbersome control schemes. RE4, by coincidence, introduced a minigame called Mercenaries in which the player's usual constraints around ammunition, and the game's focus on narrative were both lifted. What's left is an action game with the infected (we'll just called them zombies from now on), lots of ammo, chaotic gunplay, and all set in the familiar environments used in the main game.
That, pretty much, is what The Mercenaries 3D is; the minigame as a stand-alone title, with a stack of missions and online multiplayer.
It's also, as you may or not be aware, pretty controversial. As we revealed back in June, the game features a rather surprising (and deliberate) feature: there's only one save-game and you cannot delete it. Essentially, this makes the game significantly less valuable as a trade-in (which is why it's rumoured EB Games aren't going to stock it on either side of the Tasman) and, if you do pass it on, whoever plays it next will have to pick up where you left off.
That's not really that big of a deal. There's no story and, once you've unlocked the missions, the idea is that you keep replaying them anyway (there's a heap of skills to find and level up). But it's still a bit stink, which has been the overwhelming reaction worldwide - which in turn is why Capcom have already admitted it was a mistake, and confirmed they won't be doing it again.
The gameplay is, as discussed, a fairly simple affair in which you wander around with your chosen character (assembled from various RE titles) and blow away the (rather stupid) zombies. Ammo is less of a concern than in the main titles, with plenty of the stuff available for all but the truly dire shots. Completing missions opens access to more and you can also unlock characters, costumes, and equippable skills which you can then level up by continually playing the game.
That's it really. There's not much to it, which won't surprise RE fans who are familiar with the minigame the title is based on, but may be somewhat more disconcerting to newcomers to the series who have otherwise been put off by its mechanics.
It's fun, in a way, especially when played in two-player co-op (although playing over the Internet can be laggy when you're not the host). There's just not that much to it. The difference between this and a real Resident Evil game is made even clearer by the inclusion on the cart of a demo version of the upcoming, more traditional, Resident Evil: Revelations. Even though it's very short, you're reminded of the threat that zombies can provide when the rules are changed - it's tense and scary, which are two adjectives you wouldn't use to describe The Mercenaries.
Visually it's fine. Nothing exciting. Level layouts are obtuse in parts, boxy throughout, and the textures were clearly drawn by someone deep in the bowels of an all-consuming depression. Explosions look pretty cool, with some nifty effects but... it's not really going to excite anyone with it's graphical trickery. Audio is similarly present, adequate, and dull. It's not bad, not by any stretch of the imagination, but... good audio can make a big difference (see: Dead Space), so it's disappointing to see so little apparent effort here.
If you know what you're letting yourself in for, go for it. It's a pocketable version of a minigame, with online play, and 3D that doesn't need glasses. It's honestly little more than that. There's a grindy aspect to it, if you can stomach it, but you don't need to complete every nuance of the title to feel like you're finished with it. Add another point to the score if you've got a friend who you're going to play it with. Just don't, for the love of all that is holy, buy this expecting a full-blown Resident Evil game. It's not one. Don't do that to yourself.