Resident Evil Mercenaries Vs., the latest iOS game from the beloved horror franchise, is centered around a very cool twist on online deathmatches. You and three other people are equipped with weapons, placed in a closed-in environment, and tasked with killing each other. But while you’re going about this grisly business, waves of uninvited zombies show up and try to eat your brain. It’s an awesome idea that should, in theory, translate into a thrilling gameplay experience. In reality, however, it doesn’t deliver.
The main reason the game isn’t very fun is the controls. Resident Evil Mercenaries Vs. uses the same tank-like control scheme from the iOS version of Resident Evil 4. So, instead of using tried-and-true third-person shooter controls that have you move your character with the left side of the screen and pan the camera with the right, both your movement and the camera are handled by the D-pad. This makes moving and looking feel unnecessarily clunky. The worst part is that when you have a weapon drawn, you can’t move your character at all– you can only aim.
My shoulder, I’m not supposed to get shot in it!
What that means is that when you and an opponent have a shoot-out during a match, both of you are rooted in place. The only way to dodge is to holster your gun and scamper away like a yellow-bellied momma’s boy. In short, the action is static and unexciting.
A number of smaller issues detract from the experience, too. The graphics are unappealing, full of murky textures tied together with jagged lines. You’re required to create a PIN to get onto the game’s servers, and you have to re-enter it each time you boot up the game. You get kicked out of online matches if you receive a push notification or a battery alert while you’re playing. And each match has four players in it, but the game only comes with three characters, so there’s always at least one double. Very strange.
There’s a time to stand your ground, and a time to run.
Despite these fairly huge negatives, the game still manages to squeeze in some fun. Seeing an opponent get chewed on by a zombie while you’re shooting at him from afar is a delightful experience (although it’s less delightful when it’s happening to you). When we played, enough people were online that we never had to wait very long for a match to fill up. And if you don’t have an Internet connection, you can play against AI opponents or try to shoot all the hidden coins in each level in Coin Shoot mode.
But really, the clunky tank controls are what bring the experience down. After having played exciting online matches in games like N.O.V.A. 2 and Archetype, we can’t help but feel it’s a drag to control such a slow and helpless character here. It’s disappointing, especially when you consider how fun it could be with a more action-based control scheme.