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As a slightly superstitious sort I never expect anything good to ever happen on Friday the 13th. However that was all to change when kleaneasy and I were invited along to check out the latest installment of the critically acclaimed Resident Evil series at Capcom’s London Headquarters. We were given access to the review build of Resident Evil 5 as well as the opportunity to interview Capcom’s Ben LeRougetel. Thus we set to work with the much anticipated co-op mode, armed with only a slice of pizza and a wired controller.
We started out in an African town exploring the surroundings. Very early on the action kicks off with a few FMV sequences to display the horrific nature of the Infected. The game’s storyline is explained succinctly, explaining that Chris and new partner, Sheva, are on a search and rescue mission. Our first real task was to figure out a control method type that we could get on with. I settled on the control type that felt most reminiscent of Gears of War as it felt most intuitive. It was welcome to see four different control methods open to players as I don’t think I would have been very comfortable with the default method. It did still take a few minutes to adapt to the realisation that I couldn’t just ‘run and gun’ but I can blame Gears for getting me too used to that method. Experienced players of the Resident Evil series will find no problems reverting back to this style and the inability to shoot and run at the same time does feel realistic despite also infuriating at times. Early on I came to realise that sometimes running is a better option than fighting. We were quickly outnumbered in one early town scene and against all our gamer instincts, and reverting to our natural instincts, we fled. Good move it turned out as we were able to flee down an underground tunnel and move onto the next segment.
We moved onto a part of the game that will be familiar to those who have played the demo: the Public Assembly area where you’re surrounded by Infected people and the huge executioner approaches you with a huge axe. We held out there for as long as possible. I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I spent much of that time running away as I ran out of bullets much quicker than I’d anticipated. But eventually rescue came and saved us and we could move onto the next segment. It was a good example of just how precious bullets are in this game, there was a decent amount lying about and Infected drop them, but you do need to make every bullet count. This is most definitely a Survival Horror game not an FPS. It was quite an exhilarating experience however and certainly improved by the addition of co-op play, rather than being alone in the fight, aided by a robotic like AI character. Shortly after this, I witnessed a blonde woman being dragged off by some Infected villagers to be turned into one of them. It was a nice cinematic touch that perhaps strangely reminded me of King Kong. It certainly helped the Hollywood blockbuster feel of the game. We met up with the woman not long after she’d been ‘turned’ into an Infected via a parasite put in her mouth. She became a whirling dervish of nastiness and flung herself towards us despite numerous bullets to the head. Unfortunately our time was nearly up so all that was left was to witness a few other players’ excursions. I was a bit worried that after my go at Chapter 1, I had yet to be scared in the slightest. A far cry from earlier Resident Evils which almost all managed to terrify me at one point or another, however I witnessed one section set in a mine that looks very much like something I could have nightmares about. It was pitch black, and the player was only able to either hold a gun or hold a lantern, it wasn’t possible to do both. Meaning the two players had to work together to ensure one could provide light so that the other could shoot whatever was coming towards them. It reminded me very much of Alien Versus Predator, being forced to choose between sight and weaponry. It certainly looked very promising and I look forward to seeing more set pieces like that.
Combat was much the same as previous installments with bullets being precious and having to stop to aim or reload. I found that headshots weren’t always effective when using a pistol as it just didn’t provide strong enough firepower. Although I didn’t experience it myself, there should be upgrades available in later chapters making the pistol more effective. As well as this there are plenty of other weapons available, with the shotgun being my personal favourite, with its ability to clear a path through a wave of Infected very nicely. As always it is distinctly satisfying to headshot an enemy and I noticed one achievement was for 20 headshots. One annoying discrepancy I found in combat was that sometimes I would have an Infected pin me and I would die extremely quickly, while other times I would have plenty of time to waggle my joystick furiously to get away or wait for my partner to aid me. Also at times, one player would be pinned and dying, and the other player would be unable to move to save them for a split second or two before the FMV kicked in to say you’d failed. Hopefully these are things that will be rectified in the retail version.
Everything on the whole feels faster in Resident Evil 5 than previous incarnations. I’m not sure if it’s possibly Capcom’s use of this generation’s hardware, but a lot more seems to happen in real time. Using items is conducted in real time which makes things much more frantic, both a bonus and a flaw depending on how good you are at reacting quickly during a zombie….I mean Infected invasion. Even the loading times feel nice and swift. The loading screens that you encounter are quite interesting too, as they provide the history behind the Resident Evil storyline. With such impressive looking graphics as well, Capcom seem to have the full package of requirements needed in a modern Xbox 360 title: fast loading, great graphics and a co-op mode.
There were some concerns over the game, primarily the way it dealt with co-op. It all felt a bit too predictable. Almost every game is infinitely improved if it offers a co-op mode but from what I saw, it did feel a little gimmicky and lacking in substance in Resident Evil 5. However I have yet to see some of the more complex puzzles that have been promised by Capcom so hopefully I’ll live to eat my words. The main encouraging factor that the game had was that I did want to keep playing. I was disappointed to have to stop; I wanted to see what would happen next. This for any game has to be a huge redeeming feature. I look forward to seeing the full build of the game.