I was invited (on behalf of consolemonster.com) to Capcom Headquarters in West London to check out a near to final build of Resident Evil 5. Setting us up from the start, in co-op campaign mode, was Ben LeRoutetel, Head of PR at Capcom, who offered up some tips and tricks in tricky situations as we were given free reign within the game.
I won’t go into detail about the story line because it would really ruin the game but the basic jist is that you (Chris Redfield) have just arrived in Kijuju to investigate and meet up with Sheva, your new partner. Walking through the streets, you can see there is certainly something wrong with the situation, the people are brutal, beating down creepy body bags with nail covered planks, and even though there is no real threat (since you are currently unarmed) there is this aggressive atmosphere in the air. The people don’t want you there. Obviously, you are there to find out what is going on, and as you know, kill a lot of ‘infected’ people!
The control system is very familiar to fans of the series; maybe those new to Resident Evil will find the stop and shoot tactic a little uncomfortable but not something too difficult to understand. It’s when a large horde of infected start to group around when quick thinking and control is needed. Oh, no there is no ‘Gears of War’ styled ‘action’ controls as rumoured before, I just wanted to clear that up.
Quick time events are back but only as an occasional affair. Gorgeous cut scenes aside you’ll need to really be concentrating for the buttons appearing on your screen, co-op mode also has features where only one of you will be pulling off certain QTE moves. One cut scene had Chris pushing Sheva out of the way with a button press and then Sheva shooting her gun at just the right moment to cut him away from a chain dragging him across the floor. They are done in a tasteful manner where cut scenes have taken a long turn. This really keeps the player engaged and keeps up the tense atmosphere throughout the game.
Co-op play runs rather smoothly and is particularly more enjoyable than alone with an AI partner. I was previously concerned with how this would affect the ‘horror’ aspect of the title but for some reason, relaying on someone else to help you is even more terrifying than being on your own. A great example would be when traversing around pitch-black tunnels – you can’t see anything if you both head in weapons ready. There is a lantern available but it takes out your ability to fire weapons, one of you must lead the way while the other protects. This causes a lot of panic while one of you is trying to protect and the other is trying to alert you of the infected appearing behind you at the same time. It’s that chaotic feeling that brings a new lease of life into Resident Evil 5. While RE4 has been hailed as the ‘best of the series’, many people complained it had too much action and not enough horror – RE5 seems to have worked around this with putting you against the odds too many times. Even the most experienced team will have to learn how to run as ammo is in short supply.
The combat has not changed dramatically from the forth instalment, its stop and shoot game play keeps things frustrating and frantic as usual. There seems to be a larger variety of weapons available this time around and they certainly feel much more comfortable to shoot. Get used to marking up your shots and don’t always rely on head-shots at the start of the game, they just don’t work until you have started upgrading your weapons. Logic would dictate you to pump as much lead out into the infected, but with such shortage for ammo it’s advisable to try getting the infected down to the floor with a swift blow and then stabbing them while they are down. One pet peeve I experienced was having to quickly stab the body, while a horde was around me, as well as being at a right angle to get the knife in. There were also occasions where I had stabbed the body just as it was getting back up only to have my knife drive through it and no damage occur. Of course, this was not a retail build of the game so I can safely assume it’s been fixed in the final version. Other frustrations included knowing when you could use your combat moves; a button will appear on the screen informing when you can use kicks and punches, but when being attacked by a group of infected it became hard to judge when to use this move. It becomes available when an infected has become dazed by a shot, leaving themselves open for close combat, it’s just being able to tell when that has happened when you have a variety of enemies around you is quite a challenge.
While you lack the ability of buying directly from a certain ‘merchant’, each chapter ends with a chance to purchase, upgrade or sell items/weapons that you have picked up. Now the gold and diamonds make complete sense. This also lets you organise your inventory so you can select what items go into your quick switch slots, which you select with your d-pad. Before heading into the shop section, my advice is that you sell any diamonds and treasures you have picked up along the way, most of which offer a hefty amount of gold.
There are only a few weapons available to purchase near the start of the game, most of which you can pick up in certain area’s so you might not want to pour all your money into a new armoury just yet. While you cannot purchase any ammo, you can buy upgrades for your weapons. These included; Reload Speed, Capacity, Critical/Penetration Damage and Ballistic Damage. While capacity and reload upgrades were relatively cheap, others such as increasing the damage strength on the weapon cost considerably more. The ‘Critical’ upgrade was an interesting choice which I used on the N2fs (pistol), and it increased the chances on true head-shot instant kills.
So the game play feels solid, upgrade shop and combat system are enjoyable and the co-op is running smooth. What brings this all together so wonderfully? The breathtaking graphics and art-style. Okay, so graphics are not everything, but the detail on Resident Evil 5 is defiantly worth a mention. Just panning around Chris and Sheva was a real delight, certainly some of the most beautifully rendered characters I have seen. Resident Evil has always excelled in detailed character models and 5 is no-exception. Watching my co-op partner run off in front of me gave me real chance to see the hard work put in. Everything on the models seems to move, from hair to weapon holsters.
Character stances were realistic and stylish, even during combat. I particularly enjoyed the kicking animations used when saving each other and how Chris places a reassuring hand on Sheva’s shoulder while healing her – little details like that have really brought the whole experience together. While some details are a little over done, Chris’ ‘big gun’ arms for example, they are lavished with amazing detail. I couldn’t stop myself looking at the veins on his arms!
It felt strange to play a survival ‘horror’ type game in the blazing sun of Africa. It’s seemed to work in their favour however. Stale, maggot ridden corpses litter the floor only making your experience that little more uncomfortable. While we only got as far as mid-chapter 3 in our 2 and a half hour hands on with the game – each chapter appeared to progress the day along. Chapter 3 seemed to be getting darker as we hit desert like areas and motorcycle crazed infected. Environments were polished well and the whole experience was an enjoyable one.
I was lucky enough to experience my co-op play with someone who was new to the Resident Evil franchise. Seeing them enjoy the title as much as I did only confirmed the feeling I had an hour into the game. Resident Evil 5 has taken the success of Resident Evil 4 and added so much more. The horror is back, the zombie-dogs are back, Resident Evil is back. Against all speculation the co-op works and this is certainly a title well worth a purchase.