If I ever end up starting up a zombie elimination business, I’d screen potential new employees by having them play Resident Evil Village’s extra game mode The Mercenaries as an entrance exam. Not only does the mode’s fast-paced action test your shooting and close-combat skills, it simultaneously functions as the ultimate personality test. IGN got an exclusive hands-on with The Mercenaries at Capcom’s offices in Osaka, Japan. We got to play the mode’s first stage, which consists of multiple areas.

For fans of the series, unlocking The Mercenaries after beating the main game should feel like reuniting with an old friend, as the mode has been implemented in previous Resident Evil titles, as well as a 2011 standalone game on 3DS dedicated to the mode’s beloved fast-paced action. With Resident Evil 6 being the last title in the mainline series to include the mode, Village will be the first numbered title in over 8 years to come with The Mercenaries.

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The rules are simple: Eliminate as many of each stage’s contingent of enemies as you can, and reach the goal before time runs out. Simply reaching the goal – which appears after defeating a certain amount of enemies – is enough to advance to the next area. However, most players will want to aim higher. The Mercenaries is all about clearing as many enemies as possible in each stage and doing it fast since the number of kills and time left when reaching the goal combine to create your score.

The stage we played was set inside the village, the game’s main location. While the first area was pretty straightforward, in later areas enemies were located on walls and rooftops, with the added verticality forcing us to alter our play style.

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Before heading into a new area, the player is sent to a room that houses weapon merchant the Duke to prepare. The room has some free ammo offerings, and you can interact with the Duke to buy weapons, ammo, First Aid Med, and more. Just like in the main game, The Mercenaries also allows the player to upgrade weapons. In a similar vein to Resident Evil 4, you can increase your weapon’s power, rate of fire, reload speed, and ammo capacity. This new layer of preparation adds a strategic layer that was not present in past versions of The Mercenaries.

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When preparing, focusing on one or two of the multiple weapons available will get you a long way. While enemy types and the layout of the next area play an important role in choosing how to prepare, in the long run, understanding your personal preferences is key to victory. If you feel comfortable with a shotgun, for example, don’t hesitate to upgrade it as much as your resources allow. You might even want to sell other weapons to use that money to focus purely on upgrading your shotgun. While it takes courage to throw away precious weapons, The Mercenaries rewards a player’s courage to focus on what he or she knows best.

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Eliminating all 30 enemies in the first area within the time limit itself isn’t super difficult. Whenever you kill an enemy you gain a few extra seconds, and by obtaining a yellow orb you gain another 30 seconds, which felt pretty generous. Once the goal appears, the number of remaining enemies is shown on screen, and it becomes a task of finding and defeating them as quickly as possible. Obviously, the difficulty will ramp up with each stage, but in the end, The Mercenaries’ real challenge lies in aiming for a higher score.

As someone who doesn’t play first-person shooters on a competitive level, the new focus on strategy made the mode feel more welcoming. While your shooting and close combat skills will definitely be put to the test as defeating enemies with speedy combos will give you a higher score, knowing your strengths and preparing a strategy that matches those characteristics is just as important.

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There are multiple blue orbs hidden within each area, each of which allows the player to choose from three different abilities to equip. Choose wisely, as you keep these abilities until the end of the game.

With my first blue orb, I got to choose between Blade Master (knives do five times more damage), Slow Motion (enemy movement decreases), and Super Guard (take less damage when blocking attacks). As I wanted to focus on melee attacks, Blade Master was an easy choice for me, and this was just the start. After coming across a few more blue orbs, my character was now able to move faster when equipped with a knife and the amount of damage taken by enemy attacks was significantly reduced. I had effectively built a close-combat specialist character, but I could instead have chosen skills based around using a machine gun, a sniper rifle, or many other weapons or play styles. Abilities allow you to build your character as you would in an RPG, but in a simplified manner that perfectly matches the mode’s fast-paced action.

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When finding blue orbs, it’s important to choose an ability that matches the weapon you chose to enhance at the Duke’s shop – if you’ve been upgrading your shotgun, there’s not much point in choosing an ability that increases the power of your handgun. Finding the play style that suits you best and making choices accordingly as you kill enemy after enemy results in a rewarding balance between fast-paced action and strategic planning.

After my run was done, it was now time for my colleagues to give it a go. Hiroshi – IGN Japan’s FPS expert – chose a sniper rifle as his main weapon, while Daniel – IGN Japan’s Chief Editor – went with a machine gun.

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It was not just each member’s weapon of choice that let us play differently: We each chose different ways to deal with the time limit and number of remaining enemies, too. When only a few creatures were left in each area, I more often than not chose to hurry to the goal to gain some extra bonus points for my remaining time. In the same situation, both Daniel and Hiroshi wouldn’t give up until they had found every single enemy, even if it would put them at risk of running out of time completely. But while Hiroshi stoically stuck to going for headshots with his sniper rifle regardless of the situation, Daniel was flexibly adapting to different situations and enemy types.

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From weapon choice to character builds and just pure personality, it was impressive to see how much variation The Mercenaries allows and makes possible. I can’t wait to refine my own approach and adapt to different situations and enemy types once I get my hands on the full mode.

Resident Evil Village will be released on May 7. Be sure to check out our in-depth preview of the first five hours of the game. For those curious about the last-gen version, take a look at our PS4 Pro gameplay footage. If you can’t wait to get your blood drained by Lady Dimitrescu, don’t miss our feature on the towering villain and her daughters, and also be sure to check out our reveal of the game’s other main villains. Look forward to more exclusive Resident Evil Village content throughout April as part of IGN First.

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Esra Krabbe is a Blade Master/editor at IGN Japan.
Source: IGN Video Games All
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