Review by MSuskie

Reviewed: 06/26/06

I can't believe this game is as good as it is.

If the idea of “Resident Evil… on a phone!” sounds cool to you, that’s because it is. Oh boy, is it ever so cool. And I was getting tired of this kind of game design! The slow, clunky mechanics of the franchise have sunk in over the years, and I was quite critical of the recent GameCube entries (excluding the amazing Resident Evil 4). But if I’m far more accepting of various play styles in mobile games than I am of the same styles in console games, then let Resident Evil: The Missions be my proof. It takes the series’ trademark gameplay of the pre-RE4 era and shapes it to create an almost perfect mobile experience. (Of course, I can’t imagine the struggle that the development team would have faced if they had tried to emulate the RE4 gameplay on a cell phone format, so, yeah…) Being offered as part of Verizon’s VCAST service, the game features 3D characters in pre-rendered environments and controls that are easy-going on mobile players.

Whenever one is to play a game on a cell phone, it’s probably a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing. I have games downloaded onto my phone because there are often moments when I’m standing in a line, riding in a vehicle, or waiting for a movie to start in which I have nothing better to do. Mobile games are meant to be played in short bursts, and therefore should be developed accordingly. Missions does precisely this. Any normal Resident Evil game, with its infrequent save points and annoying ink ribbons, forces the player into long play sessions. Missions explains its adjustment in its title, as the game is divided into actual missions, each one giving you an objective, taking no more than a few minutes to complete (some are only a matter of seconds).

Every play-through lasts ten missions, and this is because mission selection works on a level-by-level pyramid of sorts. Every game will start with the same simple mission, in which you must kill a zombie. There are three missions to select after that, then five after that, then seven, and so on. With ten “levels” on this pyramid, and with the selection of missions becoming greater with each completed assignment, there are a hundred missions in all. That’s quite a lot, especially since you can only complete ten in a certain order for every play-through. You must also keep in mind that there are nineteen final missions, meaning that you would literally have to beat Missions nineteen times (at least) to see everything. This is a brilliant method of increasing lasting appeal and encouraging replays, as completion-obsessive drones like myself will be hooked for quite a while. You’re also given a rank, from A to C, on your performance, further increasing replay value. And such things as extra weapons and items will ensure that Missions stays on your mind for a while.

Control has also received a change. Missions is more centered on action and quick completion of each task than it is on scares and shocks (which wouldn’t work too well on a freaking cell phone, anyway), so rather than opting for the tank-like steering mechanics the series is known for, Capcom chose to implement a far more conventional, eight-way directional control scheme with the arrow buttons. This makes for a faster, easier and more fluid method of navigating. Also, whereas the console games required a lot of button-holding (for running and aiming), since most cell phones (including mine) can’t register multiple button inputs at once, everything is toggled here. Aiming is made easier thanks to a convenient targeting system that shows which part of an enemy’s body you’ll hit. Control will cause you some difficulty and is tough to get used to, but in the long run it works fine. And the game runs smoothly, with the nice rendered character models moving swiftly through the 2D backgrounds.

Missions thankfully doesn’t focus as much on story as it does on playability and functionality. There are no cutscenes, and the only insight you’re given to the current situation is handled through journal entries at the beginning of each chapter. The game is set in a small portion of the Resident Evil 2 police station, and while the environment's size is minimal, the missions themselves are varied enough that it’s a constantly fresh and enjoyable experience. While your objectives are usually just variants of “go here” or “kill this enemy,” each mission is made with certain circumstances that make them feel unique. Ammo limitations, time limits, and item restrictions are all used to make missions tricky enough. (The only big problem I ran into was during a mission in which I had to escort a couple of survivors to a certain location. They had pathfinding problems, and ran into trouble when they followed me into another room.) I was amazed in my many replays by how entertaining the game was able to remain.

Pros

+ It’s the definitive on-the-go Resident Evil experience.
+ Controls are adjusted perfectly to a handset.
+ Missions are varied and quite a joy, surprisingly.
+ It looks great, with 3D characters in pre-rendered environments.
+ A hundred missions and nineteen endings mean plenty of replay value.

Cons

- Play control does take some getting used to.
- One annoying pathfinding issue.

Overall: 9/10

Resident Evil: The Missions is hard not to recommend, even after the spectacular Resident Evil 4 changed the way we think about survival-horror games well over a year ago. But this isn’t survival horror – it’s an assortment of short missions modeled after classic RE gameplay that is meant to please series fans. And while I was getting tired of the RE franchise’s slow, clunky, cumbersome layout (especially after the aforementioned RE4), this type of gameplay, now based on short bursts thanks to the mission-by-mission design, is perfectly suited to mobile gaming. And what really impressed me was not the game’s recreation of classic RE gameplay in a pick-up-and-play-style game, but the amount of replay value that Capcom was able to pump into this thing. With a hundred missions (including nineteen final missions), a ranking system, and unlockables, Missions’ lasting appeal may give Zuma and Tetris a run for its money. RE fans, download it.

Rating: 9

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