Capcom’s “war on horror” has eradicated nearly everything to do with survival horror in Resident Evil the Mercenaries 3D: The only horrifying thing about Resident Evil on the 3DS is how bare and shallow the package is.

From the get go Capcom announced that RE:TM3D would be a stand-alone entry of the Mercenaries mini-game first introduced in RE:3 and popularized and refined in RE:5.  The premise of the original and 3ds versions is the same: take out as many creatures as possible in the time provided.  I say ‘creatures’ because unless you are familiar with RE:4 or RE:5, it’s pretty difficult to figure out what the heck they all are: zombies, parasitic aliens, psychotic lunatics amped up on painkillers, all of the above!?

Even Street Fighter IV included a little exposition through cut-scenes for each of the characters.

Resident Evil has always been like a big, juicy, rare steak; frightening to look at yet satisfying if you make it all the way through to appreciate the subtle nuances of the game’s ‘meat’.  The caveat with the Mercenaries mini games in RE:4 and RE:5 was that they were complimentary to a fully fledged out, traditional story mode that was really the meat and bones of the package – the Mercenaries mode was simply the dessert.

On the 3ds, unless you are familiar with the Resident evil ‘menu’, you may not entirely be sure what you are digesting. At $40, and with several issues to boot, this ‘desert’ doesn’t taste as sweet as it did when it came with a ‘main course’ on the consoles, regardless of the extra dimension the 3ds hardware offers.

The game is broken up into 30 missions – each can be played single-player or CO-OP over local wireless or the internet. Each mission has a time-limit under which objectives must be completed and you receive a grade based on how quick and accurate you were in finishing them, along with skill points to level up the various unlocked abilities that each of the playable characters have.

In essence, game progression is more akin to Capcom’s fighting games than past RE games.  Running each character through the various missions both online and offline to best your previous time and achieve a high score is the name of the game here – and in that respect the game is almost successful.

I say almost, because the less than ideal controls and poor animation mar what little fun gamers can have.  The over the shoulder aiming and slow turns made resident evil 4 a standard for survival horror games back in 2004.  The problem is, once you take that urgency and fear out of the equation, the controls simply don’t support a quick paced arcade shooter like RE:TM3D.

The PS vita may have better hardware and a much bigger screen than the 3DS, but Capcom sure did ‘wow’ gamers with footage of the upcoming RE: Revelations, and later RE:TM3D.  Standing still the game engine looks fantastic; Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Jack Krauser and the several other playable characters all look great – as do the enemies. At first glance you might even mistake it for a low-res version of RE:5 on the consoles.

The problem comes when it’s all in motion.  Enemies further than about 15 feet away animate at very low and jerky frame-rate, something akin to early claymation.  It’s simply horrid to look at and really detracts from the already less than stellar game-play experience.

On the other hand at least the 3D in the game is well done and worth enabling. Unfortunately this game needs a lot more than 3D effects to justify its repetitive single-player campaign that will last less than two hours in your first play-through.  If you can tolerate the game-play and look past the graphical hitches then the online or local wireless play with a friend may redeem some of the game’s inadequacies. Of course a much lower price tag certainly couldn’t hurt either.

Hopefully RE: Revelations will provide the juicy main course survival horror fans have been waiting for on the 3DS; unfortunately, unless you are a diehard Mercenaries fan with 40 bones to pick, this 3DS arcade shooter is most definitely not the Resident Evil game you were looking for.

+ detailed graphics

+ short levels are easy to play on a commute

– not scary in the least bit

– terrible animation

– way overpriced for the amount of content included

It’s worth noting that the game does not allow the save file to be deleted for some odd reason.  Fortunately this doesn’t matter much since all 30 missions can be re-played anyways. And unless you absolutely need to unlock all of the characters and weapons again, it shouldn’t make much of a difference during subsequent play-throughs.