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Resident Evil The Mercenaries 3D: Mindless shooter or a fight for survival?

More than just a pretty face-off...

It might take a few moments to realise it - hours, maybe - but eventually it'll hit you like a rupturing Wesker-palm to the kidneys: Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D is the sexiest handheld game ever.

In fact, it's so pretty it makes Claire Redfield resemble an anvil in drag. But the most impressive thing about the game isn't the devil-dealing warlockery that's enabled the dark and sticky world of Resident Evil to be crammed inside the 3DS; it's that on top of this, Capcom is working to make Mercenaries play better than on any other platform.

FUN-DEAD HORDES
The striking thing about hearing producer Masachika Kawata talk about the game is that there's no cat-smug backslappery about how great it all looks.

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"We've really got a lot of confidence that this title is really going to show you guys what the 3DS is capable of in terms of a fun, fast-paced action game," he says. Hands up if you thought he was going to say something about graphics.

Still not convinced? For the first time in a Resi game you can actually move and shoot - and no, we don't count Survivor. The improvements being made to the established Resi 4 principles say plenty about Capcom's intentions: they're making the best game they can for the 3DS.

"That's something we realised when we were creating the game," says Kawata. "This is a much more fast-paced, action-focused Resident Evil, and by allowing the user to move while they're shooting, while they're reloading, while they're healing - it just brings the pace of the game up, and the excitement as well."

They're not just treating this as a crisply muscled space-filler before Revelations (eventually) arrives.

Any troubled Resi traditionalists about to eBay their Ganado dioramas can stop worrying. If you prefer the pant-bothering fumble-fest of previous titles the option is still there, but it's been genetically modified to make best use of the 3DS.

You can now switch to a first-person mode that drags you into the action, tightening the over-the-shoulder aiming camera and emphasising the 3D effects. No moving and shooting, and there's the added bonus of actually feeling that fetid Majini breath. Lovely.

So it's revolutionising the way Resident Evil is played and it looks astounding. 'What else has it got?' you shout greedily. How about a tailored set of skills that lets you customise each character and play them the way you want? Oh, go on then.

If, like us, you've always felt that Umbrella's increasingly English bad lad Wesker would look cooler if he could blam lightning from his fists, then you're in for a crackling treat. The Thunderbolt skill can be attached to any melee attack, adding waves of bright blue electricity to your close-quarter moves.

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The reload skill is more self-explanatory, but it's a must for anyone less keen on swapping juices with infested enemies. You're able to pick three of the 30 available skills at once, and each one can be upgraded with prolonged use. Think of it as learning, but with less boredom and more roundhouses.

How does all of this translate to measurable liquid enjoyment? Very well, actually. Anyone who's spent time in the company of Resi after the fourth game will be able to pick up Mercenaries and start shooting out knees and popping heads without a moment's hesitation.

For those unfamiliar with the setting, a barrel-blasting tutorial will guide fresh recruits through the basics - faithful red oil drum, you give so much and ask little in return. That's right, we talk to barrels now.

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