A couple of weeks ago, we got the opportunity to visit Milestone and spend some quality time with the latest entry in Capcom’s survival horror series – Resident Evil. The build we played was the same one that was presented at this year’s Tokyo Game Show. The demo featured two short levels and also gave us the first glimpse into the newly introduced co-op mode.
As you may know, one of the biggest changes in Resident Evil 5 is the inclusion of co-op. For the first time in the Resident Evil series (Outbreak doesn’t count), you can play through the campaign co-operatively. The second character introduced is Sheva. The campaign can be played either online, split-screen or via system link. In case you don’t have anyone to play with, the game will take control of the second character. The friendly AI that controls Sheva does a wonderful job; she’ll constantly heal you, provide you with different items (ammo included) and most importantly, she can hold her own when surrounded by enemies.
Sunlight is not something that you would normally associate with a Resident Evil game, or any horror game for that matter. But Resident Evil 5 changes all that. Both the levels we played took place in an unnamed African nation in broad daylight. According to the producers, sunlight will play a big role in the game, although we didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary in the levels we played.
The first level took place in a shanty town where Chris and his female partner are trapped inside a hut surrounded by infected villagers. Things got more intense when a mini boss brandishing a giant axe appeared. It’s an excellent open-ended level, where your only objective is to survive till a rescue chopper arrives. The second level was much more linear in terms of design. It also shows off how well the co-op elements are implemented into the gameplay. You will run into sections where you and your partner will have to split up in order to complete an objective. This could be anything from opening a door to solving a puzzle. The level comes to its climax when you run into another mini boss, a chainsaw wielding maniac capable of taking you down with one hit.
One thing that hasn’t changed though is how Resident Evil 5 plays. It feels exactly like Resident Evil 4 and I really, really mean it. The ‘over the shoulder’ camera has been tweaked and bit and your character moves a bit quicker than before, helping the game achieve a much more action-oriented approach.
To make the game more accessible to new players, the developers have also introduced a new control scheme, dubbed the ‘shooter controls’. The new controls don’t really work in reality because it’s nothing more than a remapping of the old controls into current shooter standards ie: L1 to aim, R1 to shoot. A little birdie, however, did tell us that the controls will be further tweaked (read dumbed down) in the forthcoming builds.
This time around, Chris also has a range of new melee moves. Sadly, like Resident Evil 4, these attacks are once again context sensitive and the attack icon will only appear when it wants to. A dedicated button sure would have helped. There is also a new inventory screen which simply breaks the flow of the game.
As expected, Capcom’s proprietary Framework engine churns out some gorgeous visuals. Chris’ model in particular is superb with excellent attention to detail. Sadly, the frame rate in this particular build wasn’t up to the mark. The level also suffered from a few V-sync (screen tearing) issues. Although we only got to play the PS3 version, both versions are expected to look nearly identical when released.
It’ll be very interesting to see how Resident Evil purists react to some of the changes to the new game. While it doesn’t reinvent the series like its predecessor, Capcom have to be very careful not to alienate its core fans in order to attract new ones. But from the time we spent with the game, Resident Evil 5 is shaping up to be another excellent entry into this long running series. Resident Evil 5 is set for release on PS3 and Xbox 360 on Friday the 13th, March 2009.