Resident Evil 7 - PSVR

Playing Resident Evil 7 in PSVR in your own home is an experience like no other I've had. In terms of "home entertainment", it stands right up there among the finest and certainly the most immersive and interesting. When I started playing game in the 1980's , the idea that you would eventually be able To walk around a decrepit mansion that felt believable, tangible and real was a distant dream and boy, does that dream come to life in full technicolour. When I first put on the headset and walked towards the house, I imagined that i felt like those movie goers seeing a train rush towards them for the first time. 

The game itself is outstanding survival horror which confidently ticks all the boxes you'd hope and expect - limited ammo, intense enemies, horrific imagery item management, constant ratcheting up of tension and so on. Having played every single minute of this game in VR I can honestly say that even the most simple stretches of gameplay become intense experiences that are simultaneously a pleasure to play through and enjoyably stressful. 

More generally, The structure of the game is classic survival horror - you start off incredibly vulnerable having to run from every enemy -with a slow development of your skills and inventory. I actually found the opening hour or so of the game very difficult, but once I got beyond it and had more than basic weaponry and understood the layout of the house , gradually felt like I was fighting back and learning how to survive effectively. Exploration becomes more fun and enjoyable once you know the enemies weak spots and have a solid strategy to get from A to B to accomplish even the most simple of tasks. 

Speaking of tasks, again, the game keeps it simple, I presume because the core game is so much fun there and was a conscious decision by the developers not to over complicate it. Puzzles are simplistic (find item A , rotate item to fit into a certain shadow shape and progress) yet enjoyable because of the environment. There are not that many types of enemies, but again they are well used to build tension while exploring and they're incredibly well designed, looking suitably grotesque and horrific.  Exploration is also just a joy in itself - the house and its surrounding estate looks amazing and has plenty of small touches that elevate it from being scary to believably scary and exploring each of the 6 or so new areas bring its own sense of adventure and excitement. This is supported by an excellent game mechanic where, through the use of i game video tapes allow you to "watch" a recording series of events that take place in an area before you can yourself fully explore it. In fact, one of my favorite parts of the game involves just this - you're already familiar with parts of the area before you play through it, and then you realise how a sequence you've just seen in an earlier videotape fits in. It's a very smart way of world building, story telling and even building tension. 

As you can tell, i am a fan. I even enjoyed the story and the boss characters who stalk you around each of the areas. They're scary and even comical on occasions and, for the most part are memorable and intimidating. Sure, they're not massively complex but are suited to environment and feel well placed for he game and wider RE universe. 

Any problems? Not reallly, and certainly nothing major. The VR is a little grainy but I actually think this added to my overall experience given the tone of the game. The plot is firmly in the B movie horror genre, but again that's a fine by me and even at that, it is a vast improvement over the mess that was RE6. 

Overall, it's an outstanding game and a wonderful example of what you can do with VR. It reminded me of the legendary Hell Night on PSone with the level of tension and immersiveness dialed up. Worth getting a PSvr for? Almost....there are two ways to look at it. 1. This is just the beginning of Vr on the PlayStation and boy is it excellent and as developers get used to the tech it'll only get better, so you're well recommended to get involved. However, suppose 2. This is the peak - Vr gets no better than this. Either way, the experience itself is worth it in my books. 

 

Outstanding. 

Resident Evil 6 [Jakes Campaign]

24th February 2013

Howdy,

I completed Jakes RE6 campaign last weekend and have put off writing it up as I was reading and playing some more interesting material, mostly Walking Dead related. Before I comment on Jakes campaign, I will just make a quick comment on the Walking Dead game which I've been playing on my iPhone. When I complete it, I'll writeabout it more specifically, but what a great game it is with a great blend of tension and action combined with a strong character driven plot. In short, it has more in common with the original resident evil series than RE6 does. Where RE6 flits between being part action movie and part video game, the WD retains a great sense of horror and struggle to survive against the odds. It is an interesting juxtaposition and serves to illustrate just how far RE6 has deviated from its roots.

Anyhow, onto Jakes campaign - it certainly has a different pace to Chris's campaign but retains the same basic controls and premises to Chris. I'll comment on what i liked and didn't like, but in short, it is not really different enough in game play for it to feel totally new and, most frustratingly, the elements that are different are not really strong enough in their own right for this to feel anywhere near as exciting or fun as Chris's. Anyhow, what i liked / disliked...what i liked is up first...

***

1. An attempt at variety is to be applauded...Irrespective of how successful the fact that Capcom tried to offer different pace and game play in the same game is commendable. I admire the fact that Jake is immediately quicker and more nimble that Chris, has a broader array of close combat moves that make taking down zombies very fun. Also, the fact that Jakes campaign places more emphasis on set pieces and boss fights does make the overall flow of the game feel suitably different to the other campaigns to, initially at least, that my interest was piqued. Good effort, or rather, good idea at least...

2. The Voice Acting is very strongBoth leading characters in Jakes campaign are very well acted and bring a sense of gravitas to what could have been quite cliched scenes in the game. Hell, the scens are cliched, but they get away with it due in large to the great voice acting. Both Sherry and Jake are enjoyable characters to listen to with interesting back stories and motivations.

3. The action, as with Chris's game remains tight and is fun to play
Again, RE6 is generally well designed in that the controls are responsive and the combat intense. Zombies explode believably, you can move around the environments at pace and deliver pretty cool close quarters combat interspersed with some pretty fun QTE's to kill them with a variety of weapons and, ultimately, you get to kill a lot of zombies, which is a large part of what Resident Evil has become (rather than avoiding them). These are the sections of the campaign where the game is at its strongest. Unfortunately, as i hinted at above, there is a far greater emphasis on set pieces that ultimately disrupt the flow of the gameplay...

***

1. Sooooo many set pieces just dont workThe first thing that you must get right if you are going to have a game that has 50% of the gameplay focused on set pieces is that they need to be well executed and fun. Sadly, the majority are neither. The motorbike scene is boring and clearly more interested in showing you some cool slo-mo moments than it is actually allowing you to have fun escaping zombies on a sports bike. As someone who drives a bike, I was amazed at how boring and frustrating they managed to make this. For a start, the bike is speed limited, which means you drive along at a normal pace and cant go any faster - this means your kick ass bike is overtaken by zombies driving regular cars. I assumed that as zombies are meant to be braindead, they wouldnt be that great at driving but apparently they are. Couple this with a shoddy snow mobile escape scene where I continually died without explanation or an opportunity to avoid the thing that killed me (an avalanche) and you get an often frustrating and unexciting game experience. Sure, the game looks great while your completing these sections, but it all feels a bit too on-rails and unexciting. In fact, graphics aside, in these sections there was nothing that wouldnt have been out of place on a PS2 game - it was distinctly poor.

Oh, and one more thing about the set pieces, the semi regular boss fights, that include stealth moments neither have tension nor terror - you get a checkpoint right before them and it is just a case of rinse repeat until you get through them. For some reason fighting the same indestructible boss over and over again lost its fun. And on this boss...

2. The Boss - indestructible until the very end...I wont 'spoil' the final boss fight in case my bro reads this, but my god i've never had a more frustrating boss fight. It literally took me 20+ attempts, and it is not because the fight itself is particularly hard - you just need to sink loads of bullets into him - its just the controls and camera really let you down in close quarters fighting with huge boss. Oh and the floor is made of lava, so when you fall over (as you do every time the boss attacks), you get hurt. Oh and all the items are left in the lava so it hurts you to pick them up. Basically, its a bit of a mess by the end and rather, it is the games limitations that made it hard, not the difficulty level. I mean, having a camera that hugs your characters shoulder and a character model that takes up half the screen and an enemy that takes up the other half is just downright awkward. Chuck in a lava floor and an enemy whose 2 attacks both knock you down and, basically, its not fun and it is certainly not clever. And i'll not even start on how you actually defeat the boss - it is totally ludicrous and contradictory to everything that has gone before you, i mean he is meant to be indestructible and the manner in which he is dispatched is quite frankly laughable and for me was one suspension of disbelief too far for me.

3. By the end, it all wears a bit thin, there is just not enough quality
By now, your probably getting the impression that this campaign is more style over substance, and while that is true, its not this fact that hurts the game. Rather, it is that the game promises variety in its different characters and approach but ultimately fails to deliver. Jake's campaign is basically a lazy concoction of poor set pieces, one long boss fight and some standard RE6 action where the only variety comes from your increased ability in hand to hand combat. While fun initially, it is not enough to sustain over a relatively short campaign and that is the most damning thing - by the end of the 5 hours it took for me to complete it I immediately thought "thank Christ that is over", rather than "wasn't that fun".

***

So there you have it - needless to say I wasnt impressed with Jakes campaign. The annoying thing was that there was plenty of good stuff in it - even the story managed one interesting twist and there were several nice cross over moments with the other campaigns that I enjoyed. There was one moment where I even realised that I had revealed something about Leons campaign that, had i not completed Jakes campaing first, wouldnt have known. This was particularly cool, as it was sort of an in game spoiler about another part of the games plot and got me thinking "hmmm, i wonder if this will influence how i play Leons campaign..." Unfortunately though, theses moments are few and far between and the majority of the campaigns gameplay is pretty average at best, or a poor imitation of what other games have done better before.

Disappointing BUT I have started Leons campaign and it is significantly better and much closer to the original RE experience, both in terms of setting, gameplay and tone. In fact, its the first of the 3 campaigns that i've played to actually try throw some horror in the mix, so I suspect I'll enjoy it more.

As for Sherry and Jake, well, a shame as it could have been much better with a little more thought and stronger design.

Rating - C

Best,

DD

Resident Evil 6 [Chris's Campaign]

February 07 2013

Howdy,

Its been nearly 2 months since i posted, but its not because I've not been playing much, rather I've been super busy with work / life and been playing RE6 (and Fifa). RE6 is an interesting game - it gives you 4 unique campaigns, tied together by the same controls, animations and, broadly speaking gameplay. The difference is that each campaign has its own unique take on the games story - Chris's campaign is action focused with an emphasis on often Gears of War type gameplay. Jake, on the other hand, has a definite emphasis on boss fights, close quarters combat and light puzzle solving. I've yet to play Leon or Ada's campaign, but from what I've read, Ada's is puzzle focused and Leons the closest to the traditional Resident Evil gameplay, in it settings at least. Given the t game has 4 unique campaigns and characters, I plan to put one post up on each, with a final post on how I thought the game played out overall.

Without further adieu, I'll crack on, so to speak, with what I found interesting and not so interesting in Chris and Piers campaign and I'll do my best to avoid spoilers, though there is little that can actually be spoiled - the game is pretty relentless in its action and most of the plot twists (with one or two exceptions) are at the very end of the game. So, what did I like....

1. The action is tight, agressive and mainly fun

As a character, Chris is pretty limited - a macho, beefy well armed marine with a gravely voice and penchant for blowing the crap out of things. Oh, and he is fiercely loyal to faceless soldiers (more on that at a later point). However, the game is undeniably at its strongest when Chris and Piers are fighting their way through multiple hordes of heavily armed and grotesque zombies. You get decent array of weapons, though all are fairly standard (shotgun, grenade launcher etc), but they remain satisfying right until the end of the game. When you are fighting standard enemies, the game is fun, with a decent amount of ammo to go around ,well designed levels for the most part and plenty of inventive ways to take the bad guys out. Add a strong cooperative element into the game and you do get a pretty solid action game. The controls, while occassionaly slippy, for the most part are intuitive and the combat is noisy, tense and, on veteran diffuculty provides a decent challenge without being frustrating. As an action game, Chris's campaign was a pretty solid, if unspectacular showing and I generally liked it. Of course, if there were 4 campaigns all very similar, I would have been bored, but as a one off campaign it felt good.

2. The Story tries new things...

The plot in RE games is usually ludicrous and RE6 is no exception, though it does at least try to innovate by tying all 4 campaigns together. While I cant speak for the plot in the remaining campaigns, it was quite cool to see Leon, Sherry and Ada show up knowing that at some point you'd get to play through the same parts from their perspective - its not revolutionary, but at least they have tried to take the general flow of the game in a new direction - and it doesn't even matter what order you play through them. Irrespective of how successful this is across the game, kudos to Capcom for trying something a little different in tying the games story threads together.

3. Partners in crime...

Where Sheva in RE5 was pretty much a standard sidekick, Piers gets some great lines, some interesting character development and even a couple of pretty big moments in terms of the games story arc. Personally I liked this - especially in playing it Co-Op with my bro as it meant that rather than the secondary character merely making up the numbers, here they actually give the supporting character a decent amount of credibility and action. Again, I cant talk about the other campaigns, but by the end of the game I genuinely liked Piers role in the RE universe and, helped by strong voice acting, I accepted him along side Chris as a strong marine with his own outlook on the world who goes through his own individual experiences. Again, irrespective of my view on the game, Capcom went to considerable effort to ensure the games co-op experience, in plot and gameplay, held its own with the single player and this is commendable.***

So, what didn't I like? Well, there wasn't that much I actively disliked, but there were moments of utter frustration, though most were borne out of just poor design choices at specific moments of the game rather than underlying flaws with the games core gameplay.

1. Boss Fights - with a knife

Without exception, I only ran out of ammo on 4 or 5 occasions and all of these were during boss fights. I mean, the game gives you a decent selection of ammo throughout and while not excessive, you usually have all the tools needed to do the job - except with bosses, where there is a finite amount of ammo, and if you run out you are reduced to using the knife. While the knife is cool (and over powered) it was ludicrous in the extreme that I had to kill the final boss by knifing it to death - just as i had done for the preceding ones. While this in itself is not a problem, the fact that knife fights are basically a combination of blind luck and button bashing, it basically relegates the boss fights to pot luck survival with limited skill involved - and this was the same on both veteran and normal difficulties (I played on veteran, played portions of the game with my bro on normal).

2. Snipers - get used to being knocked down

I am not going to say much on this, but trust me, you will be knocked down, alot, by invisible snipers and it will drive you mad. Apparently diving out of the way works sometimes, but not always - in fact, again, it is more blind luck that anything else. See, when a game reduces bits of the game to blind luck it removes all sense of engagement with it and, ultimately for me increases frustration. There are enemies in the game that this applies to, but I'd say that without a doubt, the sniper sections are the worst offenders

3. Dont fight - run

This is a minor gripe, but, again, there are certain portions of the campaign where you are made to feel like you are in a tight spot - that is under pressure, surrounded and having to battle your way out. What do you do - surrounded by bad guys...do you fight them? No - just run away and ignore them - its easier, conserves ammo and helps you progress through the game quicker. Is this a problem? Well, not in itself - games like silent hill and even early RE titles employed this to great effect, however RE6 is definitely an action game and, as such, lacks any sense of horror or suspense. This means that those sections where you can run through are just the quickest way to get from A to B. Oh, and add your very helpful PDA that constantly guides you to your destination and you have nothing more than a linear run past well animated zombies and environments. The problem is that these sections are actually fairly frequent and thats the problem - its an action game that, on occasions actively encourages you to avoid action, and while it doesn't have the horror elements of old, dashes to the finish hurt the games pacing and sense of immersion.

***

So there you have it - while the action is great, there are some very strange decisions that really hurt Chris's campaign. Chris is a great character with actually some fairly interesting set pieces, but the problem isnt with the bits that RE6 does well, the problem is with those bits that RE6 uses as filler and they largely miss the mark.

There is one other problem - the controls are mostly good, but there are moments of sheer anger when you've got to muck around with inventory selection, randomly changing camera angles and sheer frustration when you die for some reason you couldnt have anticipated.

By and large, they are forgivable - RE6 is a fun game to play through, but the flaws add up to make it a B-movie game feel, rather than a slick blockbuster like you have in GOW or similar. Of course, this may have been the ambition, given Resident Evil's roots, but, given the production values, I suspect not.

Overall - B+

Lee

Other Games - A review from 2010 / 2010

November 8th 2011

Bugger, my X-Box has to go to Germany to be fixed / replaced. So frustrating as my GOW campaign and online fun is now haulted. So I will be down to my PS3, PS2, PSone, PSP, PC and iPhone. How the hell did i get to have all these consoles - i mean it is great but crazy that I have so many games etc here.

Anyhow, I thought i'd do a quick post to cover off a few other games that I have completed in the last couple of years that are definately worth mentions...

Heavy Rain -A rated : a great and genuinely genre breaking game that was interesting to play through and a fantastic story. Sure the controls dont always work and the plot is probably so full of holes that if you played again, it would seem absurd, but the game feels so revolutionary that it you just get on with it relentlessly. The best thing about the game is that it feels like playing a movie - a genuinely new experience.

Red Dead Repemption - A rated : An unbelivable game that combines cinematic scope with cartoon action and an wonderful story arc. The game feels like playing a movie, but in a different way than Heavy Rain in that its more like playing a kids cartoon movie that always maintains its great sense scale (riding a cartoon horse for miles IS fun) and the adult themes contrast nicely with the stylised violence and complicated characters. The other thing I'd like to sayabout RDR was that the music and voice acting were both superb and contributed to the whole great package that is, Red Dead Redemption.

 

Resident Evil 5 - B rated :  A great game but not a great horror game. The action is relentless and well done, the baddies are fun to fight and the plot is suitably ridiculous, but the whole game feels like a well trodden path and refined RE4 with a few upgraded weapons and moves. I also would love another RE horror game (not this B-movie action stuff) that returns to the series roots of atmosphere, sense of peril and exploration of strange places. Its a hard game to find serious flaws with, but is just not as relentlessly great as some of its predecessors.

 

Silent Hill : Homecoming - C Rated : I didnt actually finish this game but it was not for a lack of trying. I love Silent Hill games, mainly for there great sense of horror and the twisted and lack of fear in creating fear, but this is pretty soulless. There is no real drive in the game in that the urgency of SH1 is totally absent , the characters are wooden at best and the game leaves its roots firmly at the door. The lack of genuine horror hurts the game badly - without horror the game is relying on solid gameplay mechanics and interesting characters which it does not have.

Anyhow, just three games that I have played and would have made the list had I played them this year. No real purpose to the thoughts, but I did enjoy playing them all.  Next up - GOW3 when my X-Box returns from its travels.
Cheers,
DD