Does anyone know what the best way is to control a Resident Evil game anymore? At least Capcom keeps doling out options, including PlayStation 3 motion control, which I sampled this week.
We've been hearing about motion control support for Resident Evil 5 since last year, and our own Brian Ashcraft played RE5 with Wii-like PlayStation Move controls at E3 just last month. Ashcraft liked it. This week, I did too.
But is it that best way to control a Resident Evil? That's hard to say.
Since Resident Evil's birth, gamers have debated the controls of the series' games. Traditionally the split has divided those who believe configurations that slow character movement make the games more frightening and those who considered such restrictions clumsy.
Newer Resident Evil games, including a motion-controlled 2007 Wii version of Resident Evil 4, have offered controls that allowed characters to be more nimble, but still constrained players in ways that the most popular freewheeling action games of other series don't. Most famously, in 2009's Resident Evil 5, your character still had to stop walking and needed to stand in order to shoot, but he could strafe from side to side while moving and not shooting, a series breakthrough.
Slowly, surely, Capcom's Resident Evil creators seem to be sending gamers the signal that their series' controls could still use improvement.
The latest tinkering is the scheme for the Move, which will be available this spring for anyone who has the already-released 2010 RE5 Gold Edition version of the game or buys a new copy. To control the game with motion, players will hold a Move wand in their right hand and Sony's Navigation controller, which has an analogue stick, in their left. The set-up is similar to wielding a Wii Remote and Nunchuk.
With a Move in your right hand, melee attacks will be triggered by a swing of the Sony wand. You will shoot by holding down the trigger on the underside of the Move wand to make a targeting reticle appear on your TV. The reticle can be aimed like a laser-pointer. You press the button on top of the Move to fire. Your character still has to stand still before you aim and shoot, but you can now aim much more precisely. I found that headshots, kneeshots and whatever-elseshots were easier to perform. Turning while shooting, however, can still be awkward. You cannot turn your view by moving your reticle to the edge of the screen, as you can in many Wii shooters. You have to tilt the analogue stick on the Navigation controller to make your character - and your viewing angle - rotate.
One sign of Capcom's collective desire to streamline RE5's controls is a shift of your running button to your left hand. On a standard controller, the player has to commit a press of the X button with their right hand to enable a run steered with the analogue stick under your left thumb. In the Move scheme, you can enable running with a press of a left shoulder button under your left pointer finger. You still combine that with a tilt of the stick, but now your running controls are all within the reach of one hand.
I was not immediately comfortable with the new Move controls, but I couldn't see them as anything but an improvement over how I had controlled RE5 with a standard game controller. I was granted more precision for my shooting and just a little more elegance for my movement. This set-up feels superior.
Few things in video games are perfect or without need of improvement. The mutability of Resident Evil's controls are just a more obvious case of a development team working things out - dabbling - out in the open. For whatever reason, possibly a need to keep the action of their games tense, the team has not just simplified their controls into one of the standard set-ups of modern games. They keep things different, but that difference is fluid.
The schemes keep on changing, but if the plot is to make the best Resident Evil controls possible, let the testing continue.
Sony's wand-like motion controller will ship for PS3s in mid-September. Resident Evil 5 Gold owners will be able to download a free patch about a week before then that will add Move support to the game, a Capcom spokesperson told Kotaku. Eventually, new copies of the game will ship with Move support on the disc. Original pre-Gold copies of RE5 will not be compatible with the Move.