Don't rock the boat, baby.
In the celibate and hotpocket filled world of hardcore gaming, it's no secret that the overarching plotline to the Resident Evil series suck more than a behemoth Dyson DC07 vacuum cleaner in the deep recesses of space. The stories were lousy, dumb and filled with more holes than Peter Weller in the first fifteen minutes of Robocop. Perpetuating the tradition today, the Resident Evil series still continue to rake in a lot of dough; ensuring the endless waves of sequels and spin-offs. One of the first of these biproducts churned out of Capcom's cold, soulless womb was Resident Evil: Survivor, a relatively inoffensive yet inappreciable game that fell way under radar due to its mediocrity.
The concept itself should have made Capcom millions: combining first person shooter elements withResident Evil, a franchise which, until then, focused more on atmosphere rather than gameplay. But being one of the first game in the undead series to do this, it was also one of the most problamatic. It wasn't until Umbrella Chronicles on the Wii hit the shelves seven years later did the series get the first person thing down; but that's a different story for a different time.
Today we're discussing Resident Evil: Dead Aim, the black sheep of the franchise.
Continuing the light gun idea from Survivor, you play as Bruce McGivern (or MacGavin, as the back of the box refers to him), an American counter-terrorist agent sent to desist a rogue ex-researcher named Morpheus D. Duvall, a femme Sephiroth looking fellow who has a penchant for leather and beauty. You read that right, beauty! You think I'm making this up? The first screen you see when you start a game or load a save has an enscription that reads:
"Establishing a kingdom where beauty has absolute authority is the dream which I must make a reality!" - Morpheus D. Duvall
"Where beauty has absolute authority"? What, is this villian of this game Tim Gunn? What's so beautiful about turning hapless passangers of ocean cruiser into bloodthirsty animals? Is that supposed to be the re-occuring theme of this game? I mean it must be, considering the opening lines to the game are: "Why you American spies choose to use such ugly guns is still a mystery to me..." our androgynous antagonist intones as he holds a six-shooter to Bruce's head at point blank. Wait, or rather it's: "Is there some reason you American spies insist on using such ugly guns?" That's probably the first sign you know something's funky with the game: there's an inconsistency with the subtitles and dialogue! I'm not even certain why this is; maybe the subtitles are the original Japanese text? This is just speculation.
Anyway, Morpheus has unleashed the deadly T-vrus on an Umbrella owned ocean cruiser called theSpencer Rain; after feeling vengeful for being the company's fall guy for the events that transpired in the original game. Fearing the threat of another act of bio-terrorism thrust upon American soil, the U.S government sends Bruce, who must thwart Morpheus's devious plan with the help of a sexy and mysterious Chinese agent named Fong Ling (or "Fongling", as the subtitles refer to her).
Like every Resident Evil before that point, the controls are stiff and awkward; but for different reasons. Not unlike the first three installments and Code: Veronica, the game takes on a third person perspective when Bruce traverses through the many dark corridors he has to venture to progress through the game. Flicking the right analogue stick pole vaults the camera into a first person perspective, which allows Bruce to shoot enemies with his array of weapons; being reminiscent of another survival horror series of the shoot-'em-up variety (*cough cough* House of the Dead*cough*). A semi-persistant problem is the hit detection, however. Sometimes a perfectly clean shot just phases through your enemies like you're shooting at thin air; which may result in a Bruce or Fong Ling sandwich (heh, heh); but this happens far less often then one may think. With the right analog stick dedicated to the light gun controls, this leaves the left analog stick to pull double duty for both camera and movement. It's funny trying to see Bruce attempt to maneuver with such stiff controls; looking like he suffers from some Zoolander syndrome where he can't turn around properly or something.
Being a Resident Evil game, the enemies are naturally ghoulish and (during a pinch) frightening. Romero-esque zombies are a given, playing possum in packs in empty hallways and appearing out of nowhere in places you least expect them to. The ever so pesky decapitating reptilian Hunters make cameo appearences; but other than those two, the other enemy types are few and far between. The boss battles are what you would expect: 7 foot freaks with claws as big as a kindergartners, mutated transvestites and gelatinous blobs, etc., etc.
Sound wise, the game seems to be a mixed bag. The voice work is a bit on the hokie side (surprise!), but it leaves an endearing quality to the game that almost seems formulaic to the series by now. Sure, the voice work is cheesy, but when your forced to read lines such as: "Sorry, but my dance card is full!" and "A 'don-gua' never abandons a woman!", it's impossible to not smile at silliness of it all. The music is scarce and seldomly used, instead making way for the ambient white noise of the creaking cruise liner, the distant drip of water in the sewers, the sounds of shuffling and inhumane groans creeping off the lips of the invisible horrors that dwell in the darkness...The music you do hear sounds like low rate techno drek you'd hear in an S&M club in a Blade movie, but it's not nearly as bad as it sounds. Hell, the save room music is bar none the calmest piece of music in the series, and that's definitely saying something coming from a franchise with amazing save room music. Check it out on Youtube to see what I mean.
While the characters outside the cutscenes are a little rough around the edges, I can't help but admire the graphics, especially considering the time it was made. Sure the lighting isn't as well done as, say, the Silent Hill or Siren games, but one can't help but admire the details that went into making every nook and cranny seem authentic.
The plot and exposition is ham-fisted, but told in a cool, minimalistic way. Think Joss Whedon pitchingTitanic vs Dawn of the Dead. The characters themselves are intersting enough, I suppose, but we really don't know who they really are nonprofessionally (not that that's a bad thing, Resident Evil characters tend to be as deep and engaging as butter toast). There are only a scant three locales, and if you played any other game in the series, you can add two and two together. What's a RE game without spooky sewers and labs that defy the laws of nature?
In conclusion, while Dead Aim is wrongly a contender for "worst game" in the series, it's hard to recommend to anyone besides diligent fans. It's a game that tried too many experimentations, but failed on too many levels. It's also very short, too. I imagine it wouldn't take longer than 5-7 hours for even a Joe Average to reach the games (literal) explosive end. Pick up Resident Evil 4, (if by chance you're one of the very few people to not try at least one of its many incarnations on different platforms, that is) or, hell, pick up the original Resident Evil if you want to be old skool. Both games are masters of unlocking the fear that grips your soul.
Whatever that means. Hey, pass me that Jill Sandwich.
BRASS TACKS: B
-Experimental controls that may take a while to get used to
-Suspect, sometimes broken hit detection
+Cool, stylish presentation
+Good graphics for the time
+Save room music
-Very, very short
+/-Very limited appeal