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Game Profile
GENRE: Horror
March 13, 2009
Resident Evil 6

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City

Resident Evil: Revelations

More in this Series
Resident Evil 5
Resident Evil 5
 Written by David Taylor  on July 24, 2008

Previews: The wild zombies cry out in the night!

One of the undisputed highlights of this year's E3 was Resident Evil 5 (RE5) -- the next chapter in Capcom's long-running survival horror series. The game made an appearance at both Microsoft's press conference and as a playable demo in Capcom's booth. The latter of these garnered such a large attendance that one would have thought people were lining up to see a Kim Kardashian/Mila Kunis mud-wrestling match. Low and behold they were eagerly waiting for the next best thing ? pure zombie-blasting mayhem.

The information presented at E3 didn't add a significant amount to what is generally known about the game's story. Suffice it to say, RE5 takes place in Africa and stars recurring zombie-buster Chris Redfield (the hero of the original Resident Evil and Resident Evil: Code Veronica). Chris journeys to the continent to investigate a biological outbreak that is turning people into crazed monstrosities. A new female character named Sheva accompanies Chris on his quest.

The zombies are similar to those encountered in Resident Evil 4. These are not the shambling, rotting corpses from the PS One/Dreamcast titles. RE5's enemies are nimble, living individuals reminiscent of the villains in the film 28 Days Later. The playable demo featured two stages, both of which took place in a dilapidated African slum.

The stage I played began with a cut-scene. Chris and Sheva looked on from a nearby shack as a gigantic zombie, complete with an axe and executioner's mask, beheaded a man on-stage in front of a mass of infected onlookers. The leader of this mob, an angry zombie with a megaphone, saw the heroic duo and sent his minions after them. When I regained control, I pushed bookcases in front of the main door and window in a feeble attempt to block the incoming horde. This bought me some time to search around the shack for ammunition. As expected, the zombies finally broke through my barricades and began pouring into the shack. Sheva and I, playing as Chris, managed to fight them off until a group of zombies blew a hole in the ceiling. This destruction was followed by the massive executioner doing the same to one of the shack's walls. As a result we were forced to flee our refuge and fight for our lives in the slum's alleys until a helicopter could arrive and evacuate us. This was no easy task considering that the zombies, as well as the behemoth executioner, were hot on our tails. The executioner swung his axe and managed to almost kill Chris (me) in one hit. Luckily my computer-controlled female companion ran up and healed me so I could continue the fight. I finally managed to kill the gargantuan pest as he passed a group of barrels, which detonated after a rendezvous with my pistol's bullets.

Resident Evil 5 is similar to its predecessor in a number of ways. Most noticeably the player views the game from the same close third-person perspective. Likewise both games control almost identically. As with the previous game, the player aims by holding down one of the shoulder buttons and then moves his or her weapon's laser sight around the screen with the left analog stick. Unfortunately the game still does not allow the player to shoot while running (a common complaint of Resident Evil fans).

Just like in Resident Evil 4, Chris can deliver body blows to zombies at specific times. Unlike Resident Evil 4's Leon, Chris seems to prefer using an uppercut rather than a Chuck Norris style roundhouse. The characters' struggles with the zombies are also more suspenseful. For example, Chris will grab both of a monster's hands and attempt to push the horror backward as it leans forward in an effort eat off his face with the fleshy set of double jaws.

The visuals are just as big of an upgrade over Resident Evil 4, as the fourth installment was over the PS One and Dreamcast games. It is perhaps because of these excellent graphics, combined with the series' usual claustrophobic atmosphere that makes the game suspenseful despite the fact that a hefty portion takes place during daytime. Small, but welcome cosmetic details have also been added to the game. For instance, when Chris uses his health spray, you actually see him spray it on himself (as opposed to just magically getting better). Both the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 versions were running the demo. A side-by-side comparison revealed that the Playstation 3 version's graphics appeared a bit crisper. That being said, the difference between the two is negligible.

The game takes the partner-swapping mechanic that Capcom introduced in Resident Evil 0 to a new level. The player can switch between Sheva and Chris. The computer controls the inactive player in single-player mode. Thankfully the demo's A.I. helped make it feel like Sheva was an actual partner rather than the personification of a glorified escort mission. Nevertheless, the game encourages you to help the other character when he or she gets in a struggle with zombies. This involves simply running over to the foe menacing them and giving him/her/it a firm punch to the face. This rescuing would seem to have the potential to become annoying if not adequately implemented in the main game. However it never grew annoying in the demo. In fact, the computer is pretty good about helping the player. On a few occasions I began to struggle with a zombie, only to find Sheva running up and pulling it off of me. As previously mentioned, she also gave me a much needed healing herb when I was at death's door.

The major revelation about the game occurred at the Microsoft press conference. The game's producer, Jun Takeuchi, announced that Resident Evil 5 would include an on-line co-op mode. The subsequent demonstration showed Chris Redfield slugging through zombies until he reached a chasm that was too wide for him to jump across. The other player controlling Sheva came close, and Chris gave her a boost to the other side. Sheva fought off some zombies at close range while Chris supported her with a rifle from afar. Eventually Sheva made it to a door on the other side, which she unlocked, thus enabling the player controlling Chris to join her. This team dynamic seemed to function quite well. Hopefully Capcom will design some interesting puzzles around this scenario.

Final Thoughts
While Resident Evil 5 doesn't appear to be as revolutionary as its predecessor, the game seemingly does enough new things to make it a compelling experience. The African environment will be a welcome departure from the cityscapes, laboratories, police stations, and castles from previous installments. The partner system, in both single player and online, has the potential to be genre-altering experience. At the same time it could be the game's Achilles heel. Nevertheless, Resident Evil 5 looks and plays amazingly well in its current form. All judgments will be postponed until we get closer to the game's March 13, 2009 release in North America.

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