One of the biggest games of next year got its eagerly awaited demo, released on Japanese Xbox Live Marketplace earlier this month. That game, of course, is Resident Evil 5. There has been much talk about where the series could go after the critical and commercial success that was Resident Evil 4, and whether or not Capcom can keep the much loved series fresh for its HD-gen debut on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. The demo is just a taste of what’s to come, but gives a clear indication of where the series is heading and how the game will play. To tell you the truth, not much has changed, but is that for better or for worse? Well, let’s dive into it.
The two stages shown in the demo should look familiar to the people who have been following Resident Evil 5 from the start, as most of the videos and screenshots have been taken from these two stages. The two stages available are called "Public Assembly" and "Shanty Town," each giving, depending on how you play, 10 to 20 minutes of gameplay. This is the same demo that was playable at this year’s E3, but with the added bonus of co-op. Yes, that’s right, the demo includes the option to play co-op online or offline…but strangely, not with your friends. I’ll go into that later on.
Along with Resident Evil legend Chris Redfield, a young woman by the name of Sheva Alomar will partner with Chris throughout the game, and will act as the second player’s character during co-op games. She comes in very handy, as Capcom have incorporated the need for teamwork throughout the demo — that, and she heals you when you’re hurt.
One of the first things you will notice when the demo starts up is how beautiful the game looks. When it is released next year, it will be easily one of the best looking games on either platform. The attention to detail is staggering; the characters are well detailed, from the carvings on Chris’s knife to the defined muscles on his arms. The game actually feels like it’s in Africa, and you can almost feel the heat in the air with the amazing heat waves and lighting effects that surround you. The environments themselves look great and play a pivotal role in how the game is played. Some objects are destructible, allowing more zombies to come at you either through windows, doors, ceilings, or through the walls themselves.
The buildings looking burned out, disgusting, and shabby, as if no one has lived there for years on end. This gives a feeling of insecurity when walking around — that something can just pop out of nowhere. The fire effects are second to none. I found myself blowing up fuel barrels over and over again just to marvel at the incredible fire effects and how the flames realistically spread across the ground. But we all knew how good the game looks because of screenshots, so the demo didn’t really deliver anything new there. What it did do is tell us how incredibly familiar the gameplay is to Resident Evil 4. What’s that old saying? Ahh yes, don’t break a winning formula, right?
This is where the gaming world is going to be divided in two: one half being the old schoolers who don’t mind playing new games the way they did 5 years ago, and the other being those who are too used to the way third-person games are played now — with fast-paced, balls-out action where everything is streamlined — to be able to enjoy it. Resident Evil 5 plays old school — no more run-and-shoot, no more take-cover-pop-and-shoot, no more shooting freely, and no moving while aiming. I have to admit it took me 10 minutes before once again getting comfortable with the way the game plays, and even then forgetting I couldn’t freely shoot at the horde of zombies mobbing me. The game has stuck to its roots, and doesn’t make the leap from 4 to 5 that many were hoping for. The zombies act and behave like the ones in Resident Evil 4, the locations (apart from this being set in Africa) almost make you think, “I have been here before.”
Has Capcom incorporated anything new into Resident Evil 5, you ask? Well they have, obviously, by adding co-op gameplay, but also in the less-than-exciting, but still important, fact that you can now switch guns or herbs or anything else you have with the touch of the d-pad at any time. This is a nifty little feature that can come in handy when up against multiple enemies, and gives the game a more streamlined feeling than having to go into the tedious equipment screen every 10 minutes.
Other than this though, the whole game reeks of a Resident Evil 4 remake with different characters and locations in pretty HD. But I stress the point that this may not be such a bad thing. People new to the Resident Evil series (where the hell have you been?!) may find it less appealing to play than other current third-person shooters, and with the industry moving along as it is, will RE5 stand the test of time? I will leave it up to you to decide.