Review by ModernRonin
Reviewed: 06/28/03 | Updated: 06/28/03
Novel control concept + classic RE goodness.
The idea of actually having to aim at the things you shoot in survival horror games is an idea that is long overdue, in my opinion. RE: Dead Aim finally delivers on that idea, and does so in an enjoyable and visually appealing fashion. If you like Resident Evil style games, and you like light-gun games but hated always being kept on a fixed track and not being able to roam where you wanted, this game may be just what you've been waiting for.
Graphics and Sound, 9/10: Generally pretty good. The cruise ship level that you start out in is well designed and sufficiently novel to be interesting even if you've played all the other RE games. The player and enemy character models are fairly well detailed, and generally pretty well animated. Like most RE games, this game suffers from re-using the same enemies a bit too much, but you probably won't notice your first time through. There was one non-boss enemy design that I thought was particularly substandard, uninteresting and poorly done. But on the balance, there was also one that I thought was exceptionally interesting and well done, too. Most are a small cut above average.
My only graphics gripes would have to do with the level lighting being too dark. You MUST play this game in a significantly dark room to enjoy it. Playing at night with only one small light on in the room is optimal. Playing in a sunlight room is well-nigh impossible. The designers obviously wanted an atmosphere of fear and tension. So they made the levels in general fairly dark, but stole the idea of putting a flashlight on your character's chest from Silent Hill. This allows you to see a bit ahead, but not much. Though this adds to the tension, I think it also detracts from the fun a little bit - I'd like to be able to SEE the zombie's brains splatter when I hit them with a perfect head-shot! My only other graphical gripe is that the cut-scenes were MPEG compressed a bit too much, and I found them a little blurry at times. Oh, the cut-scene subtitles don't match what's being said on-screen, but I found that amusing rather than annoying.
The sounds are well mastered and used well. The different and pretty accurate gunshot sound for each gun is a nice touch, as is how they distort depending on how big the room is. The voice acting is surprisingly good for an RE game, and the voice cast all have distinct and interesting voices. You'll probably get tired of hearing the same three zombie moans over and over again, but hey, these are zombies - they don't have a lot of personality. The only other minor sound gripe I might have is that the cut-scene volume was too low compared to normal play volume. If you play the game with the volume cranked up to cut-scene levels, you might get the cops called on you because the gunshots may be loud enough to disturb your neighbors. ;]
I can't give the G&S a 10/10 because I don't feel they're particularly inspired. They were done quite well, are of high quality, and will not disappoint. But they fall just short of being truly incredible.
Gameplay, 8/10: It's a fairly standard Resident Evil game, perhaps even a bit less so. You'll do a lot of walking around, exploring rooms, picking up ammo, health and keys, and of course shooting zombies. There are no puzzles to speak of, except perhaps figuring out the weak points of the bosses given the clues in the files you find.
You have unlimited ammo (well, as much as you can carry from each safe room) for your handguns in this game. Given that it may be more difficult to accurately hit enemies with the light gun than you might think, this actually turns out to be a fairly good thing. I didn't find it unbalanced the game much at all, as a matter of fact the first time through I think the game would have been much too hard and a heck of a lot less fun without this. Of course, I do like my games a bit on the easy side, and I love plugging zombies. But ammo for the better weapons is limited to only what you can find, so game balance is preserved. All in all, I am quite happy with this design decision - they were quite wise to include it.
The weapons and items are not hugely original, but they're original enough. It's very nice to be able to get additional healing items or handgun ammo from zombies that you kill quickly and/or with highly accurate head-shots. It adds a bit more strategy to the game.
You will hear some complaints that the game is too short, or too easy. I will concede that it should not have been a $40 game. I think it should have been a $30 game. But I am quite satisfied with what you would get for $29.99. In particular I found the first boss quite tough, so I am loathe to say the game is TOO easy. Is it easy? It's fairly easy. And yes, if you know exactly what you're doing you can run through the whole game in 35 minutes - though I spent five and a half hours playing through the first time through. You could also run through the first RE in less than 2 hours, so run-through time isn't really a good measure. I judge this game to be about 1/3rd the length of RE 1. If that bugs you, then don't buy, rent. You're probably the kind of person who can dash through it in a three day rental.
Nevertheless, I think the overall concept of simultaneously using the controller with your left hand and the light gun with your right hand is a good, novel and interesting one. Coupled with the generally good graphics, it makes this game far more interesting and engaging than it would have been if it were ''just another RE sequel.'' I also found the shooting aspect fun in and of itself, kind of like House Of The Dead lite. For those reasons, I bump the gameplay score up past a ''merely mediocre'' 7/10 to an ''actually pretty fun'' 8/10.
Controls, 7/10: I won't lie to you, I think the classic third-person RE control scheme is way overdue for an overhaul. The addition of the ''quick turnaround'' move and the ''escape attack'' move together make the controls much more bearable than they would have been. Actually, to be fair, the control scheme is actually pretty good for sneaking around dark corridors, taking the occasional head-shot at a shambling zombie. The controls setup for moving slowly and shooting is quite a bit better than I first though. But the third person control scheme (moving around quickly) falls down pretty badly during 3 of the 4 boss battles. I would have liked to see a MGS2 or Devil May Cry setup for the ''running mode'' third person controls, but kept the ''hold down L2 to strafe in 3rd person'' mode, and kept the 1st person setup just the way it is. That would have been the best of all worlds.
I would have given this game 6/10 or maybe even 5/10 for controls, except for the addition of the ''quick turnaround'' and ''dodge attack'' moves. Those moves really salvaged a control scheme that could have been very, very annoying. The game designers obviously listened to the play-testers and added these in later. Good on 'em.
Story, 7/10: The story is just novel enough and has enough character believability to not be boring. The good voice cast and voice acting helps to add some interest to what otherwise might be a bit less fun. The pacing can be somewhat uneven, sometimes a huge amount happens in a short time, sometimes it feels like it's taking forever for anything to happen. In general you probably won't mind as there are plenty of other things to keep you occupied.
Replay value, 5/10: There isn't a huge amount of replay value. I would think most good gamers are unlikely to replay the game more than 2, or at the most 3, times. You get something new for winning the first time, for finishing quickly, saving infrequently, killing almost all or almost no enemies, etc. But these are not significant inducements to replay, in my opinion. I would think you're more likely to want to play again for the sheer thrill of bulls-eyeing a zombie right in the forehead and watching its brains splatter. ;] Again, if this bugs you, then rent instead of buying.
Overall, 8/10: My overall rating is not an average, rather it is my general feeling after having played the game through a couple of times. The combination of decent graphics and general ''good production value'', plus the novel combination of controller and light-gun at the same time, lift this game above the average and deliver a playing experience that is somehow slightly better than the sum of it's individual parts. There are annoyances to be sure - controls that I think could have been better, and a price tag that is probably a bit high, especially if you don't already own a guncon. That said, if you are a gamer who enjoys RE games and enjoys using a light-gun, you will probably enjoy this game as well. You could certainly do worse than this game.
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