Last week A.J. gave you his thoughts on the Xbox 360 Resident Evil 5 demo. This week, the PS3 version of the demo came out, and I thought I’d share my opinions on it after giving it a go.
Before we begin, I do want to point out I’m not really a fan of the Resident Evil series. I’ve always liked the stories, but I was never a fan of the slow moving gameplay, the bad controls that reminded me on a non-PC Alone In The Dark or the camera angles. My survival horror tastes tend to be a bit faster paced likeThe Suffering or the Fatal Frame series. I don’t even consider the RE games to be truly horror games as they tend to be action games with monsters instead of any instilling any real sense of dread or fear like DarkFall, Clock Tower, Missing, Barrow Hill and so on. That doesn’t mean the games are bad – it just means they’ve never been my cup of tea. That being said I really loved Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles as it gave me everything I wanted from this series: better controls, much faster gameplay, and all the stories combined into a nice little Cliff Notes package with some retconning to make things cleaner and more fluid. After finding RE4 to be a huge improvement over the all the previous games, I decided to give the RE5 demo a whirl and see how it fared on my Sony Playstation 3.
When you first boot up the demo, you can play around with the options or choose one of two adventures. I went straight to the options to learn the control scheme and I was delighted to see there were four options. I ended up trying all four options on each mission and I have to tell you, Type C blows everything else out of the water. It offers the fastest response time, the best camera angles, positioning behind Chris, and the best button placement. Type A and B were a bit insane and poorly laid out. At first I was surprised I hated Type A so much as it was the RE4 control scheme. Then I remembered I played RE4 on the Gamecube and realized it was probably just better positioning there. Man, how often does one ever say THAT? Type A and B have some VERY awkward button placements involving combinations like hitting R1 and L2 at the same time while still using the analog sticks. Type C jettisons this wacky layout and I think it will benefit both RE vets and newcomers.
Resident Evil 5 didn’t really stand out to me in terms of any core changes. It had great graphics, decent music and some slightly cheesy voice acting, but hey, it wouldn’t be an RE game without the latter. It’s part of the charm. You still are running around, shooting zombies and monsters and collecting items. One of the things I thought was interesting is that enemies randomly dissolve into items ranging from grenades to herbs, which can quite dramatically change the difficulty of the game based on what you get and when.
Each of the two missions in the demo plays dramatically different from the other. The first mission has you walk in on an execution. You can’t really experiment with weapons here as it’s just your pistol and knife, but what you can experiment with is location, placement, and the strategic value that follows. This mission has you defending yourself (and your computer controlled partner Sheva) against what feels like a never-ending horde of zombies complete with a large obese executioner with an axe and a one-hit kill. I found the best place to defend your self is in a corner of the hovel you are trapped in. Back against the corner that isn’t near a door or a window, and now the only thing you have to worry about are enemies straight in front of you or directly to your left. Sheva should take care of the latter, so this is a perfect time to work on your aim. Because the game is so maddingly slow, both in terms of your movements and the zombies, you can use this corner to learn how to aim (You can always set the cursor speed in the Options menu to whatever speed works best for you. I suggest the fastest setting as everything else feels like watching paint dry). You then just pick off the zombies with headshots, wait for several to leave items in a row, run out and grab them while Sheva covers you, and then return to higher ground.
Now this works only until the Executioner comes out to play. Here, hopefully you’ve gathered a lot of ammo for the two of you and then you can just blast away while avoiding the infected mob members that still remain. At this point everything still remains pretty easy. In fact the only time I died if when the executioner did a one hit kill to Sheva (and he did this frequently) which I find to be somewhat unforgivable. Yes, let’s punish you, the player, for poor AI vs AI interaction. Thankfully in other situations, you can save your partner from death and vice versa. Even better, health items have a radius on them, meaning you can heal both of you up at once. I still don’t like that it’s game over when either of you dies, especially since you can’t switch from controlling one character to the next in order to improve your chances, but hey, what can you do?
The second mission is a lot easier. You just wander around a town, exterminating the infected from buildings until you eventually hit a boss. This boss is wearing a bad on his head and wielding a chainsaw. It sounds gruesome, but it’s amazingly easy. Just shoot it in the head, run up, punch it, run back and repeat until dead. Don’t just stand around after punching as it will one hit kill you. There’s also a part in the second mission where you have to defend Sheena against a horde of zombies while you are in opposite buildings. The game feels like you are supposed to use the rifle here, but I found it easier to just open fire with a sub-machine gun and then use a grenade to mop up the rest. I then saved the rifle with its scope for the boss and man, did that make it easy. There were a couple close calls since the rifle reloading is crazy slow (Yes, even compared to the rest of the game), but again, the only time I died was in discovering the one hit kill or when Shena got killed and I wasn’t able to save her.
There are five weapons you get to play with. The default pistol is slow, weak and you tend to miss more than you hit with it thanks to enemies jerking when hit. When using the pistol, your best bet it to go for a clean head shot (which is easier than you might think) or just shooting them in the chest repeatedly. The SMG is fast but very weak. The rifle gives you a great deal of precision and power, but my god is it slow. The grenades are amazing, but they are rare and random, so save them for a horde or when you need to cover Shena. Finally there is knife and I find this to be the worst of the weapons. Not in terms of damage, but the inability to aim the knife the camera angle that comes with it. It’s just a streak against the middle of your screen, so you can’t aim the knife at all for a leg, arm or head.
The only real change to talk about is the inventory screen. It’ s now in real time and gameplay continues while using it, but the D pad acts as a quick function to save you time if you’re in the heat of battle. Yes, not being able to combine or equip while the game is paused takes away the only real advantage you had in the game, but the nice thing is that the inventory actually functions at the speed of a normal game while everything else is stuck in a tar pit, so you barely notice the gameplay is still going…unless you are surrounded by a horde of infected Afrikaners.
As a whole, I didn’t mind Resident Evil 5. I thought it was an above average experience. I still have no intention of buying it when it hits stores, and Umbrella Chronicles remains my favorite in the series, but when this goes on sale months down the road, I just might consider picking it up. The game has removed several things I generally have disliked about the series, and I love the multiple control scheme option, but it’s still far too slow for my liking especially with faster paced games like Left 4 Dead, Dead Space, and other games available to the general gaming public. Like A.J., I was annoyed at first about the inability to move and shoot at the same time, but then in the first scenario, I wasn’t moving at all because that would have left me open for attacks, so it wasn’t until the second boss battle against the Masked Chainsaw Vigilante that I really felt how much better than game would have played with that option available to me. Other gamers might be annoyed by the forced co-op and even more frustrated by the fact you can die if the computer messes up against itself. It does at least give you a chance to save each other. For still others, the crawling pace of the game and lack of ability to run and shoot might turn them off. Still, it’s nice to see Capcom trying some new things with the series (three games in a row now) and the ability to play online with a friend should make up for some of the other shortcomings, especially the ability to blame everything on the computer controlled character.
Remember thought that this is a demo, and two small pieces of a game doth not a complete picture make. We’ll all have to wait until March 13th, when the full game (and the collector’s edition) hits stores.