Although the Resident Evil films have never been highly regarded by critics, the games have always been given quite a warm reception by the gaming press. And while the fifth console game in the series isn’t due to launch until some time in March, there has also recently been another film made, supplying the impetus for this title. It’s not one of those Milla Jovovich-led affairs either, but rather a computer-generated animated movie much like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, albeit with a somewhat reduced budget.
Don’t worry too much about the plot though, as the all-important core lurching-zombie gameplay that makes the series such a favourite among gamers is here, complete with a few bucket-loads of rotting flesh. Yum.
In Resident Evil: Degeneration you play as Leon S Kennedy, running around an airport, blasting the undead while searching for any survivors who haven’t yet come down with a nasty spell of undead-ness. In order to fit a reasonable impression of the Resident Evil experience onto mobile – it’s not traditionally considered particularly casual or short play friendly, after all – each level only takes a couple of minutes to play, asking you to do something fairly simple, whether it’s killing zombies or merely getting to a particular location.
There are a lot of levels to play through too and, unlike the previous and quite similar Resident Evil: The Missions game, they’re arranged in a linear fashion, with some attempt at a story thrown in too. You end up re-visiting the same locations an awful lot, but as your enemies develop from simple zombies to zombie dogs and the rather big and rather scary Tyrant enemies, it never becomes a trudge.
Although Degeneration is trying to recreate the console experience to an extent, you’re also given the option to use slightly more casual controls. The standard method sees you moving and turning in relation to the direction the character is facing, but the second method makes it so that pressing 'up' will always move you upwards, 'left' always left and so on. Pressing the ‘#’ key brings out your weapon of choice, and while it’s drawn, hitting ‘5’ attacks.
Using guns, you can aim for their head, feet or torso, while a little aiming reticule hones in and out, enabling you to time your shot properly. As any zombie fan knows, the head’s the best bet.
Since your aiming is otherwise automatic, with ‘4’ and ‘6’ cycling between available targets, the controls have a pleasantly casual feel to them. With drawn backgrounds and a fairly grimy overall look, it’s occasionally hard to make out exactly where doors are from a glance, but a handy icon pops up whenever you get near one anyway.
In the heat of the moment, though, things can get a little fiddly and a zombie swipe can do a fair amount of damage. Frustrations do arise but, thanks to the fairly accommodating difficulty level, they never threaten to drown Degeneration. Considering that this was the case in the 18-month-old Resident Evil: The Missions, it’s a little disappointing that things haven’t been tweaked that little bit more.
Equally, although the interface has been improved a little and the airport is a slightly more engaging location than The Missions’s haunted house, the visuals are starting to creak in spite of the 3D. Something only stays new-fangled for so long. These quibbles aside, Resident Evil: Degeneration remains a good casual interpretation of the series that packs in a surprising amount of creepy atmosphere and tension for a mobile game.