Capcom’s latest horror offering took a long time to hit my radar, primarily because I’ve only played a few of the previous Resident Evil titles. I also wanted to make sure that I had a friend with a copy of the demo, because I had heard that to do it justice Resident Evil 5 really needed to be played in co-op. If you’re interested, you can always check out the demo for free on Xbox Live at the moment.
Resident Evil 4 was heralded as a gaming masterpiece, gaining substantial success on Gamecube, PS2, PC and Wii. Not surprisingly, fan expectation is high for this ‘next gen’ sequel. You’re given two levels to test out; a survival setup and an exploration play through. The visuals will hit you straight away, the detail, texture and draw distance are all very impressive and easily live up to the franchise’s pedigree. Watching the zombies bubble and boil away after defeat is particularly satisfying to watch.
For me, some of the game mechanics were very old school and clunky. You have to hold down the Left Trigger to aim before shooting, so you still can’t fire and move at the same time. Weaponry doesn’t always automatically reload either, so you’re often left in a poor inventory screen trying to ‘combine’ the two together. This wouldn’t be a problem normally, but in the survival level I found myself being regularly torn to pieces as I desperately tried to reload. You could argue that the added time gives a sense of realism, but for me it just made the experience more fragmented.
The big addition this time is the inclusion of an A.I partner. On paper this sounds like a great idea, throwing each other over buildings to reach new areas or splitting up in order to open a new gate. However, if you’re playing solo this kind of mechanic only works if the A.I is perfect. In the demo for Resident Evil 5, it is not. You’re going to be relying on her a lot and it’s frustrating when she picks up the ammo you need (rendering your weaponry useless) or dies because she can’t seem to move past a slightly obtrusive shrub. This is why I’ll come back to the reason I played it in co-op. By adding a partner, Resident Evil 5 has become similar to Left 4 Dead. You really need another human playing to make it shine. When you’re both using headsets to communicate, a great sense of comradeship is born and I began to thoroughly enjoy playing it.
The game’s presentation is certainly worthy of the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. The sound, visuals and immersion are all spot on. Underneath the candy coating though, tweaking the Resident Evil 4 engine has caused some problems. The partner A.I and real time inventory simply need a lot of work. If you’re going to have lots of friends with the game, willing to regularly play online it shouldn’t be a problem. Otherwise, approach with a little caution.