Hit the jump to see what I feel the game has done right and what it has done wrong.
Of the four levels Capcom were showing off, two of them were from from the Tokyo Game Show demo we looked at earlier this year. Some of you may already be familiar with them, as they were also included in the demo that recently hit the Japanese Xbox LIVE Marketplace.
It's likely that "Assembly Plant" will remind players of the very first level in Resident Evil 4. Chris and Sheva begin by barricading themselves in a house to prevent African Ganados from ripping them apart. But unlike the TGS preview, we were actually able to play co-op with other people. Dtoider Tactix (who got into this event because Capcom is awesome and likes to invite "regular gamers" to their preview events) was my co-op buddy, and helped me shoot Ganados through the small windows while others tried to smash in through the barricades. It wasn't long before the bookshelves gave way, and Tactix and I had to make our way out of the room. It's actually interesting to note that bookshelves can topple over, doing slight damage to the player if they get hit.
The stream of Ganados was seemingly endless as they flooded in from all over the village. The executioner with the giant ax-hammer also joined the fight; this guy makes Dr. Salvador and the Garradors from Resident Evil 4 look like pushovers. The executioner can absorb a ton of damage, and he took us out every time we tried this level -- one swing from the executioner's weapon will send Chris or Sheva to near death. When this happens, the screen turns red, and players can’t do anything other than slowly walk around. In this state, the only way to be revived is by having your partner inject you with health. While there's no limit to the number of times Sheva or Chris can heal one another, it means certain death if they're not healed in time.
If your partner gets grabbed by a Ganado, an arrow indicator will pop up on your screen to point you in their direction. You'll also have a button that you can press that directs the camera towards your partner, which can come in pretty handy in high-intensity situations. You can either shoot at the attacking Ganado holding your friend, or you can use a close-encounter melee attack to knock them off. Friendly fire wasn’t on during our playtime, so it was possible to shoot through your partner to nail a Ganado. If a Ganado has you in his or her clutches and your partner is temporarily indisposed, you can also furiously rotate the left analog stuff to break free.
You'll also be able to see where your partner is at all times by turning on the mini-map. The map appears on the top right of your screen, and it streamlines the RE experience as you won’t have to constantly be pausing the action to see where you need to go like in past games.
"Shanty Town" was more of the same as "Assembly Plant," except instead of a guy with an ax-hammer who can seemingly take ten tank blasts to the face, there was a guy with a chainsaw who can take ten tank blasts to face. But before moving on to the new maps, I need to address a major issue I had with the chainsaw guy, who I will refer to as Dr. Salvador's cousin for the rest of the preview:
Decapitations aren’t shown. You’ll see the chainsaw digging into Chris or Sheva’s neck, but the camera will move itself so you can’t see their heads as the chainsaw digs in deeper. You'll still see Dr. Salvador’s cousin continue to rip off their heads, as blood splatters everywhere, but you don’t actually get to see the act. If I ever were to do a Memory Card feature, it would be about Resident Evil 4 and Dr. Salvador chopping off Leon’s head. It was such a shocking moment. I never once thought I would ever see such a giant violation of such a major videogame character. Leon’s head gets chopped off and you see it -- YOU ACTUALLY SEE IT -- it flop onto the ground, blood squirting from his stump of a neck.
To be fair though, the Japanese version of Resident Evil 4 excluded the chainsaw decapitations, and what we were playing was a Japanese build. Still, there's no real excuse for this to be censored in America, especially when you consider that RE 4 originally shipped on Nintendo's GameCube.
"Shanty Town" found Tactix and I splitting up to complete a section. Sheva jumps over to a building with Chris’ help, and then opens a door allow him out of a building. To get a better idea, you can see this in action from the E3 announcement trailer.
After getting through the first two demo levels, I got to check out the two brand new, never-before-seen areas. First up was a boss level where I had to fight a giant bat with a centipede-tail-like attachment.
Before the boss fight, a cutscene shows Chris and Sheva going after one of the game's baddies. They follow him into a room, and while they seemingly have an upperhand, a smoke grenade is tossed into the room. At this point, a myseroius person wearing a bird mask bursts in, allowing the baddie to escape. While the face behind the bird mask isn't shown, you get a glimpse of her sexy legs, leading me to believe she may be the Eva Mendes-looking female from the trailers.
As the cut-scene ends, I continued on with the level. This preview section was only playable single-player, and I was pleasantly surprised by how helpful Sheva was. You have some minor control over her, but she could handle herself really well without much assistance, so I didn't have worry about her all that much. She would back me up during fights, and if I got low on health, she would spray me with some first aid. In RE 5, applying first aid now looks like you’re applying spray-on deodorant. It’s just like the "Axe Effect," except that it actually works -- what man or woman could resist full health?
This portion of the preview area also supplied me with unlimited ammo for all of my guns; yet even with endless amounts of bullets and no reloading, I still got my ass handed to me. I eventually made my way to the bat boss fight, which reminded me quite a bit of the U3 battle from RE 4.
After this battle, I check out a level that sees Chris and Sheva at an oil refinery. Raging fires block some of the paths out of the refinery, so pipelines had to be shut before moving forward. Players will have the option to turn off the valves themselves or have Sheva do it. If you’re playing by yourself, it seems best to have her handle it so you can watch the perimeter for danger. After shutting off the first valve, Dr. Salvador’s cousin comes in and wants to chop off your pretty little head. This section of the level is really small, with extremely narrow paths that make it pretty hard to evade the good doctor's chainsaw.
One new explosive type weapon you’ll get in Resident Evil 5 is the Proximity Mine. (Yes, let your mind wander back to GoldenEye 64). Once planted on the ground, the mines will explode if stepped on. Since I was given infinite ammo, I left a trail of Proximity Mines on the ground, and Dr Salvador’s cousin stepped on nearly all of them in his pursuit. (I say nearly, as not all of them exploded; you would think they would, since Dr. Salvador at least came in proximity of the mines.) After taking out Dr. Salvador, I made my way to turn off another valve and then another Dr. Salvador came into the map.
I eventually got through this portion and I ran into another member of Chris and Sheva’s team. While the three of them are yapping about the current situation, the room they're in gets locked down, and Ganados rush the room. Your new friend starts working on getting the locks open as Chris and Sheva give him cover; he'll also actually engage enemies along side the player when not busy with the locks.
I know it's almost like beating a dead horse, but it has to be said again RE 5's graphics are absolutely beautiful. It looks fantastic in motion, and playing an RE game set in daylight is an interesting change of pace.
One thing in particularly I want to address from my playtime are all of the control complaints that people have been having. Games like Gears of War and Dead Space, in particular, have gotten people used to the idea of moving while shooting in a third-person game. Thing is, Resident Evil has never been about that. Resident Evil 4 is hailed as one of the best RE games ever and it controls exactly the same as 5. It’s really confusing to hear so many people complain about not being able to shoot while moving when 5 is just like 4.
The problem, I think, is that people are so used to moving and shooting that they have forgotten that they could never do this in the RE series. I feel having to stay stationary while shooting adds to the suspense; it also adds to the realism, as it’s a bitch-and-a-half to shoot at anything while moving in real life. I will agree with the complaints that we should be able to at least walk while we’re reloading a gun, however. I will admit that I did find it really annoying how slow Chris and Sheva turn while aiming.
A lot has been shown off, but there are still so many questions about the game. Funny enough, my biggest question is whether we’ll see the return of the Merchant or at least someone like him. I asked, but if there's anything like the Merchant, Capcom are keeping quiet. There will be a store of some sort that you can upgrade and purchase weapons at and during my playtime; I found items that looked liked they could be sold at a "high price."
I’m also curious as to whether we’ll see quick-time events during cutscenes. That Krauser and Leon knife battle is such a badass scene, and was even more intense because of the quick-time sequences. There were quick-time moments during the Bat boss fight, and while fighting the villagers, so it's possibly there will be more spread throughout the game. Oh, and Sheva does the most ridiculous thing ever for her quick-time move -- when a villager has been dazed, she actually nails them with a back-flip kick to knock them out.
I did play as both characters during my preview time, and there’s really no difference between the two. Both characters had the same amount of slots to hold items with, and players will be able to easily trade items between them. You’ll be able to either go into the equipment menu and select which item you want to hand over (so long as you’re in proximity like in RE 0) or you can equip an item and hand it to your partner in real time. It’s ideal that you do this when not engaged, as the action won’t stop when in your inventory screen, another nice improvement from RE 4. It would have been nice to see some difference between the two characters, with perhaps Chris having more storage space and Sheva having less, similar to Resident Evil 0.
The real only difference between playing as either character is that Chris is positioned on the left side of the screen and Sheva is positioned on the right side. It felt really weird playing as Sheva with her stationed at the right of the screen, but I was told you’ll be able to switch which position of the screen both players will be situated at.
Overall, my experience with Resident Evil 5 was great. The visuals are fantastic, the controls aren’t as horrendous as the Internet is making it out to be, and the voice acting is as cheesy as ever ... just the way we like it.
Resident Evil 5 is developed and published by Capcom. It will be out on March 13th for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.