Fifteen Minutes with Resident Evil 5 Demo

By Shamus
on Feb 26, 2009
Filed under:
Game Reviews
  1. I launch the demo. There are two levels for me to play: Public Assembly, and Shanty Town. That seems pretty reasonable. I pick Public Assembly.
  2. Loading screen. It gives me the “here is all the controls you will need, just in case you have a photographic memory” image. The kind of thing which was lampooned in this Penny Arcade strip.
  3. I’m in the game. I’m a dude. I have a woman following me. We are in some ramshackle buildings. There is a cutscene of a guy with a megaphone, whipping some zombies into a frezny. Up on a roof, a guy with an axe decapitates the only non-zombie guy around. Then they notice my dude and his female companion and run at us.
  4. Back up a second here. Who am I? What am I doing here? Do I have any particular goal? Who’s my friend? Where are we? (From reading what people are saying about the game I’ve gleaned that it all takes place in Africa. But “Africa” is a little broad. And are we really going to include people talking about the game in forums as part of the narrative?) Is it too much to ask for someone to put things in context before throwing me into zombietown? I have nothing invested in these characters yet. I don’t even know my dude’s name. I know this is the demo and they couldn’t put in all the cutscenes, but could they throw me a bone and give me a little text as to who I am, what I’m doing, what time period the game is set in, who I’m working for, that sort of thing?
  5. The zombies start crawling out of the woodwork. I shoot a few. Ten seconds later I’m out of bullets. That was quick. Even if every bullet had scored a kill, I wouldn’t have anywhere near enough of them. Oh wait… I have a shotgun. I use that.
  6. There are a lot of quicktime events and button prompts popping up. Help your friend! Shake off the zombie! Ask for help! Perform a finishing move! That zombie dropped money (?!?) pick it up! Colored circles are popping up so fast I feel like I’m playing guitar hero.
  7. The shotgun runs dry. Maybe if I had been super-perfect with aiming I could have cleared them. But I have no bullets and lots of zombies are swarming us. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong. They keep getting back up. Should I be taking more time to score headshots? Did I miss some ammo in all the confusion? Am I even supposed to be fighting these guys? Maybe they’re endless and I’m meant to run away?
  8. A guy comes on the radio, says he’s coming to help us. We have radios?
  9. A seven foot guy with an axe has entered the room. I can do awesome martial arts moves when a zombie grabs me, but I don’t know how to just switch to fisticuffs. The axe comes down. I’m dead.
  10. The game shows me a little advertisement for the full version, proclaiming, “FEAR YOU CAN’T FORGET”. Erm. I love me some scary games. Silent Hill 2 and 4 both rattled me so bad I thought about quitting several times. But this is just random violence. It’s about as frightening as watching a bunch of unrelated b-movie zombie attack clips chained together. How can anyone find this frightening?
  11. I am dumped all the way back to the title screen. I guess the designers didn’t think anyone would want to keep playing after that. I think they’re right, but I decide to give the game another chance.
  12. I have no idea what I’m doing, and I don’t remember the controls, so I decide to bump the difficulty down until I get the hang of it, if only to save myself another trip all the way back to the title screen.
  13. Sigh. There is no difficulty adjustment. Wow. Good thing all gamers everywhere in the world are at exactly the same level of skill, I guess.
  14. Loading screen. Controls. The game begins again and I realize it’s cleared the controller settings. I re-invert the camera axis and dive back into zombietown.
  15. I try making sure I score nothing but headshots. This proves to be rather hard. Zombies are mobbing me and I can’t tell if this approach is worse or better. It’s all open mouths and quick time events. I run out of ammo anyway. Axe dude shows up again. I decide to leg it.
  16. The area we’re in isn’t very big. It’s a couple of shacks and a house. I can get up onto the roof, jump to another roof, and then climb back down again. This lets me run laps around the area. The zombies always pause before they lunge, so I’m basically invulnerable as long as I can keep jogging.
  17. Our nameless friend radios us from his undisclosed location again and promises to send help. Whatever.
  18. Jog, jog, jog. Zombies climb up to the roof just as I jump down. They leap down just as I hit the stairs again. Sometimes I run right past one as he lunges at the air behind me. The scene takes on an absurd slapstick feel. Yakety Sax pops into my head and I begin grinning.
  19. I can see a gate – a perfectly climbable gate – but my big strong hero can’t figure out how to open or climb it. The zombies start to clump up around me so I go back to jogging.
  20. Radio Guy cuts in again and promises that he’ll be here to help in a minute. Whatever man. No rush. I’m good here. Everyone’s jogging.
  21. Radio Guy shows up in a helicopter. We have helicopters? He uses a rocket launcher to blow open the gate. Honestly, if my guy is too lazy or stupid to haul his butt over an obstacle like that then it’s probaby best to let him die, but whatever. At least the gate is open, so we can finally see the rest of this lev-
  22. Title screen again. I guess that’s it for that level? Kind of… pathetically small. And I guess the designers didn’t think that after completing the first level we might want to go on to the second?
  23. I start up the second level. The game has once again forgotten all my settings, so I go and invert the camera again.
  24. This level looks pretty much like the last. Corrugated metal buildings. I still have no idea why my character would be screwing around in this hellhole instead of jumping on the helicopter and leaving town. And I’m tired of groping for reasons to care.

You know what pisses me off? All through the 90’s, games struggled to shoehorn a story into their pixelated adventures. Before they had voice acting, or motion capture, or facial expressions, or any other fancy tools, they were trying to create characters and stories. Now developers have more money than they know what to do with and technology that would have been indistinguishable from magic to a developer in 1994, all they can think to make is “Guy Shooting Zombies”. This demo had less story and less context than Wolfenstein 3D.

This wasn’t scary at all. It wasn’t very fun. It was unintentionally hilarious when I discovered the joys of the zombie rodeo. But to see such lavish visuals yoked to such wanton idiocy fills me with despair.

I would not buy this game were it not for Stolen Pixels. I do plan on picking it up, but only so that I can heap shame on whatever nonsense plot the full version contains. And I cringe at the responses I’m going to get to those strips from the die-hard fans: “u dont get it RE5 not about story its all about the gameplay!!!” As if “good story” is some sort of unobtainable technological goal, some lofty ideal nobody can attain. As if story doesn’t add anything to the richness of a game. As if it’s hard to devise scenarios that simply make sense. The only zombies I’m afraid of are the ones that will mob me for pointing out the wasted potential.

EDIT: I re-did the last couple of paragraphs, as it sounded like I was calling all RE fans idiots. That wasn’t my intention. I just wanted to point out that this is a series, like Final Fantasy, that will draw ankle biters if you take it to task for its shortcomings. It’s cool if you like the game, but I remain firm in my belief that a coherent story would act as a multiplier to whatever entertainment the game has to offer.

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  1. Strangeite says:

    Shamus, you are an American. Aren’t you aware that you are supposed to think of Africa as one giant country instead of an entire continent?

    Be careful or we will take away your “Stupid American” card.

  2. Aergoth says:

    For the sake of it:
    Zombies. Should. Be. Scary.
    ’nuff said.

    FIRST!

  3. Conlaen says:

    “How can anyone find this frightening?”

    Well that’s a little unfair isn’t it? Plenty of people find fear in the genre of this type of survival horror. Just because it’s not your forte, does that really mean that you can’t even phantom how someone that is not you could find this frightening?

    Mind you, I am no huge fan of the genre, but yes, I do find the “Shit there’s zombie’s everywhere and I’m all out of bullets” can add to the fear factor. Don’t fall to the Dark Side Shamus.

  4. DaveMc says:

    At the risk (or with the intention? you decide) of highjacking this thread, I wanted to ask something. I love a strong story, but most of the recent examples of good writing in games tend to be action games (Bioshock and Portal leap to mind). For someone with no talent for that sort of thing — I would probably have died *during the loading screen* in the RE5 demo — I’m wondering if there are turn-based games (or not-very-hard action games) where people like the stories? I can just about handle RTS’s, if I crank down the difficulty, but they’re not known for their story focus, either. So that leaves RPGs and point-and-click adventure games, I guess. I prefer the former to the latter, but if people have games whose stories they particularly enjoyed, I’d be interested to hear them!

  5. wererogue says:

    So, basically your problem with this demo is that it’s a gameplay demo, and not a pulitzer-winning tutorial?

    More specifically, your complaints break down into:
    1. I don’t know what’s going on
    I suspect the demo would be a lot bigger if they were going to clue you in on the whole story first

    2. The setting seems stupid
    That’s possibly, although not necessarily, because you don’t know what’s going on

    3. I don’t know what I’m doing
    I’m including “my character can’t do things that I can, like climb 8ft fences” in this

    My experience of the demo was more like this:

    “I wonder if the combat’s like RE4 was. Yup, pretty much – but with more quick-time crap. Good job throwing us in the deep end – shows you the game isn’t going to be holding back. Ok, so if I die, my buddy brings me back? That’d be a bit lame, except that it seems hard enough that I’m going to use it a fair bit. Woah! Huge dude – better keep away from that hammer thing. This guy takes ages to kill! Kind of bored of running in circles now… ah, great – I’ve been rescued for some reason.”

    The demo made me want to play the game, because it gave me a taster of how the game plays. It also didn’t spoiler the (probably pretty schlocky) story, to my appreciation. Since RE4 they haven’t really been survival horror games any more – more action horror. Which I enjoyed – the RE series was never really the best for survival horror. I didn’t mind not being able to climb the fences because I’m used to it from the older games, although I was surprised to find that I could jump off that cliff onto the little bamboo tower.

    I can see why that demo wouldn’t inspire you to buy the game. It didn’t show you anything you’d want to repeat.

    • Shamus says:

      wererogue: Pulitzer-prize? Man, all I wanted was a little text: You’re Soldier Joe. You’re in Zombistan, looking for survivors. You’ve just rescued Angela Bulletsponge, your friend and former Thai-bo instructor. She was here to return a library book when the zombie plague broke out.

      I didn’t even need spoilers. Just… context.

      The “I don’t know what I’m doing” boils down to the fact that the demo doesn’t do any training. It’s been ages since I plated RE4 on a completely different console. Give me a hallway where I fight ONE zombie, to make sure I know how to aim and shoot. Have me use the knife once. Force the player through a window so they know how that works. Then let them find the shotgun so they learn the weapons-switch business in a situation were they can read on-screen prompts without being eaten.

      THEN bury them in zombies.

      • Shamus says:

        I knew this post was going to be trouble.

        The problem is – this demo is aimed right at the fans and is as alienating as possible to anyone not up to speed on the controls. What’s the sense in that? Those people are buying it anyway.

        And “demo” doesn’t excuse these shortcomings, it makes them all the more appalling. A screen of text and and an extra couple of hallways of training would not have made this demo significantly bigger. But it would have made it significantly more fun.

  6. Julian says:

    “technology that would have been indistinguishable from magic” Nice reference, though I can’t remember who said it originally.

  7. Neil Polenske says:

    Y’see, I don’t get this post. Your smarter than this Shamus, so I don’t get how you can complain about a game that’s clearly not targeted to your tastes for…not targeting your tastes.

    First off I’ve played plenty of demos that provided no context to the story whatsoever. To me, it makes sense they’d concentrate more on the game play for a demo rather than expositional cutscenes to explain context. You can’t play a cutscene and as cinematic as games have gotten, I’d still rather learn how the game PLAYS before I find out about context. I don’t need context to enjoy a game, even if it IS nice icing. I didn’t need to know that Mario was a plumber or what that had to do with jumping on turtles in order to enjoy that game.

    Also: DEMO!

    Besides, you prolly wouldn’t enjoy the story anyway. You gotta treat RE series as the new generation Grindhouse. The stories were always cheesy and laughably bad. The lack of irony in the presentation makes it all the more fun…least to me. It’s a game that’s presented as an action movie, not a horror. I don’t see how you could expect it to be freightening.

    Unless this post is being done ironically and if that’s the case, I gotta ask, for what purpose? Your basically teasing a game for being exactly what it always intended to be.

    Final Note: I’ve heard the game actually is taking place in Haiti.

    Speaking o ‘which, Shamus, you plan on commenting over the controversy regarding this game once it comes out?

  8. Sydney says:

    DaveMC: Try Fire Emblem, for the Game Boy Advance. Not Sacred Stones, just the one called “Fire Emblem”. Also try Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance for the GCN, and FE: Radiant Dawn for Wii.

    Turn-based strategy. Stat-heavy. Story-heavy. Difficulty-modifiable. (Semi) self-balancing.

  9. Factoid says:

    By the way Shamus, speaking of quick time events, did you ever have any luck working the lag out of your tuner interface? DScaler works wonders on the lag for my Hauppage WinTV which ordinarily has at least a full second of lag.

    I plugged in my 360 and loaded up Guitar Hero because it has a handy delay calibrator and once I bypassed the hardware mpeg encoding process I was down to a very reasonable 25ms, which is about the same as I get when I do the same calibration on my home theater system.

    • Shamus says:

      Factoid: I don’t know why, but Dscaler makes a mess of the incoming signal. It looks like it halves the resolution, to the point where regular text is too pixelated to read. I dunno why. I fiddled with it but couldn’t find a setting that would deliver a picture comparable to the bundled software.

  10. Conlaen says:

    But really, it’s not like every game *needs* great story. Or even context. And if Resident Evil ever did appeal to me, it would never have been for the great story telling.

    I never even picked one up, and then someone pushed RE4 in my hands and told me to try it. I did, reluctantly, and I have to admit I sorta enjoyed it and actually finished the game. The story was pretty abysmal if you ask me, but that didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the game.

    If you play Pacman, do you also want to know why you eat the dots? Why the ghosts are after you?

    • Shamus says:

      Conlaen: Pac Man isn’t trying to manipulate me emotionally. FEAR is supremely hard to create, moreso than any other emotion in a game. Yes. You need context before you can scare someone.

      For a game touting FEAR YOU WON’T FORGET, this is silly. If it sold itself as “zombie-blasting fun”, I wouldn’t have room to complain.

  11. Gasoline says:

    The RE5 Demo is a gameplay Demo that doesn’t need any information about the story and the background of the Characters. It is Resident Evil, so you know that you have to do with Zombies/Mutants/Whatever that are probably infected by a Virus/Parasite/Whatever.
    You didn’t like the other RE games? Well, you probably won’t like RE5. You are craving for years for RE5? Well, this Demo shows you the gameplay that awaits you.
    And as a person who is interested in the RE series, you probably have learned on one of the many news about RE5 that the name of the Protagonist is Chris Redfield (from RE 1, I think).

    My conclusion after suffering this Demo was, that the controls of the Demo were not really intuitive, that I cannot understand why I cannot move and shoot at the same time and that the Resident Evil series declines from nice Survival Horror to kinda Horror Shooter (without the ability to move and shoot at the same time). I had fun with RE 4, but that too was no Survival Horror Game anymore, it was a Horror Action Game.

    I probably will give RE5 a try and – hopefully – enjoy it, but I am pretty sure that it won’t give me the same Survival-Horror-Fun I had with RE Nemesis, for example.

  12. Strangeite says:

    Julian: the quote comes from Sir Arthur C. Clarke

  13. Shinjin says:

    DaveMC: If you don’t mind reaching back a few years (and can find a copy), Jagged Alliance 2 is a game with good story elements. It’s squad-based combat, so not just RPG and adventure games can have story elements. I’d argue that this game would not have been nearly as enjoyable without the story elements (the main story arc as well as the NPC interaction).

  14. Luke Maciak says:

    It seems that making good demos is a dying art as well. I remember that in the good old days of PS1 a demo usually meant you got the whole first level, including the cinematics, the tutorial and etc. You could actually get the feel for the story, as well as gameplay.

    Even the shorter ones were pretty good – I remember Silent Hill demo which allowed you to run around the foggy town chasing your lost daughter up until you went into an alley and the town gradually transformed for the first time to the dark version and you got mobbed by the fetus zombies.

    It gave you a glimpse of the story gave you a motivation to keep exploring the town, and showcased basic game play. It didn’t really spoil any of the story either. It gave you the much needed context.

    These days no one even wants to make demos – out of fear that players (dirty pirates, all of them!) will realize the game is just a turd polished to a high shine and then they won’t buy it.

  15. Chris says:

    I think what you have here is a game that is the complete opposite of Prince of Persia in every way. Whereas Prince of Persia has a wide access to a large variety of people, be they “hardcore” or “casual”, Resident Evil 5 has a limit to people that play a lot of games.

    I’ve always found Resident Evil to be more about suspense, but honestly, no one knows the difference between actual fright and suspense these days. To me, if I find myself about to go to sleep at night but not wanting to turn the light off, then it was scary (this happened with one room in BioShock and almost any time I read Lovecraft). I haven’t played any Silent Hill yet (on my to do list), but from what I gather it’s all psychological, which is what real terror is.

    Resident Evil is all about suspense. It’s about “OH MY GOD I DUNNO IF I’M GOING TO GET OUT OF THIS ALIVE!”, so when(/if) you do you are full of adrenaline and thinking “WOW that was awesome!”. This is part of the reason the controls are designed the way they are, and I personally have no issue with them. My only problem with the design is simply that the red marker from your gun doesn’t show up on the environment. It makes lining up your shot on enemies an enormous pain, and I long for the Wii nunchuck setup I had for RE4 (about the only time I’ve ever desired it over a control pad). Otherwise, I’m fine with how it plays.

    However, if you never played RE4 or any previous title, then jumping into this demo isn’t going to turn you off due to a lack of context. It’s going to turn you off to the game because of how insanely hard it is. Being an experienced gamer, I loved how in the first fifteen minutes of RE4 they throw you from the frying pan into the Hell fires of Satan’s wash room. It spelled out really quickly that it wasn’t a Doom clone, and it wasn’t your typical shooter. You’re not a one man army. You just have the advantage of fire arms. The first time you get in there, you’re supposed to die. Now that I’ve played the game several times, I have a pattern of picking up weapons and items before diving into the house, where I get onto the roof and sneak around to a spot that bottlenecks their access.

    But no one wants to do that in a demo that doesn’t at least give them fifteen minutes to adjust. If you didn’t play Resident Evil 4, then Resident Evil 5 tosses the frying pan out altogether and throws you in without a second thought. Most players won’t know to push the cabinets in front of the door and windows. They won’t know to bust open boxes and grab ammo first. They won’t know that there will be a point that they need to run outside, grab more ammo and find a nice corner to hide away in until another spot opens to run around.

    From the perspective of an avid fan of RE4, my first thought to your post was “He should rent RE4 for the Wii before he plays RE5”. But you already have, and it turns out that is the whole point. Resident Evil 5 isn’t accessible, it forces people already good at games to get good at their style.

    In some ways, I don’t mind them keeping Resident Evil 5 hard. It makes me feel much more accomplished when I have completed it. However, it certainly limits its audience for a lot of the wrong reasons.

    Last note: while the A.I. is decent, it is still overall better to have a friend to co-op with. Unfortunately, the split screen looks horrible, so it is better to use a friend over Xbox Live.

  16. Conlaen says:

    “I knew this post was going to be trouble.”

    Perhaps because you’re pulling a bit of an opposite of the fanboy behaviour that you always say you hate so much. Opposite because in stead of the fanboys telling you: “How could you possibly not like The Witcher?!” You are now saying “How could you possibly like Resident Evil?!”

    • Shamus says:

      Conlaen: I get why people like RE. What I don’t get is why the developers are trying to sell zombie-shoot-em-up-rodeo as a… scary game? I liked Fable 2 for its gameplay despite the horrible story, but I also gave it a savage beating for the story.

  17. Conlaen says:

    I don’t mind the game touting FEAR YOU WON’T FORGET. Like I said, I did play Resident Evil 4, and I have to admit, there was some fearfull moments that I still remember. The first zombie that had a tentacle shoot out of his neck after I blew his brains off had me crapping my pants. The little maze with the demon dogs had me continually turning in circles to check if one of them wasn’t sneaking up behind me.

    Mind you, it may not be the type of fear you look for in a game, but you can hardly fault a game for using different definition of fear.

    • Shamus says:

      Conlaen: Very interesting that those parts of the game worked for you. I’d love to sit down with a RE fan over drink X and get to the bottom of how this game scratches their itch. By the hedge maze I had completely checked out and was rolling my eyes and laughing. But some people do still get scared of the game. I’m not sure if it’s an immersion / narrative fear or a duress of combat type fear, but it’s there and some people feel it.

      Everyone I know personally falls into two categories:

      1) This game is laughably stupid. (Me.)
      2) The game is fun even if the story is a joke.

      But there is a whole segment of people who really are scared by that thing, and I can’t help but wonder how it works for them. Is it an age thing? Do the cutscenes just not shatter immersion for them? Are they connecting with the protagonist in some way that I’m not?

  18. Factoid says:

    The trick with DScaler is finding the right filters and settings. Sounds like you’re having problems with the deinterlacer. I will admit it’s not a very easy application to learn. It’s very much targeted at hardcore AV dorks, which I am not.

    I stumbled across a set of filters that worked good for me, otherwise I’d have dumped it as well.

    The community in the DScaler forums is pretty good if you have the inclination to invest the time.

  19. Dustin says:

    I agree w/ Shamus, the demo was horrible. Just a little bit of hand holding at the beginning is all I ask, to go over some basics like inventory management. Having a gate that looks perfectly climbable be otherwise is just plain lazy. Slap a couple spikes at the top or some barb-/razor-wire and problem is solved. I played both levels and wasn’t compelled at all to get the full version, and I played RE4 on both the GameCube and Wii.

    To take my comparison to RE4 even further, what they SHOULD have done with the RE5 demo was take a part of the game similar to the opening act of RE4, where the villagers are attacking and then stop after the bell starts ringing. That gives you just enough ‘story’ to want to know what is going on, what drives the zombies to stop attacking, and enough gameplay to get an idea of how the entire game will be played. The RE5 demo failed in both of these aspects.

  20. ydant says:

    Shamus, I’m with you totally on this one. In fact, your first 12 steps were exactly my thought process (nothing missed, nothing out of order). I did not replay after dying, and I never figured out I should run away. I simply got bored and didn’t have a potential paycheck / advertising to fuel me on.

    The problem with this demo is really simple, and I don’t think most of the other readers are getting it. The demo’s sole purpose is to sell MORE copies of the game. It has the potential to bring people (like me) who have never played RE into the mix. It fails miserably at that. The only people who will play this “demo” and come out with any interest in buying the game are people who have already decided to buy it.

    The demo could have had one hard-core section as well as the first level of the final game (I’m assuming it will be more friendly to new users). This is the traditional way of selling games through demos/shareware – let the player go through the first part of the game and get hooked.

    I think you’ve opened yourself up to a level of fandom you don’t usually get by attacking this one. It should be fun.

  21. Conlaen says:

    Yep, that’s all I’m saying. Just cause you didn’t experience it. Doesn’t mean it can’t be there for other people.

    But I’m afraid I have to turn you down for having a drink. Even though I played RE4 to the end, the game didn’t quite scratch my itch enough. It was enjoyable, but the story wasn’t appealing enough, and I do enjoy other games tactics for the scare more then RE’s approach. It was mostly my completionism that drove me to finish the game in the end. So not a RE fan I’m afraid :)

  22. Al Shiney says:

    Call me a Shamus fanboy, but reading this post was entertainingly funny and that’s all I wanted out of it. RE5 isn’t even on my radar, so I wouldn’t have DL’d the demo anyway, but if I had intentions of doing so, this post would have saved me the effort. Time I can devote to gaming is precious and I don’t want to waste it wading through something I will ultimately call “crap”. I am not saying RE5 is crap, I’m saying I would have viewed it that way from my own personal viewpoint … in much the way Shamus did from his (for which some of you are chastising him).

    So be it, he put up the post knowing it would cause trouble and he got what he expected. But it’s equally worthwhile for me to thank him, not just for the entertaining post, but for the DMoTR-quality laughs I got viewing the linked Penny Arcade strip.

  23. Gasoline says:

    Hmmm… It never occured to me that the RE5-Demo had the goal to attract new customers. For me it was just a snack for the fan-base to calm them down ’cause the start had to be postponed for a month (or so).

  24. JW says:

    In response to the ‘it’s a demo, not a tutorial’ argument.

    A company’s goal when releasing a demo should be to sell the game. If the demo makes the player feel frustrated and confused, it’s not selling the game. It doesn’t have to be a full-on tutorial, but it does have to do enough training to avoid making the player decide not to buy the game.

  25. ydant says:

    Hmmm… It never occured to me that the RE5-Demo had the goal to attract new customers. For me it was just a snack for the fan-base to calm them down ’cause the start had to be postponed for a month (or so).

    It might be that – I wasn’t aware of any delay. Still, once those fans have bought the game the demo will still be there. At that point it can only bring in new customers – if done properly.

    As a tangent, I feel bad for people whose lives are so tied up in a game’s release that they need to be placated after a minor delay.

  26. Stringycustard says:

    I think you’re meant to have been following the game dev online in rapt awe, and so should have seen multiple vids of these levels already before playing. A narrative from the game dev over the internet vids is all the story you ever need anyway.

    I think the choice of only showing a quick screengrab of the controller enhances the difficulty and replay value (“oh right, now I see what the gun reload button is” scenarios makes it very exciting to replay the game). The anxiety of trying to work out what the run button is really adds to the levels of fear.

    Not giving you any backstory adds to the depth of emotion you feel for the characters because now you don’t get silly plot twists getting in the way of a strong silent character’s facial expressions (you need to use the “rotate camera button to see them here, but when you do, trust me, they’re worth it. The slight frown that nameless guy has when he pulls the trigger really is awe-inspiring).

    Look, the gate was pretty tricky to pass I’m sure – would you be able to climb it with that much equipment on your back? If that thing was higher than his chest then there’s no chance he could have done it if this was real life anyway.

    You have to understand the character’s radio is slightly broken (it’s stated in the online previews, page 12) and the button to speak is a bit nobbly so he can only receive messages. What other games have you seen that actually have decay on equipment like that? It’s so real.

    You don’t appreciate the hard work that went into these design decisions, Mr Young. You really don’t.

  27. Rainmaker, the gray says:

    Hey, this is my first post here.

    First: jajajaajajajaj (Argentinian laugh). I am at work and I loughed out loud like 3 times. You really are funny, Shamus, really!!

    Second: I think the guys here are right about the point that it is Resident Evil. In addition, it is a DEMO for RE, so the gameplay should be the more emphasised item. Nevertheless, I agree that no info whatsoever is a little too much.

    Keep your posts going, man. I found many of them really interesting and amusing.

    PS: I am playing SH Homecoming and I share your opinion every time I play it, but i really want to finish it!!!

  28. ydant says:

    You don’t appreciate the hard work that went into these design decisions, Mr Young. You really don’t.

    Not that I’m Shamus, but I think it’s more along the lines of he’s a bit incredulous that all of that hard work in level design was treated with such contempt when they released the demo.

  29. Stringycustard says:

    ydant: I know it’s rough reading the paragraphs before those 2 sentences but you might want to try and see, I don’t know maybe the first couple before commenting.

    Heck, maybe I should have blatantly put a smiley face in there with a wink ( this thing –> ;) ) to kind of point out what I was thinking.

  30. Alleyoop says:

    You had me at Yakety Sax.

    If an experienced gamer like Shamus is disappointed or frustrated by this demo, then his point stands that it likely wouldn’t be sucking in many new buyers for the franchise. Isn’t that at least one purpose of releasing a demo in the first place?

  31. Simulated Knave says:

    I remember the Descent demo.

    7 levels. Hours of gameplay. The complete introduction to the story.

    It gave you everything you needed to decide whether or not you wanted to play the game – and I mean everything.

    • Shamus says:

      Simulated Knave is singing my song. I think 7 hours might be selling it a bit short, too. I was broke at the time, and I played that thing for DAYS on my barely-capable 386. I know why those days ended, but I will always miss them.

  32. ydant says:

    Stringycustard, I see now that your post might have been meant in jest/sarcasm. Sadly, you did too good of a job at coming off as a fanatic. My apologies.

  33. Stringycustard says:

    ydant: ha, no worries. I think I went on for too long anyway. I probably would have skipped it if somebody else had posted something that length.

  34. ydant says:

    I actually never purchased Descent. No money and it was almost a full game by itself. What an awesome game, and so much fun. I bought it again on GoG and was underwhelmed. What happened to the feelings of vertigo and tense anticipation? I’m too spoiled by graphics now. :(

  35. JB says:

    I sort of liked the demo, except for one thing. At the end, I presume, of Shanty Town there is this ********. One mistake, from me or my computer controlled partner, means replaying the whole level. And it is way to easy to make a single mistake.

    If they change this so making a mistake means just replaying that part, then I might just buy the thing.

  36. Lazlo says:

    The problem you’re having is the vagaries of the English language. You look at the phrase “fear you won’t forget” and interpret it as a sentence fragment wherein “fear” is a noun being described as the type that “you won’t forget”. Now, take a step back and revisit that as a complete sentence where “fear” is a second person imperative verb. Expand it out for yourself to “Be afraid that you won’t forget how bad the plot is.”

    They’re being refreshingly honest. Really.

  37. Duoae says:

    Yep, Shamus pretty much nailed what the demo did for me. Story/context issues aside (because i don’t mind those so much) the demo was horrible. It was badly designed from both an introduction perspective and gameplay perspective and, quite frankly, the loading times and quantities are terrible – a failing of the engine and is, again, something the PA guys pointed out recently.

    I also don’t particularly like the survival horror type games because i usually find them pretty stupid… however, after liking Cold Fear i thought i’d give RE 5 a chance since it was a free demo. To the person who said that the demo was targeted at people who play lots of games, i’d argue that your view is wrong. I play lots of games over a number of different platforms…. you can’t excuse bad design and controls as some sort of difficulty barrier.

  38. Fieari says:

    I never played any of the RE games until 4, but I found RE4 to be quite enjoyable, and I will even include the story in that equation. The thing is, even I found it silly, but I found it silly in a moody, non-wink-at-the-camera way… almost exactly like Metal Gear Solid. And I love Metal Gear Solid.

    The game was fun. The controls worked well for what they were offering, and after a short period of acclimatization, I found them intuitive and not a barrier to immersion, which is all I’m looking for. The dark setting gave everything a certain… well… color to how the game felt. And then the wacky stuff started happening, and I just rolled with it.

    Here’s a fair gauge. When playing Metal Gear Solid 2, was your reaction to discovering that there was a gigantic death machine hidden under the hudson “Oh come on!” or “Totally sweet!!!” Were you able to accept the fact that in this realistic-looking modernish military setting you were fighting a vampire, and no one seemed to notice the supernatural? Did the fact the revolver ocelot was being possessed by Liquid Snake via arm-transplant make you groan or make you intrigued?

    In a word, do you find over-the-top ridiculousness awesome, or ridiculous?

    Personally, I find it awesome. It doesn’t jar me out of the mood, it brings me into it. Now, none of it is “scary”… not in the way you want something to be scary. It has no psychological drama, no story-driven tension. But that’s not what I’m looking for. On the other hand, it does have gameplay-difficulty tension, and the over-the-top stuff plus the mood gives the difficulty-tension an extra kick that really hit it off for me.

    I know it doesn’t work for you, but after learning that not everyone enjoys the over-the-top stuff, I can understand why you wouldn’t enjoy this. It’s a case of allowing your willing suspension of disbelieve to go farther than ever before, and thus taking you to a land where things make sense in a completely different way, and just having fun with it. It’s a little like going through a haunted house with a five year old. You aren’t scared, but by putting yourself in a new mindset, you can enjoy it with the little kid. And if you get yourself sucked into the kid’s imagination, things can get even better…

  39. Rubes says:

    You know Shamus has stirred up trouble when he posts this many times in the comments.

  40. Drew says:

    Resident Evil 2 worked for me. That game was full of tension, and tension is a nice analog for fear. What they did right in that game was provide you with plenty of empty hallways and vacant or barely populated rooms. If everywhere you go you’re getting hammered by endless waves of anything, you don’t have time to be frightened. Anxious, and worried about dying, maybe, because you don’t want to have to reload your game, but not really frightened.

    In RE2, you found yourself retracing your steps a fair bit, and there was a giant, largely invulnerable enemy that chased you around for a good part of the game. You’d sometimes hear him walking, or making noise, but not see him. You always wondered when he was going to show up, and every time, you experienced a little twitter in your stomach. It’s really the quiet times, and the sense of dread that develops during them, that makes the fear build. You know something’s coming. You know it’s coming soon. But you’re not sure what it will be. And you don’t know when.

    I think it works even better when you have some other task you’re trying to complete. Even if the RE puzzles were pretty simple, you’d be thinking about the puzzle and where you needed to go and what you needed to do, and just when you’d start to forget about danger, an 8 foot behemoth would smash through the wall right next to you and you’d need some fresh undies. That was a fun time.

  41. Danath says:

    From what I understand the RE5 demo only shows random parts of the game, not the intro or any of that bit that would provide at least some explanation of whats going on.

    Now to be clear, I have not played it, this is just what I’ve heard.

  42. lebkin says:

    For me, the problem isn’t the lack of context or even the silly story. It all boils down to those controls. I don’t find the game fun to play. Its an awkward game to play, and I feel awkward controlling it. One could argue that poor controls are part of survival action horror games, but Dead Space has proven that’s not a requirement. No matter how awesome the game is, if I don’t like controlling it, I’ll simply pass on the game.

  43. Sydney says:

    Shamus, the reason it’s being sold as “FEAR YOU WON’T FORGET” – and the reason some people find the game “scary” while you don’t – is an issue of the definition of fear.

    You think of fear as the vague, foreboding dread of something unspeakable happening to your character, with whom you identify. The fear you get from sneaking around in the dark hoping the Whatever won’t see you. You don’t need real danger to feel this fear, just a connection with your avatar and a foreboding premise.

    Others think of fear as “fight or flight” fear. More of an adrenaline rush than dread. A great case-in-point, in my opinion, is Stringycustard’s comment above:

    “The anxiety of trying to work out what the run button is really adds to the levels of fear.”

    This sort of thing adds to the panic of “fight or flight” fear by adding an extra level of challenge, which ratchets up the tension. This appeals to certain fans. It also torpedoes dread fear by reminding you that “hey, this is a video game”. This alienates certain fans.

    Put differently: There’s Blair Witch Project fear, and there’s My Bloody Valentine 3D fear. One’s psychological horror, one’s visceral horror.

    Resident Evil is a visceral horror. Some people just don’t buy it. Others do.

  44. Robyrt says:

    Resident Evil 4 had some genuinely scary moments because it kept throwing new horrifying things at you. Tentacles bursting out of a destroyed head. A rock rolling down the path at you without warning. Statues coming to life. Knifing zombies because you’re out of bullets. Zombies grabbing you from behind. Zombies you have to kill with a sniper rifle at close range. Hearing your partner getting shot at. Et cetera.

    Resident Evil 5 looks like it will have these moments. My enthusiasm has waned, though, because the demo was so brutally difficult. Where is my tutorial level where Chris and Sheva learn how to open doors WITHOUT a dozen zombies at their back?

  45. equinox216 says:

    I’ve played RE, and enjoyed it, and I liked this post.

    I liked RE4, I had an entertaining time with the Wii shooter-on-rails, but I’ve never played any of the others. So I’m not personally invested in my assessment of the series as a whole, and not offended that you took this approach to the game. This seems to be contrary to the galaxy of your other repliers who seem to have taken a “THIS WILL BE HIS FINAL WORD ON THE DEMO, GAME, STORY, SERIES, AND WORTH OF RESIDENT EVILLLLLL.” tack to reacting to your reaction.

    What I’ve never considered RE to have achieved was some impossible ideal of ‘straight-up horror,’ or even gotten very close to a ‘narrative-driven horror’. In the same way that I qualify shooters in different ways (Playing RE4, I came to think of it as a ‘tableau shooter’, where, like Dead Space, you have to pick a spot to stand and then start dishing out projectiles. As opposed to the more general ‘FPS’, where you both move AND shoot, or the ‘shooter-on-rails’ the classic arcade lightgun games and their offspring are), I think of horror-genre games as falling into different categories.

    Silent Hill would be an example of a very environmental-, narrative-driven-horror game. In all horror games you explore your surroundings, get pieces of a story from in-game artifacts, and combat meanies, but for environmental-horror the real sense of menace comes from, well, guess. The WORLD is out to get you, being either antagonistic of the lifebars of the character in the game or the player’s anxiety levels (the games with ‘sanity’ bars, I suppose, attack both). The places you visit are trumped-up creepfests, the NPCs you encounter are there to deepen the unnerving aura, and the story is constructed in order to deepen tension. Combat isn’t about becoming a combat monster, but being scared of the situation and whether or not you can master it and get to the next scene. (Your critiques of later Silent Hill games had me feeling as if they’ve messed up the equation in making the combat too mechanical-mastery and detractive from the creep factor.) Ultimately, you play through to receive a very classic ‘horror movie’ experience of the willies.

    Resident Evil is an odd hybrid of shooter (the aforementioned ‘tableau-shooter’) and some of the weaker, but easier to implement, aspects of the narrative-driven horror. In RE you’ve got the collectibles and the various history-laden pieces you find in the game, with ‘something jumps out and attacks!’ moments having the fright of Ambush! take the place of Slowly Building Nervousness Culminating in Monster Sighting, like the environmental/narrative horror games try to achieve. The franchise itself has a history that you won’t find the entirety of in each game, but you’ll find references to fragments of throughout. RE’s got its creepy moments, but far more often it goes for the Gotcha!s over the Goosebumps.

    What I took from your reaction to the RE demo was that they’ve managed to crystallize, in possibly the purest form, that Gotcha! experience in order to show off some of the game tech and mechanics, but that they in no way tapped into the layered history they’ve built up over the course of their games, nor did they give you much beyond ‘Hey, Player of our Previous Games! Here’s what’s in store for you!’. Where the demo disenchanted you was when it felt like ‘what’s in store for you’ is a total absence of story, exposition, or warm-up tutorial, since they didn’t bother to filter any of those into their amuse-bouche of a pre-release.

  46. Sydney says:

    Resident Evil 4 had some genuinely scary moments because it kept throwing new horrifying things at you. Tentacles bursting out of a destroyed head. A rock rolling down the path at you without warning. Statues coming to life.

    ^ See, this is exactly my point. Some people think “This is scary because it made me jump”. Other people think “This is trite – scripted shock events remind me that I’m playing a video game and spoil the build-up of dramatic tension”. It all depends on what kind of fear you want.

    The payload of this difference is the fact that visceral horror doesn’t need a good story. It doesn’t need a story at all. You can derive visceral horror from two hours of a first-person floating camera with a hand getting waylaid by increasingly shocking monstrosities. Not even a main character, just monsters. And it’ll be scary because “Oh god a tentacle burst out of his throat; oh god his eye exploded; oh god he bit me; oh god it has two heads”.

    But psychological-horror fans won’t care at all, because they’ll be thinking “Who am I? Why do I care if I die? What is the plot building up to? This is stupid, this is lame, I’m going to go do something else.”

    It’s not that visceral-horror fans are plebes, or that psychological-horror fans are snobs. They just came in wanting different things.

  47. Rick says:

    My 2 cents:
    The demo did exactly what a demo should for me: Answer the question, “Would I want this game based on this sample?”

    My answer: No. Absolutely not.

  48. equinox216 says:

    Also, I seem to have timed my reply to dovetail perfectly with your edit. Hah.

  49. Sydney says:

    It’s cool if you like the game, but I remain firm in my belief that a coherent story would act as a multiplier to whatever entertainment the game has to offer.

    Unless you just want the violence and the gore, and all that pointless jibber-jabber means there isn’t any of it going on at the moment.

    Some people play zombie games for shooting zombies while they claw at the avatar. Any frame in which that’s not what’s going on is a wasted frame.

    I’m like this with sports. I never watch sports live, because when I watch them live I can’t skip the replays, the talking heads, and the commercial breaks. When I watch boxing, there are two phases. The actual round is taking place, or the TiVo is fast-forwarding. I skip the replays, I skip the between-rounds corner-talk, I skip the post-fight breakdowns and the pre-fight hype. Everything except the actual boxing is deadwood to me, because it isn’t the sport I came for.

    I went to a live UFC event once, and I brought a Game Boy to play in the breaks between rounds, in the longer breaks between fights, and during time-outs.

    I fully appreciate that some people like the analysis, the breakdowns, the slow-motion reviews of what’s happened. But I tune in to watch the sport, not to watch the commentators watch the sport.

    You’re the type who wants everything, and get really upset when you don’t get everything. I’m the type who wants one aspect, and only that one aspect, and anything other than that is a distraction and I wish it would leave. The RE5 demo was heroin to me, because it was exactly what I wanted and nothing else.

  50. Yes. RE4 was fun, but I had to make constant sanity checks everytime the story came up.
    I don’t see RE as horror, it’s a 3rd person shooter. With, as far as I’m concerned about, no story.
    Will probably be getting RE5 for the coop play, though.

  51. Paramnesia says:

    I’m one of those types who like to try demos to a series I’ve never played then decide based upon that if I want to buy it. Not everyone has been a RE fan from the start and following every bit of online news. So I agree that RE’s demo who sell the game not only to existing but to new players as well; how difficult would it have been, really, for a team of talented devs to include some sort of short optional intro to it?

  52. Colonel Slate says:

    Played the RE5 demo, and here’s my entry, I’ve never played a single RE game ever, before this one. Out of all the other “demos” I’ve played they seem to fall into three categories.

    “Beta” – True beta, not finished, no polished, but what it will look like and probably how it will run

    “Tech” – RE5 this is exactly the type of “demo” RE5 is, no information, no real anything, it’s higher than a beta because it is a part of the finished game, but it just shows off the “tech” part of the game, graphics, gameplay, that’s it.

    “Consumer” – My favorite, and the only thing I really call a demo, is called a “Consumer Demo” it is a demo that is to be given to random consumers so that they enjoy said product, giving them enough story to be interested, and enough gameplay to become hooked, where as it either stops a little before or after the “true” action begins.

    I have to agree with some of the other posters though, RE5 demo, because it was passed off as a “demo” not a “tech” demo, has swayed me to continue on the path of never playing an RE game

    And for you Fanboys, I own RE 1 though 4, including Code X and all that nonsense, and if I ever decided to play an RE game, I’ll play those first for “backstory” if there is any…

  53. DaveMc says:

    @Sydney and Shinjin: Thanks for the suggestions. And Sydney, I’m right there with you on Fire Emblem, I love those games. The strength of the characterizations only really became clear to me at the very end, when they did that “Where did they go from here” overview of every character, and I realized that I felt like I knew *every single one of them*.

  54. JW says:

    I’ve been thinking about other demos I’ve played recently, and I’ve found an example showing it is possible to create a demo that drops you right into action and still gives enough context and training.

    Mercenaries 2.

  55. K says:

    You are totally right. Saying something negative about a big series will get you flamed by fanboys (and saying something positive about WoW will get you flamed by the “too cool” guys).

    Resident Evil was a game with a story. RE5 is a game about pointlessly shooting zombies, which might appeal to 14-year olds, but not really to us old gamers who have seen the shooting stuff done to death.

  56. Anaphyis says:

    You have to approach RE as a parody, then it is actually funny. The plot of every RE game is so abysmal you cannot take it seriously unless your willing suspension of disbelieve rivals that of the zombies you are shooting. And lets not even get started on the dialog … just watch Yahtzee’s RE review to get an idea of just how bad it really is.

    The gameplay can be fun, if you are into third person railshooters, so I guess it’s no mistake thats pretty much the only thing they’ll show you in the demo – when every novelist knows you either hook your readers with the first paragraph or you’ll end up as airport literature.

    Also, the horror in survival horror is a euphemism at best. Most of the time, it’s survival-script-triggered-startling-attempt.

  57. Zolthanite says:

    Shamus, is The Escapist making you play RE5 for Stolen Pixels a la Yahztee and Skate 2?

    @K: Those are personal preferences. I’ve been gaming since I was 4. I just like shooting stuff.

    Resident Evil always has been and always will be The Greatest B-Movie Ever. That being said, I like following the train-wreck of a story they have. It’s like a low-production MGS, but without the This Game Is Semi-Serious Business vibe.

    The closest Resident Evil 4 (on Wii, mind you) ever had to me feeling a sense of anus-clenching “fear” was when I started doing the time trial/survival missions. The only fear in the game really has to do with “Where is my next health going to be?” because they instill a fear of death/game fairly quickly. They got rid of a lot of the Boo! moments from the original ones, and didn’t quite replace it with something else other than the already punishing difficulty.

    Two things about the demo, which is probably not indicative of the game: Why don’t settings save? Why are the default controls, the new ones based on Gears of War, actually Type C in the menu? Once I went back to traditional settings, life improved dramatically.

    I do like the new mechanics though (especially the on-the-fly equipment menu), and the partner thing is… okay I guess. My only problem with what Shamus says is calling the colored buttons and notices that pop up in a demo “QTEs” is probably using the label a bit too liberally. It’s familiar, consistent mechanics displaying stuff you already knew if you’re a fan, so I mostly just see as an in-game help system at this point. It is a demo after all. If that pops up in the full version, then I’ll be upset.

    Of course, if the full-version has randomly generated three button sequences to complete the Pick-Up Ammo Minigame, I wouldn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

    • Shamus says:

      Zolthanite: No, I’m free to pick what games I savage. I think they buy his games as well. So it’s a double-edged sword: More freedom, or free games. I prefer the freedom, myself. Not all games are comic-worthy. RE5 ought to be pretty good for laughs, though.

  58. Yar Kramer says:

    On the subject of demos: the “demo” of the original Doom was the entire first one-third of the game.

    That said, the only zombie games I’ve really been able to handle are a Half-Life 1 mod called They Hunger, and Left 4 Dead. Both of which had fairly minimalist stories (though I never finished the former, due to having to reformat my computer once). And neither of which had you playing the “running around trying to avoid swarms of Really Tough enemies, waiting for someone to get rid of an obstacle which you should realistically be perfectly capable of surmounting on your own.” (In L4D’s case, the normal zombies weren’t exactly “tough”, and you were perfectly capable of surmounting realistic obstacles.) In They Hunger, you get a brief exposition as to who you are and why you’re there; in L4D, you’re one of four Survivors who are doing their best to continue to do so.

  59. Derek K. says:

    Left4Dead had an awesome demo. It was 2 stages of one campaign. It had the advanced weapons, it had a chokepoint, it had a minigun, it had a tank. You knew what the game was.

    I agree on RE5. I’ve owned most every RE, including Umbrella Chronicles and Code Veronica. I have all 3 movies. I don’t plan to get RE5. The demo completely turned me off. It was in fact just an appetizer, not a sample.

  60. WILL says:

    You know, I played Dead Space BEFORE I played RE4 and the demo for RE5 and I have to say…

    It was better in ever possible way. Controls, story, gameplay, maybe not graphics because at this point every AAA game is pretty, but damn. It was just plain boring and annoying to play the RE5 demo.

    Also, no offense, but Capcom games tend to have ridiculous stories and either bad or awful voice acting. When RE4 can best be summed up as “The president’s daughter has been kidnapped by zombies”, you know something has gone wrong. Don’t believe me? Try watching Lost Planet cutscenes. Every single one of the characters is an idiot.

  61. Namfoodle says:

    I’m liking this thread. Ol’ Shamus is feeling FEISTY! I can’t remember another thread with this many responses from our gentle host.

    Love the combination of Yakety Sax & Zombies. Has anyone ever used Yakety Sax in the soundtrack of a horror movie? That would be sweet.

    I saw a martial arts / action flick (set in Hong Kong, I think) that had Salsa Music playing during all the fight scenes. I thought it was really cool.

    A friend of mine wanted someone to make a combination kung-fu / porno flick where all the sfx during the fights were porno moans and all the sex scenes had no moaning but lots of fighting sfx.

  62. smIsle says:

    Having read the first few comments, and skimmed the rest, I hope I’m not being too repetitious …

    The problem is that the demo was created for old time players of the series, without thinking of the new-comers. If one of the levels had been geared toward new players (to the game, not even necessarily someone who had never played a FPS before) and the other level to the hard-core fans who just want to see what’s different, problem solved.

    I personally can’t agree about the story, that should be provided as text on their website for those who want to know what the story is about before they play the actual game. I never read the back of books or movies for exactly the same reason. I want to be introduced to the story in the way that the writer(s) intended – not how the marketing / tech departments summarize it for me. I have had games ruined because of a casual summary of the plot before starting that included information that I would not have known until near the end of the game. I LIVE for the reveal … I wouldn’t want it compromised.

  63. Hal says:

    Let’s see, skimming 70-odd posts . . . m’kay.

    I enjoyed RE4. It was fun, but I wouldn’t ever call it “scary.” If I want scary, I’ll go stalk someone until they make a sequel for Eternal Darkness. Or play that one again. You know, either way. Since I’m doubting RE5 is gonna be on the Wii, it’s not like it matters.

    I don’t play a lot of demos, but most of the “big name” demos are pretty bad about simply dumping you into a level devoid of context to maim generic evil guys. The only games I can think of offhand to buck this trend were the Geneforge series, but that was a level of quality you’d be hard-pressed to match anywhere else.

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