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TOKYO GAME SHOW 2008:
Biohazard 5 Impressions and Thoughts
I flew into Tokyo in October 2008 for the purpose of playing a
demo of Biohazard 5 (among other things). The Tokyo Game Show
(TGS) allows the gaming press and the Japanese public to demo
various work-in-progress games. For a low price of „1000 or
„1200 (press and public respectively), you have from 10:00AM
until 5:00PM on October 9, 10, 11 and 12 to demo any game you
line up for. Often, major figures in the game industry show up
and make presentations, such as Nintendo's Satoru Iwata's
unveiling of the Wii Remote back in TGS 2005, which had a
dramatic effect on people's perceptions of how to properly play
The Biohazard 5 booth was Capcom's biggest at the show,
surpassing the likes of Street Fighter IV and even Monster
Hunter 3 (tri). In fact, Biohazard 5 was also playable at
Microsoft's separate booth. On Sunday, which is open to the
public, to play Biohazard 5 for Capcom's allotted 15 minutes,
you were subjected to a wait of at least 90 minutes.
The Capcom booth itself was gigantic, with banners showing
Chris, Sheva and the Biohazard 5 logo marking the top of the
booth. Widescreen, HD monitors were spread at a few points
across the walls showing videos of the first, shorter TGS
trailer, as well as a 10 minute video on the game's development
and the use of live actors for animation purposes.
The playable systems were out of view from the outside of the
booth, so one had to line up on one side of the booth, away from
the entrance. There were four possible lines: the 360 version in
single player or co-op, and the PS3 version in single player or
co-op. This meant that 90 people could play Biohazard 5 at once
(not counting the Microsoft booth), 60 of them working together
in co-op. The lines formed an L shape around the booth towards
the entrance, and Capcom employees periodically closed the line
off when no more people could enter the queue, making a wait
beyond the quoted 90 minutes longer.
Once you were the first 15 in line, Capcom provided a necklace
tag with a number on it to designate your position in line.
There were 4 versions, depending on the console and play set up.
I opted to go into the single player PlayStation 3 line because
it was the first to open up when I arrived. The 360 lines were
usually shorter otherwise.
Once you were able to enter the booth, you were first brought to
a small standing theater, which showed the second, longer TGS
trailer that contained the revelation regarding Jill. Then, an
actress playing Sheva arrived, explaining players how to play
the game in English, which the monitor screen translating it for
Japanese patrons. Then a video explaining the two control
schemes played, narrated by Josh, a BSAA member. Afterwards,
people were finally shown to the appropriate booth, with a
graphic display of the controls placed below the monitor for
easy reference. I opted for classic Biohazard-style controls as
a diehard Biohazard fan who will accept no substitutes.
The demo was bilingual in English and Japanese, unlike last
year's Japanese-only Umbrella Chronicles demo; I opted for
English, although Japanese would have been no problem for me.
And then I chose the first of the two available areas, Shanty
Once the demo began, I was playing as Chris, with Sheva close
by. It took me about 30 seconds to feel right at home with the
controls. The characters are moved with the traditional
Biohazard scheme, with extra functionality thrown in with the
partner dynamic. The circle button communicates to Sheva, for
The menu screen is a very interesting change from previous main
Biohazard games. It seems evolved from the grid system and lack
of action pausing from the Outbreak games, with the different
buttons allowing you to manage items (like equipping weapons or
using herbs) and move them around. It took some getting used to.
Gameplay-wise, the game is definitely related to Biohazard 4,
and in many ways not really that different. Sheva's presence
does make for interesting gameplay approaches. Sheva's very
competent, and was very helpful to Chris in the demo. Only
occasionally did she get into too much trouble against the
ganado enemies, but this was not a result of poor A.I. at work,
it was rather realistic and a good way to keep Sheva in Chris'
The African village could be compared to the first village in
Biohazard 4, but denser with more open buildings as seen in the
various trailers. There was quite a bit of climbing, window
hopping and door busting in the demo. As a result, one could
have played the demo using strategies learned in Biohazard 4.
My favorite strategy, as Leon (un)famously tells his partners in
Biohazard Degeneration, is to shoot them in the head. I was
expecting an Umbrella Chronicles-style twist of headshots being
ineffective, but actually, they were a useful tactic. A few of
the ganado emitted more sinister-looking plaga after losing
their heads, which required more shooting.
In areas that required climbing, using the knife on the edge, as
one would have done in Biohazard 4, worked just as well in
Biohazard 5. Ammo was plentiful, but of course Biohazard games
require conservation. As for the enemies, they behaved almost
exactly as the ganados in Biohazard 4, even if they seemed more
sinister and aggressive.
Chris was equipped with the standard Handgun and Shotgun.
Apparently, a machine gun or sniper rifle could be found, but
because I was concerned with evading and killing ganados, I
never located it. Herbs and ammo were found amongst crates or
dead enemies, as with the previous game.
At one point, a cutscene plays, which showed Chris and Sheva
contacting their BSAA backup; they say they will arrive in the
village to back the two up, but for now, they should hold out.
This was somewhat reminiscent of Leon and Luis' showdown at the
cabin, except out in an open area.
Soon, the giant axe-wielding enemy shows up (and we thought Al
from Outbreak File 2 was dangerous!), putting Chris and Sheva on
the run. The Shotgun is able to stun the axeman, but I soon run
out of Shotgun ammo and am forced to employ the hit and run
tactic with the Handgun. I'm able to hold out, but I get trapped
into a corner and hit with the axe, which nearly kills me. This
is where the partner dynamic really kicks in, as Sheva saves
Chris from death. I'm able to finish the demo off by ambushing
the axeman from the top of a shack and pelting it with bullets.
The second available demo area takes place chronologically after
the first. The rescue chopper arrives, but flying plaga take it
down very quickly (choppers are clearly a cursed vehicle in the
Biohazard universe), forcing Chris and Sheva to continue
fighting the ganado. This part took a nod from Biohazard 4 once
again, when Chris must cover Sheva from a distance. At the very
least, however, Sheva can do some fighting of her own, unlike
And at that point, my 15 minutes was up and I was unable to
finish the second demo. Other points to touch upon were the
visuals, which continued the series' trademark of offering
stunning, detailed visuals for their time. The game was fairly
bright, but the art still looked unmistakably like a Biohazard
or a Capcom game. The animations were looking great, especially
when picking up items. Audio was also well-done, with much of
the recycled Biohazard 4 audio seemingly replaced with original
effects. The headphones provided at the booth were high quality
and noise canceling, which meant that the showroom noise was not
a bother. It's hard to describe in detail the musical score,
which to be honest did not seem as memorable as earlier
Biohazard games. I was also focusing so hard on the combat that
I cannot really recall the exact tunes, but expect Biohazard 5
to continue the series' strong audio aspect.
I came away from the demo feeling very impressed with Capcom's
work. I admit that at some point I was losing interest in
Biohazard 5 because of the time lapse since its 2005
announcement. The trailers, the announcement of online co-op,
the inclusion of Gears-style controls, and the absence of Shinji
Mikami's input really set off alarms amongst hardcore fans. Is
Yes, and no. Rather than seeing the online co-op in a new light,
it's much more accurate to view this as a merging of the
uniqueness of Biohazard 0, Biohazard Outbreak and Biohazard 4.
Like in Zero, we've got a partner to watch out for us and vice
versa, and the continuous action from Outbreak is back, all
layered on top of the phenomenal Biohazard 4 gameplay. Other
than these changes, Biohazard 5 still felt like a Biohazard
game. The subtle, often unexplainable Biohazard quirks were
still there, like the goofy cutscenes and progression style. For
better or worse, the difference in feel between Biohazard 4 and
5 is comparable to, even if a bit larger than, the change from
Biohazard 2 to Biohazard 3, or from the remake to Zero.
Of course, it is a demo, and the rest of the game may yield a
different result. But if Capcom can stay as consistent as they
were with Biohazard 4 (Biohazard 5 will be a shorter game), then
I think the cries that accuse Biohazard 5 of not being a real
Biohazard game hold little merit.
One lingering question amongst many Biohazard fans and general
gamers alike is the aiming system compared to what Biohazard 4
Wii Edition yielded and what the Wii version of Dead Rising is
now using. The aiming of Biohazard 5 was the same as the
standard versions of Biohazard 4, and in that sense Biohazard 5
is pretty competent and polished. However, I couldn't help but
miss the seamless Wiimote aiming and consider it the superior
alternative between the two control styles. Still, Biohazard 5
is looking to be a fine game with the traditional controller and
even the most fervent supporters of the Wii controls should try
the game out and enjoy it.