Love/Hate: Resident Evil – Dead Aim

Welcome back to the Resident Evil love/hate series! In this entry we’ll be going over the third, and final, Survivor game, Resident Evil: Dead Aim! I’ve been pretty up-front with my thoughts on the first two Survivor games – they’re two of the worst games in this entire franchise little to no redeeming qualities between them. For Dead Aim, Capcom looked to shake up the formula a bit to try to finally make a Survivor game worth playing. Would third time be the charm, or is this yet another failure for this sub-series? Read on to find out…


  • Morpheus – Hands-down, the most interesting and notable aspect of this game is its villain, Morpheus. This might seem kind of surprising at first glance, since Morpheus’s characterization is extremely shallow. The game’s opening blurb pretty much establishes their entire character and motivation: to create a kingdom where beauty has absolute authority. But then the game goes in a completely unexpected direction, as this guy injects themselves with this game’s virus and it causes them to… turn trans!? Like, I’m not even kidding either. Morpheus was introduced to us as a Sephiroth-style pretty-boy, but then they come out as a big booby Tyrant with goddamn biological heels (I’m going to go with “they” here simply because we never get a clear-cut answer about how they identify). It’s completely off the wall, but it’s a choice that makes Morpheus significantly more memorable and interesting than they have any right to be. It’s also kind of wild because of how well it’s handled – no one’s calling them a freak because of the change, they’re treated no differently than any other Resident Evil antagonist would be, and Morpheus seems to be living their best life because of it. I’m not even sure that it was the developers’ intent for this to be as positive a representation as it is, but for a game released in 2003, it’s pretty shocking to see. Hell, the game even seems to lean into it. You can’t tell me that the scene where Morpheus’s transformation is revealed, where this tall, booby trans woman turns Bruce into their bitch as he moans pathetically as he gets dominated isn’t meant to come across as kinda hot… and not even in a trans fetish way, I mean more in a general domination kink sort of way. Like I said, it’s kind of insane how well the trans aspect of the game comes across to me (although, to be fair, I’m not trans, so maybe I’m missing some key context). On top of all this, the section of the game where Morpheus stalks your character is legitimately intense, and they have easily the best boss fight in the entire game. Simply put, Morpheus is one of the most interesting Resident Evil villains, almost entirely due to the bonkers decisions they made with the characters, and then how well they managed to execute these decisions.
  • Bruce – Our hero, Bruce McGivern, is about the most stereotypical 2000s-era male you could imagine. Dude looks like the lead singer from Crossfade, an image which I have not been able to shake the entire time I played this game. Bruce is an American spy who is trying to stop Morpheus from unleashing a bio-terror attack on the world. He’s also a massive, bungling doofus, has an extremely weird vocal performance, is constantly getting clowned on by his rival and love interest, Fongling, and, as I stated previously, Morpheus absolutely turns him into their bitch… and, honestly, all this actually makes him kind of endearing. There’s a real charm and sincerity in seeing this dork stumble through mishap after mishap as he tries to save the day and it’s the kind of thing that you just never see from a Resident Evil hero.
  • The Map – Legitimately, Dead Aim has one of the best maps in the entire series. Every room you come across is labelled, making navigating to specific areas much easier. In addition, every locked door you come across with get marked on the map with a cool little scribble effect, like Bruce is updating it in real-time as you explore. He’ll also mark key doors, and circle areas of interest. It’s also great that the map is mapped to the select button for easy access. All-in-all, it’s just an extremely handy tool to have at your disposal and makes exploration less of a hassle.
  • Ambition – Look, the Resident Evil: Survivor games we’ve looked at so far have all been pretty different. The first game was kind of like a stripped-down Resident Evil game with more of an emphasis on shooting. Meanwhile, the second game was a full-tilt, run-and-gun, arcade light gun game. Dead Aim is more similar to the original Survivor game, but it’s very much its own beast. It adds first- and third-person gameplay elements, a stealth system, and a far more cinematic plot and narrative. I’ve actually heard it described as a prototype for Resident Evil 4… which is kind of insane to say, but also not entirely wrong either…? Even if its ideas aren’t always executed as well as one would hope, I appreciate just how far off the beaten path this game is willing to go; it makes Dead Aim a very unique entry in the sprawling Resident Evil franchise.


  • Stealth – The aforementioned stealth system is pretty handy. Hold down X, L1, or L2, and you will begin sneaking around, making it a lot harder for enemies to hear you and making them less likely to aggro to you. You can get through the game without using it, but it definitely makes the game easier and you will waste significantly less ammo… however, there are a couple drawbacks. First of all, you’re moving a hell of a lot slower, so the game’s pace is also going to be slowed during general traversal. Secondly, sneaking around isn’t really all that fun, especially compared to blasting zombies.


  • The Story – The actual plot of Dead Aim is pretty standard spy thriller stuff: Morpheus is going to launch missiles when they reach their island base, it’s up to Bruce and Fongling to stop them. This is a good setup, but man is the story told poorly and barely develops at all (the only major plot points being: Morpheus infects themselves, the cruise ship crashes into Morpheus’s base and blows up, and the Chinese government make a deal with Morpheus and try to kill Fongling off). It also doesn’t help that the game completely bungles its opening. Instead of giving us any kind of setup to establish characters, the setting, plot threads, etc, instead the game starts in media res with Bruce already on Morpheus’s cruise ship and captured at gunpoint by the villain. Then Fongling immediately rescues him and the game starts, despite us having no fucking clue who any of these people are or what the hell is going on. It feels like we’re missing at least fifteen minutes of setup and doesn’t come across like it was an artistic choice – rather it feels like they were just trying to put in the minimum effort to get this story underway.
  • The Sounds – Dead Aim has some of the worst sounds for a major video game release that I’ve ever heard. First of all, the voice acting – I don’t think the performances here are bad like they are in some other Resident Evil games. However, they are recorded and/or mixed terribly (in the English release, at least). You can barely hear what Bruce or Fongling are saying half the time. On top of that, there are all sorts of bizarre and unpleasant sound choices in this game. Most infuriating, most of the cabins on the cruise ship have this awful high-pitched sound that plays the entire time you’re in the room for some godawful reason. In addition, enemies have an incredibly limited pool of sound effects, so you will hear the same zombie sound over, and over, and over, and over, ad nauseum. I’ve also got to say that Pluto, the morbidly obese zombie, makes the weirdest fucking sounds that I’ve ever heard in a zombie game when he’s chasing after you. It gets incredibly annoying and makes this boss fight even more annoying than it already is.
  • The Length – Once again, we have an insanely short Survivor game, clocking in under two hours total playtime. For me, it took 1 hour and 43 minutes, which is just nuts. Unlike the original Survivor, there aren’t even any branching paths to incentivize replays. Perhaps the craziest part to me is that there doesn’t seem to be much reason for the game to be this short? Like, there are plenty of opportunities to pad out the length if they wanted to and allow us to take more time exploring areas, solving puzzles, fighting enemies… y’know, Resident Evil stuff. Instead, the game has a break-neck pace as it blasts through areas with little pomp or circumstance. Like, at one point, I fought a boss and then like two minutes later I was fighting another, completely separate boss who was only like one locked door away. Does it not make sense to space these kinds of big moments apart more, or is that just me…? All I can think is that Dead Aim was incredibly limited for cash and/or has a concrete release date, so they had to cut a lot of corners and use only what they had for the final product (which would also explain some of the story issues).
  • The Controls – Dead Aim has some really strange controls. I’ll admit that some of this comes down to me not having a Guncon 2 to play the game on, but this isn’t really an excuse. Halo: Combat Evolved had been out for two years when this game came out, so there’s no reason for the game’s controller support to be any worse than that. Anyway, the game uses tank controls like every other Resident Evil game up until that point. In addition, you can hold X or L2 to sneak and strafe, while holding L1 will allow you to sneak… but, for some reason, you’ll only be able to move forward and backwards? Not sure why this is even a thing, but it’s here. In order to go into first person mode to shoot enemies, you need to tap R1, and then use the right stick to move your reticle. Want to leave first person mode? You have to press… down on the D-pad. Oh, but pressing left or right on the D-pad will allow you to move the reticle as well…??? Pressing R1 again will allow you to shoot. You can also hold X to strafe in first person mode, or you can also press X to dodge (although the timing is pretty tough to nail). Look, this control scheme works, but is it good? I would say that it is not, lots of its features feel redundant, contradictory, and/or unintuitive and I don’t know how many times I accidentally wasted bullets forgetting that you had to press a different button to close first person view.
  • The Environments – The cruise ship is kind of an interesting area to explore, but even at that point in the game, you can feel how much of the environments are being recycled over and over. This just gets worse as the game goes on, as you pass through identical areas with even less variation to them.
  • The Subtitles – Look, how fucking bad does your game have to be when I’m out here complaining about the goddamn subtitles?! Dead Aim has that infuriating issue with imported Japanese media where the subtitles do not match up with the dialogue. I’m assuming that this is down to different localization teams who, for some godforsaken reason, decided to translate the Japanese dialogue for the subtitles, and then localized the dialogue separately. It makes the awful sound mixing for the dialogue even worse, since you can’t tell what exactly is being said at all times, but it sure as hell is not lining up with what the subtitles are telling you is being said.
  • The Assault Rifle – I’d like to know who the bastard was who decided that every single round fired from every gun in the game needs to make the screen flash white. The reason for this is because the assault rifle, a rapid-fire weapon that holds 100 rounds of ammunition at a time, turns into a fucking seizure-inducing, eye-ball searing nightmare every time it is fired. Making matters worse, it’s an incredibly powerful gun that you kind of need in order to win some of the tougher boss fights, so you’re pretty much going to have to use it at some point, even if it will leave you a frothing, twitching mess in its wake.
  • The Facial Animations – This might sound like a weird complaint, but Dead Aim might just have the worst facial animation I’ve ever seen in a game. Bruce and Fongling are constantly making the weirdest, most unnatural faces that I’ve ever seen (and, in Fongling’s case, they’d feel borderline offensive if they weren’t clearly just the work of crunch and/or incompetence). The end result is that it becomes even harder to take either of these characters seriously.
  • The Sewers – Resident Evil games are notorious for having bad sewer levels, but this game’s sewer section is easily the worst in the entire series. There are a hell of a lot of reasons for this too:
    • First of all, the game suddenly becomes very stingy with ammo out of nowhere. Ammo was reasonably plentiful on the cruise ship, but here you simply will not find enough ammo to kill most of the creatures you come across, let alone have enough to deal with the level-end boss. To make matters worse, if you waste your high-powered ammo down here then you’re a sucker, because what little ammo you do find is going to be mostly for your handgun. Joy.
    • Secondly, the sewer layout is maze-like, but you’re going to very quickly realize just how linear and repetitive it is. Seriously, there’s only one path forward, and you’re not going to be able to more than a few steps off the path without finding that the way forward is blocked and/or locked behind a grate. As a result, when you enter an area, you can just look at your map and pretty much be able to tell which way you can go without even being able to see which doors and routes are blocked yet.
    • Thirdly, this area is full of Glimmers, one of the absolute worst enemies in the entire franchise. These Hunter variants are a massive pain in the ass – they hide in the dark, so you can barely see them, they take a ton of ammo to put down, and they’re incredibly fast, so you have a literal fraction of a second to react before they sprint across the entire room at you in the blink of an eye and grapple you. The concept of a cautious, stalking enemy is really cool, but fighting Glimmers ends up being complete bullshit here in execution. Even the Resident Evil wiki says to just avoid them, because fighting is a waste of time and ammo.
    • Finally, the whole area is capped off with a boss fight with the aforementioned Pluto, a very fat zombie who hunts you through sound. Again, cool concept, but my God is the execution awful. If he hears you, you will take damage. However, you get a silenced pistol very early in the game, so you can trivialize the entire fight by staying far away, and sniping his head with dozens of pistol shots over, and over, and over again. It makes for a tedious joke of a boss fight, to the point where I had killed him and didn’t even realize it until the cutscene started playing about ten seconds later.
  • The Game Incentivizes You to Not Play It – When I first got to play as Fongling, I had been given an assault rifle and a ton of zombies. “Cool,” I thought, “the game’s letting me have a power fantasy where I get to let rip with this gun against a horde of enemies”. Only, no, it turns out that I’m actually an idiot. Later, when I play as Fongling again, she was still out of ammo and was stuck with just her pistol. She never gets more ammo for the assault rifle and never gets any other gun for the rest of the game, making some of the sections where you play as her harder if you wasted her ammo earlier in the game, like a fucking idiot. What did you think I was playing, a light gun shooter!? That’s when it dawned on me: if you’re even bothering to fight enemies in this game, you’re a sucker. Even basic zombies take a stupid amount of ammo to down, you only get to carry six boxes of ammo of any type at a time, non-handgun ammo is exceedingly rare, and if you run out of bullets, there’s no melee option, meaning you are just plain fucked. Literally, the best course of action in this game is to shoot only enemies that cannot be avoided without taking damage. In all other cases, running or sneaking past them is always the best course of action. Again, this is supposed to be a light gun game. For all its faults, at least the original Survivor nailed the idea that you were supposed to want to kill the zombies. This also, obviously, just makes a content-bereft game even shorter and hollow, which is about the last thing it needed.

I appreciate just how bizarre and unique Dead Aim is within the Resident Evil franchise. However, it really fails to elevate the Survivor sub-series out of the depths of the garbage bin it had been residing in. I do think it’s probably the best of these three games, but it’s still easily one of the worst games in the franchise all things considered. Still, there’s not other game quite like it, so it’s certainly worth experiencing, if only to see all the bonkers decisions put into it.

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