Resident Evil Village’s Mercenaries is way too picky, but I keep playing anyway

Resident Evil Village Mercenaries

The LZ Answerer isn’t going to unlock itself!

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my 2.5 playthroughs (and counting) of Resident Evil Village. But while the main story is a blast to roll through, I’ve been having a much less consistent time with The Mercenaries.

It could be worse. It absolutely could be. Capcom could’ve packed in the throwaway PvP spin-off Re:Verse and called it a day. (No joke, I forgot Re:Verse existed until I spotted it in my PS5 library last weekend.) Instead, we also have The Mercenaries — even if it doesn’t quite feel like “Mercenaries.”

I’m not sure how the rest of you are faring in this score-chasing arcade gauntlet (or if you’ve only scratched the surface so far), but I thought I’d share my quick take and we could commiserate.

I’ll say this much: as someone who recently went through all of Resident Evil 4 again in the lead-up to Village, including taking the time to earn those five-star ranks with every character in The Mercenaries to unlock the Handcannon, this new version of the mode falls way short of its potential. It’s less that it’s structured differently — which is fine! — and more that it’s just too dang picky for its own good.

Resident Evil Village: The Mercenaries wallpaper

What I like about Village‘s The Mercenaries:

  • The first four areas are plucked from some iconic spots in the story, most of the creatures are fun to contend with, and the multi-part level format with merchant intermissions in between each zone is an interesting approach. I like figuring out what to buy, what to sell, and taking risky upgrade strategies that can pay off big time.
  • The choose-your-ability orbs are cool, at least early on. Building out Ethan to become a glass cannon or a knife-slashing fiend, or making enemies move in slow motion or explode when they die — fun times. But you don’t always get the ability options you want, and certain abilities feel essentially skippable. That randomness and uneven balancing can prove frustrating in the longer levels where you stand to lose more.
  • I enjoy the panicked flow of knowing you aren’t meant to just hold up and “survive.” You’ve gotta keep moving as much as possible while chaining combos, going strategically out of your way for item/ability/time pickups, and making sure you end up in the right spot to efficiently exit the zone. Frantic pacing, in general, works for me.
  • There’s a super silly weapon unlock up for grabs if you manage to earn SS ranks across the board in all eight stages. I haven’t gotten the LZ Answerer yet, but I want it — and it’s a strong motivation to push through my current brick walls. That counts for a lot.

What I’m struggling with:

  • Later levels — The Village II, The Castle II, The Factory II, and The Mad Village II — are rehashes, which feels like a missed opportunity. Other setpieces could’ve been Mercenaries-ified. Even if it was a short trip, imagine if we had to go back into House Beneviento. Actually, you know what? No thanks. The audio still gets to me.
  • Worse yet, the final four levels have unnecessarily strict limits on which weapons you can use, and the result is my biggest complaint against The Mercenaries. You don’t get the same sense of progression when you’re stuck with the LEMI (handgun), even if there is leeway to use the GM 79 (grenade launcher), the Wolfsbane (magnum), and a handful of mines and pipe bombs. I feel like this is more challenging in the wrong ways.
  • Comparatively, these later runs lack flexibility and room for experimentation — aka the stuff that makes Mercenaries fun to master! I can’t stress enough how puny (and repetitive) the LEMI feels against beefed-up bullet-sponge enemies in the final levels.
  • On a similar note, certain enemy spawns are weirdly specific and/or nonsensical in a way that just feels unintuitive. Combos are so important (and in some cases so tightly timed) that a major part of the Mercenaries experience is memorizing who spawns where and when. That’s okay to a point. But the tuning isn’t where it should be.
  • I don’t have enough of a visual memory to nail down the winding Factory routes. Send help! And while you’re at it, tell the flaming-arrow-firing lycans to chill out.

You don’t have to take my word for it, though. I’m pretty sure that everyone who’s tried The Mercenaries in Village will have thoughts about it, and if you haven’t, here’s what it looks like when played “right.”

That’s not to say this is the only way to earn SSS ranks — for many of us, SS or even S will suffice — but I would argue that this mode would be much better with more flexibility to support player creativity. (I know about the knife-only trick with the Masamune skill and flash grenades. It’s not my style.)

As is, I like some parts of The Mercenaries just fine, I never want to replay a couple of these levels under any circumstances, and once I reach all of my high-score goals, there will be no looking back.

With tweaks, this could’ve had so much more longevity, but I fear it’ll be a weekend distraction at best.

[Update: It took a few weekends to get just S ranks in every Mercenaries stage, and I’m calling it quits. I do not need the bonus weapon that bad. The trophy is enough.]

Jordan Devore
Jordan is a founding member of Destructoid and poster of seemingly random pictures. They are anything but random.