I love zombies. I'm not really into other types of horror movies and I don't really dig slasher flicks, but to me there is nothing better than wasting away an evening watching Dawn of the Dead or Cemetery Man. Because of this obsession with the walking dead, the Resident Evil series has always been a favorite of mine. Of course, I was always a bit turned off by the mutant plants and giant spiders in the games, but the thrill of blasting through dozens of zombies was enough to keep me coming back for more. In Resident Evil: Dead Aim, Capcom's latest entry in the Gun Survivor series, the zombie to creature ratio is much higher and the gameplay has been tweaked enough that it is actually fun and undeniably satisfying even without a GunCon. It isn't a "real" Resident Evil game, but Dead Aim packs enough zombie killing action to keep any RE fan entertained for an evening.
Most of Dead Aim takes place on a cruise ship where psycho cult leader Morpheus Duvall has infected the passengers and crew with the T-Virus. You play as Bruce McGivern, an anti-Umbrella operative that looks suspiciously like Paul Walker. Along the way, you'll meet up with hot chick Chinese government agent Fong Ling and even get to play as her at certain points in the game. Overall, the story is your standard Scooby Doo inspired "Curse of the Zombie Cruise Liner" that doesn't really have much of an impact on the main RE storyline.
The gameplay in Dead Aim is a mix of third and first person gameplay. You explore the environment in a third-person perspective with the same tank-like movement we all know and loathe, but the game switches into a first-person view whenever you have to blast some zombies. It feels kind of like MGS2, but the experience isn't nearly as smooth. The transition between views is pretty jarring and the first time you switch to first-person mode and are greeted by ugly zombies just inches away can be a shock. The only bad thing about the gameplay is that it takes the same number of bullets to kill a zombie no matter where you hit them. It would have been nice if good marksmanship was rewarded, but that would have made the game too easy if every creature went down with just one headshot.
Dead Aim offers several control options so that even those of us that do not own a GunCon2 can enjoy the game. In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb and say the game is more fun when you don't use a light gun and use a USB mouse instead. Let me explain this a bit. The game can be played with just a DualShock, but aiming in first-person mode is slow and clunky. The game is meant to be played with a GunCon2, but moving around with the d-pad on the back of the gun and using the buttons on the barrel to open doors and such is tricky. You can use a DualShock alongside the GunCon2, which is the best way to play if you have one, but not very many people own light guns. That brings us to the last, and most practical, control option: A DualShock in conjunction with a USB mouse. You use your left hand on the DualShock so you can easily move around and open doors. The mouse, in your right hand obviously, allows you pinpoint accuracy in first-person mode.
The point I'm trying to make is that even if you don't have a GunCon2, Dead Aim is perfectly playable and downright fun. Using just a DualShock isn't very effective, but if you have a GunCon2 or USB mouse Dead Aim is very enjoyable.
The fear factor of Dead Aim isn't quite as high as a standard RE game, but it tries to scare you in different ways, which is a plus. There aren't very many classic RE moments when something jumps out and says boo, but the atmosphere adds a lot towards making the game more spooky. First off, the cruise ship is very dark. The only lighting is from an occasional lamp or from the flashlight clipped to your character's pocket. This makes for a lot of moments when you can hear a zombie but you can't see it. When you hear a zombie moan or shuffle its feet in the dark it is pretty intense. The zombies themselves add a lot to making Dead Aim spooky as well. They look awesome from the first-person perspective and are animated very well. They lunge at you and stumble around (which makes them harder to hit) in a rather realistic manner that adds a lot to the game. There are a few disturbing images that will stick with you as well, like when you open up a bathroom door and find that a person chose to commit suicide rather than turn into a zombie. Dead Aim isn't really all that scary when compared to other games in the survival horror genre, but it does have a few memorable moments.
The graphics and sound are pretty good, for the most part. As long as you aren't expecting the game to look as good as the REmake or RE0 on GameCube, Dead Aim is actually pretty easy on the eyes. The lighting effects are good and add a lot to the atmosphere. The player character models are detailed and well animated and the zombies, especially in the first-person mode, are very impressive. The sound in Dead Aim is also good, for what there is. There isn't very much music, but the sound effects are outstanding. The sounds of the walking dead are just about perfect, and the creaking of the ship and the constant hum of the engines never let you forget where you are. The gunfire in Dead Aim is well done as each type of weapon sounds very different and all of them are nice and loud. The graphics could be better, but they get the job done and in no way hurt the game.
I have to admit that Dead Aim is what I always secretly wanted a Resident Evil game to be. Exploring environments in a third-person viewpoint where you have a wider range of vision is fine, but when I'm shooting at zombies I want to be a little closer to the action. Nothing is more satisfying than blowing a zombie on its ass with a shotgun blast to the chest at close range. In a perfect world they would add in the MGS2-esque gameplay of Dead Aim (minus the light gun part) to a standard RE game and I would be a happy camper. That probably won't happen, though, and I'll just have to wait for the next Gun Survivor game to come out. With some gameplay tweaks and some polish, this series could be great.
Overall, Resident Evil: Dead Aim is a surprisingly fun way to kill time while we wait for RE4. The hybrid gameplay isn't as smooth as it could be, but the atmosphere more than makes up for it. I like the wealth of control options and especially the fact that just about everyone can get the full experience whether you own a GunCon2 or not. The only problem with Dead Aim is that it only takes about three hours to play through it. If it was a little longer and the gameplay was tweaked a bit, Dead Aim could be great instead of just good. Fans of Resident Evil and zombie fanatics will find a lot to like about Dead Aim, but because of its length it is hard to recommend it for a purchase. Give it a rent and see if it tickles your zombie bone.