Tuesday, January 27, 2009

DEMO-LITION: Resident Evil 5

Yes, the RE5 demo is finally here, at least on the 360. Poor J is going to have to wait until Feb 2nd to sink his teeth into this demo on PS3. Of course, I’m lucky to play it myself; my brother, Patrick has experienced the Red Rings of Death on his 360 for the second time and he has had a customer service nightmare. More on that later… At any rate, he’s been borrowing my 360 as much as possible, so only today was I able to get my system back to download and try the Resident Evil 5 goodness.

More like creepiness!

I’ve only played a little, so consider these very initial impressions. On the upside, they’re mostly spoiler-free, but then again, so is the demo. The game plays almost identically to Resident Evil 4, and I’m not complaining about that! Apparently, there’s a control scheme that plays a bit more like Gears of War style, but I didn’t try that out in my initial play through. Although two-player co-op is available for either online or offline split screen, I only played single player. Hopefully I can get Dustin or one of my other buddies to try two player with me soon.

It’s all good though, because Sheva is a competent partner, who fights well on her own, gives you items you need when you need them and generally works better than almost any other AI assistant I’ve seen in a game. You’ll have to return the favor though, and watch her back, give her ammo and healing items when she needs it, and not leave her out to dry.

Even without playing on an HDTV, the game is beautiful. There was some small text at the beginning of the demo, but thankfully a microscope is not needed to read it when playing on normal resolution televisions. Characters are incredibly well-rendered and so is the varying atmosphere, which changes from dismal to almost blinding sunlight. The graphics are so good that the transition to cut scenes to gameplay is not noticeable. Throughout the game, there’s so much detail everywhere.

Once again, the infected are not quite zombies at all, but not exactly like the “Plagas” in RE4 either. They’re quite similar to the townspeople you encountered before, but when they get their hands on you, they choke you and you must rotate the control stick wildly to get free. The longer it takes, the closer they draw you in, and their mouths… Well, it’s not pretty and is very freaky. Like the Plagas, they carry weapons, but this time you can shoot them out of their hands (though shooting a bottle only broke it, making it no less deadly).

The controls are intuitive for the most part. I didn’t quite get used to changing weapons or items on the fly, which now does not pause the game and go to a separate menu while you do it. It really adds some hecticness to everything, which may be why I had trouble mastering it. Other than that, running, shooting, reloading, taking knife swipes and calling for Sheva are all very similar to RE4, thus pretty easy to master.

There are some new moves this time around. While things like jumping out of windows when you’re near them are done with a button press like last time, fallen enemies’ heads can be stomped on with a similarly-cued press of the X button. Sheva was able to kick some enemies, though I’m not sure if you can do that whenever, or only when a mob closes in tight. Another interesting thing was that I could hurt stunned enemies; after shooting them, an X button would pop up and Chris would deliver a strong blow that sent the enemy reeling even further, or would knock them across the room—where they then could have their heads stomped in.

One thing that struck me is that ammo seems to be in lower quantities than ever. Sometimes the only way I’d survive is when Sheva would toss me some ammo. Of course, this could have to do with my nerves on my first play through, but I wouldn’t be surprised if ammo (and health) has to be rationed carefully between Sheva and Chris. If one of the characters dies, it’s game over, so it’s a good idea to keep Sheva covered. If one of the characters takes too much damage, they can be revived and rescued Left 4 Dead style. Also like L4D, teamwork will definitely be a major aspect of gameplay—albeit to a smaller scale. In one of the levels, I had Chris boost Sheva across a roof, then covered her (unsuccessfully I might add, until I realized I had a sniper rifle) as she walked down and around and unlocked a gate that impeded progress. From what I understand, puzzles like these are plentiful in the game.

Overall, I didn’t make it very far. Mainly because in the two levels available, one had a chainsaw guy, the other had his new older brother, a giant axe guy. Both can kill you pretty quick. Sure, I fought back, but it was pretty much game over really quick. But what I played was enough to get a taste, and develop a hunger for more. Like any Resident Evil game, things always start out tough until you can acclimate yourself to what happens and how to best combat it. I look forward to mastering the areas of the demo while waiting for March to roll around, and am even more excited about the prospect of playing through a Resident Evil game with a friend for the first time.

I’ve also downloaded the FEAR 2 demo, so maybe I’ll have another DEMO-LITION up soon. Additionally, my brother Patrick has been writing up a guest piece on his experiences with Microsoft Xbox Customer Service that may be enlightening and helpful to those of us that will almost certainly deal with them again in the future.


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