The Resident Evil 5 demo is out and as it happens, I’m just putting my finishing moves into Resident Evil 4 on the Playstation 2. Comparison is interesting.
Much more so than any other generational update of a series I can think of, Resident Evil 5 looks like the real deal. The eye candy makeover is amazing and while it plays pretty much the same, it’s updated enough to not feel like a thing of the past.
The demo has been getting a lot of criticism for its controls. I really don’t see what the matter is. If they had gone with straight Resident Evil 4 controls, sure, I could understand the whining. Resident Evil 4 is a bit clunky, despite being one of the best action titles of the last generation. But the simple changes to following conventions on the firing (aim on the left shoulder, fire on the right shoulder, instead of hitting X to fire) and movement (strafing on the left analogue, camera on the right, instead of turning in place) is sufficient to bring the series to the modern days. Yes, you’re still rooted when firing. Yes, it’s still appropriate.
The biggest change apart from the very well crafted graphics – certainly the best stuff out of Japan in this generation thus far – is the buddy system. I was initially worried to have a tag-along AI partner on the scene to worry about, but I’ll be damned – I never once had to worry about her competence. She saved my butt numerous times and I could always count on her to have my back. Splitting resource gathering from the field (you take that herb, I take these bullets) felt like a meaningful addition to the game. I was very surprised to see her picking up stuff without my say so when she needed it. And no, this didn’t bother me in the slightest.
Indeed, the moment when she was separated from me and I had to help her defend herself in a scripted (and very, very predictable) manner felt like the most awkward part of the experience. Just when they had made me respect this character, they shoved me right back to classic videogame buddy escort territory. To their defense I have to say that the way she handled herself in the scene did wow me, kicking off zombies left and right.
The inventory system is a seemingly minor, but fundamental departure from the series’ history. Not stopping the action to allow you to fiddle around your rucksack in peace really adds to the tension, forcing you to plan ahead. I found myself getting much more engaged than in previous titles, although I can see why it could be a bit much to handle for many.
I’ve played the demo on both the Xbox 360 and the PS3. At least on my TV (a Sony Bravia 32″ LCD), there is bad tearing on the Xbox 360, none whatsoever on the PS3. That’s enough to drive my purchase. Tearing is the one graphical glitch that really gets to me.