Arcade-style undead/zombie/parasite-infested slaying is back for Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, and the game plays as good as it looks. Nintendo and Capcom had Mercenaries 3D available for hands-on at GDC 2011, and playing it proved that next-gen console action can work on the small screen.

The demo build has Chris, Jill, Jack Krauser and Hunk available to play, and two maps: “Public Assembly” (Resident Evil 5) and “Village” (Resident Evil 4). I chose Hunk (a personal favorite) and tossed him into Public Assembly. Hunk comes equipped with a pistol, AK-47, grenade launcher, Flash Grenade, ammo and First Aid Spray, making him a very formidable target for enemies.

For anybody who played ‘The Mercenaries’ mode in Resident Evil 4 or Resident Evil 5, it remains the same: rack up as high a score as possible within the time limit by killing enemies. A simple premise, but incredibly effective. A  trailer and gameplay footage were released before, but actually playing the game here at GDC is a whole other matter.

Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D (in 3D) looks appealing and does not feel gimmicky — Hunk and the enemies have more of a depth to them, and the controls are easy to familiarize yourself with. Holding the Right Trigger brings you into the first person view for targeting, and pressing A shoots your weapon. The inventory is available on the bottom screen, which can be tapped to change weapons quickly. At first, the feature felt a bit awkward, but after a few minutes of playing, I got the hang of it and was able to switch my weapons effectively according to the situation.

For anyone who was worried about whether or not the first person controls for a handheld Resident Evil would work, they do. Aiming with the circle pad isn’t cumbersome in any way at all, even for players who are normally accustomed to moving the reticule with their right thumb. I had no problems shooting enemies in the head and rocking them with Hunk’s punch. If that wasn’t enough, I could run to the downed enemy and shoot them three times for a prone-kill. These actions are performed with the X button, which will be the context sensitive/action button. Reloading is done by holding the Right Trigger and pressing B.

A notable gameplay change from previous versions of The Mercenaries is that when your character is grabbed by an enemy, rather than shake/rotate the circle pad, a Quick Time Event-like prompt appears and you press the corresponding button to escape. It can be imagined that this decision was made to avoid causing a lot of stress to the 3DS’s circle pad. It’s a change that works, and it is just as effective as wiggling the joystick to free yourself.

Graphically, The Mercenaries 3D looks surprisingly good, even better in person than shown in the most recent screens and trailer. There’s very little graphical tear and I saw very few, if any, bugs at all. The gameplay is very suitable for a pick-up-and-play medium, as maps can be played and beaten within minutes, and constantly trying to improve your score or get better at zombie killing is always a good motivator to play the game once more.

With good controls, excellent graphics, and incredibly fun gameplay, The Mercenaries 3D is sure to be one of the games that will spend a lot of time in the 3DS.

Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D will be coming to the Nintendo 3DS on July 6, 2011.

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