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Resident Evil 5 split-screen co-op demo reinforces need to buy two copies

3:00 PM on 12.30.2008 // Nick Chester

Good news: Capcom's Resident Evil 5 cooperative gameplay mode will support split-screen play so that two gamers can play from one television. The bad news: that screenshot up there is what splitscreen will look like on your television.

As someone who often games with his significant other, sitting side-by-side on our couch, this was kind of unacceptable. Difficult to see on our "average" 34" high-definition television, it took awhile for each of us to adjust our eyes to the two tiny, individual screens. Items lying around Shanty Town were difficult to spot in the heat of battle, and we'd have to squint to see subtitles. In short, split-screen cooperative play was more frustrating than enjoyable.

Clearly we'd have to buy a second copy of Resident Evil 5 so we could play over Xbox LIVE. More after the jump.

[Update: Reader ryu89 pointed out that he experienced no such issues when playing the demo made available on the Japanese Xbox LIVE Marketplace. I went back and switched my console to 480i standard resolution and sure enough, the screen is split in a different manner. However, the screen is split as shown above when running in 720p, 1080i, and 1080p.

Thanks for the heads up!]

I'm not even going to try to understand the technical limitations of making a game like Resident Evil 5 run smoothly in split-screen on a single console. Visually, the game is marvelous, and it's entirely possible the engine is using every bit of power in the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 just to render the veins in Chris Redfield's biceps. And I get aspect ratios, too; you'd have to make some screen changes to make it "fit" in split-screen mode. But if you're going to do it, do it right ... just figure it out. Valve did. 

"Split-screen was a pretty huge investment. It's hard. That's the thing," said Left 4 Dead lead designer Michael Booth, talking to MTV Multiplayer earlier this year about the importance of split-screen and the difficulties associated with making it work. The Xbox 360 version of Left 4 Dead -- a game built around the very idea of cooperative play -- made it work, utilizing all screen space available for up to two players.

It should be noted that Resident Evil 5 isn't the only recent game to default to this strange, seemingly wasteful split-screen configuration -- Treyarch's Call of Duty World at War has a similar split-screen setup (at least on the 360). But there are plenty of instances where current-gen split-screen games give individuals more screen-space, like the already-mentioned Left 4 Dead on the Xbox 360 or Resistance: Fall of Man (and Resistance 2) on the PlayStation 3.

This disappointing split-screen decision isn't a deal-breaker for me as a fan of the series; I've little doubt that the game is going to be an excellent experience, both single-player or cooperative online and off. And with Resident Evil 5 set to ship on March 13, there's still a small window of time where Capcom can make some changes. 

But I'm going to reserve two copies of the game, just to play it safe.

---

Be sure to check out our most recent hands-on preview of Resident Evil 5, including details on cooperative action as well as info on one of the game's boss battles. There's a giant freakin' bat in the game, folks.

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Nick Chester, Former Editor-in-Chief (2011)
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