Impressions: Resident Evil 5 Demo

After much anticipation, the English demo of Resident Evil 5 has finally been released. Though you technically could have snagged it while it was available via Japanese Xbox Live, the long wait is finally over. Does it uppercut the shuffling masses in the face, or does it double itself over in pain?

With the game set ten years after the events of the original Resident Evil transpired, Resident Evil 5 follows Chris Redfield during those ten long years. As a member of the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance (BSAA), he and partner Sheva Alomar tackle Africa to investigate the source of the virus. Starting up the demo, you’re treated to two different areas: Shantytown and Public Assembly. It’s a safe bet that they’re two segments of one chapter since they are so similar to each other.
 Public Assembly finds you in the middle of a protest or a rally being led by a menacing man hiding behind aviator glasses. The Ganados are having a meeting in a small, sand-colored area. The area is filled to the brim with weak-appearing structures as well as dirty, poorly constructed areas that seem as though they will fall to pieces at any moment. Chris and Sheva find themselves under attack behind a malleable chain-link fence, as the Ganados power through and over the walls, much to Chris and Sheva’s dismay. It’s then you’re thrust into the action, as you realize you will not be making it past the impenetrable gate that stands between you and a clean getaway. With that, the cut scene ends, and it’s time to get down to business. Shantytown, presumably the same location, has a helicopter falling out of the sky, crashing, as flying goons ambush Chris and Sheva. A bit more exploration of building interiors is introduced here, though the demo ends far sooner than expected.

You’re in control of a buff, up-to-the-task Chris Redfield, rugged and ready for business. Sheva follows closely behind, as the Ganados violently ambush the two. As we saw in RE4, they’re anything but slow. African-American Ganados stream into the tiny enclosed area where Chris and Sheva are forced to attempt to defend themselves. The first thing you will notice is that the controls function the same way as in the GameCube and PS2 Resident Evil 4 release. The only notable change is the usage of the left bumper to wield the knife. Everything else follows suit in the exact same way. The right trigger was used to aim laser sights and fire, just like we all became used to. It would have been a pleasant surprise to see the knife mapped to an analog stick in Call of Duty fashion, because that’s become second-nature after countless late night Team Deathmatch sessions.

Weapons available ranged from the ever-present handgun, to an extremely effective shotgun, or a rifle. As usual, if you aim for the head you’ll get an explosive surprise, revealing Las Plagas (or what I assumed to be such). However, rather than attacking you, I noticed the Ganados would fall to the ground dead, bubbling away. This was strange, and took some getting used to so as not to waste ammo. Ganados took several shots from a handgun before falling and usually one from the shotgun (my favorite) or rifle, just as expected. Aiming did tend to feel just a bit sluggish and inaccurate at times, especially with so many baddies inbound at one time. That’s right – there are far more enemies to contend with in this installment, presumably to compensate for the fact that there are two of you in the same area at any given time save for smaller puzzle-solving bits.
Sheva can hold her own, and does a fairly good job of saving you from getting your head taken off by a local’s shovel. If she does end up getting grabbed and attempted to be carried off, a quick press of Y will free her so that she can get right back into this action – none of that “LEEOOOOON!” noise like with Ashley Graham. When Chris is downed, or his health reaches “dying” status, Sheva is quick to get him back on his feet, giving a quick boost so that you can make an escape. This is quite refreshing, as I had my reservations about whether she would be useful or not. If you don’t enjoy playing with Sheva’s AI, you can always recruit a friend with the co-op feature. All in all, I was pleased with the interaction between Chris and Sheva, especially the short sequences where Sheva would climb a ladder with Chris’s help to cross a barrier and to cover Chris, or the other way around. This holds great potential for future cooperative play between friends.

RE5 is graphically gorgeous. Crisp, detailed environments blend seamlessly with interestingly crafted models for both Chris and Sheva – we’ve come a long way since the original Resident Evil. Ganados are appropriately terrifying; a good portion of the locals are wielding shovels or improvised weapons. In place of the ominous chainsaw-wielding baddies, I happened upon a few behemoths wielding giant hammers, who took around the same amount of damage to be able to down. The enemies weren’t terribly varied, but I did notice a good mix of clothing and features.

While playing through the demo, I did notice a blue line flickering near the top of the screen – while this should most definitely be taken care of in the actual game, it detracted from my gaming experience every so often. It was an obnoxious eyesore that should have been taken care of long before releasing the demo to the public, but it’s only a minor flaw. Though for the most part, I did enjoy what was presented, my major gripe with the demo was the lack of fluidity present when performing certain actions. As expected, you still cannot shoot while moving, and the knife’s configuration is more cumbersome than helpful.

Resident Evil 5 can be summed up in three words: Resident Evil 4. Now, before you instantly dismiss the series’ jump to current-gen consoles, consider this: the game may no longer be strictly survival horror, but what it has set out to do this time around, it does well. If you were expecting a Gears of War clone or even something remotely resembling Dead Space, you will be disappointed. While a hasty return to form was what many an old school Resident Evil fan hoped for, the decision to stay true to the new format was much appreciated. The fact that RE5 mirrors RE4 directly is one of the best things we could have hoped for, in an age of botched sequels and haphazard remakes. It’s one thing to complain about a series bucking the popular trend, and another to call what Resident Evil has become “bad.” It’s impossible to please everyone. Longtime fans such as myself are split on the direction the series is moving in, but what is presented is fast, furious, and full of tension. Keep in mind that it is nowhere near as terrifying as previous titles could be at times, but where it lacks in horror it more than makes up for in “Oh, crap!” moments. RE5’s tagline is “Fear you can’t forget,” and I’m already replaying the demo over and over in my mind, anxiously awaiting March. It’s suddenly seeming like too long to wait.

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