Resident Evil 5 Demo Impressions

Resident Evil 5
Last night I got the chance to sit down and spend a good hour or so with the Resident Evil 5 demo on the Playstation 3, so I thought I’d put down my thoughts.

After booting up the demo, the first thing you notice is the swanky looking interface, which feature what appear to be cells in the blood stream wriggling about and connected to the game options (ie, Start Game, Options, etc).

After beginning a new game, you have the choice to try out two different sections of the game to play through, the first a tense affair where you must outlast a continuous wave of the infected while waiting for your pilot to arrive, and the second a creepy walk through a seemingly desolate and empty town, culminating in a battle with a scarred, chainsaw wearing baddie.

In both scenarios, you are accompanied by the lovely Sheva, who is just as useful as an AI buddy as she is smokin’ hot, but I’ll get into that a little later.

To anyone familiar with Resident Evil 4, you should be right at home. The controls are nearly identical, with a few nice improvements. Unfortunately, for every step forward, Capcom remained rigidly still in others.

In the improvement category, is the ability to quickly access your items and weapons via the digital pad. Pressing up selects you primary weapon, Left is secondary, down is your healing items, right is ammunition.

If that’s too much to remember, you can press the Triangle button and bring up a proper inventory menu, and manually select the items there. But be warned, going into this menu does not pause the game, so I’d advise not going into the menu during intense firefights. or you will take some hits.

Since the game is a co-op affair, whether single player or not, the next useful feature is being able to press the R1 button to zero in on your AI or human controlled buddy. Both levels have multiple paths to traverse, so this came in very handy, in particular in my co-op session with my roommate, where we split up often.

Those are probably the two biggest improvements over the previous title, but unfortunately, the change that RE5 needed the most over part 4 is the way your character moves.

Back are the familiar “tank” controls of previous RE titles, where up is forward, down is backwards, and left and right strafe you left and right respectively. This control scheme is very clunky, and Chris moves like, well, you guessed it, a tank. While character animations are overall rather fluid, the illusion is absolutely killed when you have to turn left or right, and he literally swivels to the left or right. This also makes fights where the player is heavily outnumbered (that would be all of them if the demo is any indication of the conflicts in the final game) a frustrating affair.

It’s not your lack of skill that will hurt you in RE5, it’s the controls. If you were surrounded by a horde of zombies that want to eat your flesh, you’ll want to be able to avoid them as fast and easily as possible. On this front, the controls are working against you, and my numerous deaths in the demo weren’t due to my inability to fire a gun, but my inability to maneuver the character, especially in confined spaces like shacks and houses.

Compounding this control issue is the, frankly, archaic firing scheme. Games like Gears of War, Metal Gear Solid 4, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, and RE5’s cousin in the Survival Horror genre, Dead Space have employed a progressive control scheme in which you can aim and move at the same time.

While Resident Evil 4 pioneered the over the shoulder, aim and shoot mechanic on consoles, that mechanic has been improved upon by other games, and yet Resident Evil 5 employs the old model.

When you need to shoot fast and take out some infected, you are forced to stop movement, aim, then fire. If you are being pursued by swarming enemies, you can’t slowly retreat, while firing shots. You have to stop firing, turn the other direction, and flee. The insanely slow turn radius with the weapons doesn’t even give you the option to swing around in a spray, hopefully taking out any infected before they converge upon you.

Controls are a vital part to the gaming experience, and that’s where Resident Evil 5 stumbles. It’s not insurmountable, and the controls worked for Resident Evil 4, and I never had a problem with RE4, but the point is that we’ve graduated to more sophisticated, user friendly controls, and it boggles my mind that Capcom went this route. The excuse that it “increases tension” doesn’t fly, especially with titles like Dead Space on the market, which employs a modern control scheme, and is scary as shit.

It may seem like I didn’t like the demo, and for that I apologize, but some things need to be said about the controls, and I’m hoping for a patch for the controls at a later date.

In truth, I actually loved the demo. I thought the graphics were excellent, the zombies terrifying, and the overall pace of the game superb. I mean, I’m a Resident Evil 4 vet, so I adjusted to the control scheme rather quickly – it was one I was intimately familiar with. But I imagine that gamers weened on the “Gears of War,” and subsequent games control scheme may be turned off and irritated by such a step backwards.

One of the biggest areas in which I think Resident Evil 5 succeeds, however, is in it’s AI controlled companion in single player games, Sheva. She is one of the better AI controlled companions I’ve encountered in a game, almost on par with, say, Elika, from the new Prince of Persia games.

It’s kind of a double edged sword, because Sheva is so good at what she does, she tends to take out quite a few infected before you do, often prompting you to exclaim at the TV screen “hey, let me kill some!” She will mow down infected with brutal accuracy, collect ammo, health items, and green herbs for, not only herself, but you as well – many a times she’d run and grab some ammo, then run over to me and hand it to me. Very smart and useful.

To top it off, when things get rough, and you take so much damage you’re dying (visually cued by a red tint to the screen, and the word “Dying” in your health bar), Sheva will run up to you and inject you with some sort of stimulant, and even though it doesn’t replenish your health, it gives you that extra bit you need to keep on fighting (or more likely, inject yourself with a health item).

Co-op is another area where the game excels, but it also increases the difficulty because you can’t rely on the excellent AI to be your crutch, but an actual human being.

I played split screen with my roommate, and we had a ball. She had never touched a Resident Evil game before, so it was new to her, but she caught on to the control scheme quickly (she doesn’t like games like Gears of War, so she wasn’t isn’t spoiled by that control scheme).

It’s interesting to note that in split screen co-op, it isn’t just your standard horizontal split. It crops the screen so there is black bars on the left and right, but it still maintains the widescreen aspect ratio of the image, so you have these two rectangles, stacked on top of one another, but off center, with the top screen being pushed to the left, and the bottom screen pushed to the right.

It’s odd to say the least, and didn’t hurt the gameplay experience, but thank god I’m playing on my 40″ HDTV, because I can’t imagine being able to see anything on my old SDTV in split screen. The image was rather small on my HD set.

This didn’t hinder the overall gameplay, which was highly enjoyable. We died often, mostly in situations where both of us were in mortal danger, and couldn’t get to the other in time to administer aid.

The two sections presented in the demo were both different, and scary, and a joy to play, despite my reservations about the controls. I’m more than willing to give the full retail release a go, being the big RE fan that I am.

If you haven’t already, download the demo via the XBLA, and PSN, do so and leave your own impressions in the comments below.

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3 Responses to “Resident Evil 5 Demo Impressions”

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  2. namelessshe Says:

    It scared the crap out of me. I seriously doubt I’ll be able to even watch someone else play it. The executioner made me think of Pyramid Head. Just a tad.
    I really like the Sheva character.

  3. The Anonymoose Says:

    I fucking loved the demo. I found the multiplayer options to be absolutely wonderful, and I couldn’t get enough of it for 3 days after I downloaded the demo. I have not tried the single player alternative, though. Maybe I will try it soon. I was blown away by the new controls, the ability to strafe was new, and it just… jesus, I thought I was gonna cry in happiness for the new ability.

    I agree that the aiming is a little difficult, especially if you’re an ammo saver. I ALWAYS aim for the head, to blow it right off their shoulders, and the fact that shooting them in the head only causes them to stumble sometimes bothers me. I want to be able to make a 1 headshot kill once in a while, but, apparently that’s too much to ask for in the new RE franchise.

    I enjoy that they moved away from the concept of zombies in the newer games, moving onto a cluster-minded parasite colony infecting human beings. It really bothers me when people call them zombies :\ I think the ones in RE5 are called Kijuju, as the Ganado were in RE4. (I’m very anal when it comes to the names of monsters…..)

    What I DON’T like about it, is the fact they made the boss monsters invincible. I mean, yes, you gotta end the demo somewhere, so end it with a good invincible boss… but it gives you a false sense of accomplishment. “YEAH! I just shot the big guy in the head! BOOYAH I just uppercutted him! OK grenade time! BAM! More various combinations of attacks! OMG WTF he wont die! ARGH! And now he chops me in half… perfect…” or the chainsaw kijuju… “alright, lets see… ok, so you go open the door, I’ll sit at the other side of the street and snipe… POW! Headshot! Haha! Another one! Bang! OH that barrel musta hurt… ANOTHER headshot! Damn. Wow!” and three more barrels, and a dozen headshots later, he slashes through your neck with his saw… it just… ugh!

    The only other thing I can think about saying about this game demo, and the game itself so far, are it is absolutely awesome, and I had no inner quarrel to coughing up $110 to preorder the collectors edition. This game is one of the best things I’ve seen from the resident evil campaign so far. (and I played RE3 through around 47 times… yes, I was bored enough to beat RE3 47 times.)

    Also, I’d love to talk to y’all about the game, I’ll openly share my email. It’s bad_dreams_good_nightmares55@yahoo.com. Send with topic iPawd if you don’t want to be marked as spam XD

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