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First Impressions:
Resident Evil 5

Format: Xbox360 (played) / PS3
Genre: Survival horror
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom

Out 13/03/09

Martin Stoddart fights his way through a small portion of the game, before deadlines push the review back a whole month.  Bah and, indeed, humbug.

Resident Evil 5 is the first of the franchise to be released on the 360 and PS3. Set in Africa, players will get to learn about the origins of the virus as well as what Chris Redfield has done with his life in the ten years since the original incident. Starting off as Chris (protagonist of the original. Like you didn't know - where have you been for the last 15 years? An underground lab?) you are soon introduced to a new character, Sheva Alomar, a "no-nonsense African-born lady who works for the West African division of the Bio-Terrorism Security Assessment Alliance" (apparently the same organisation Redfield now works for). You also have the option to play through the main story cooperatively as Chris and Sheva. What little is known of the plot involves the origins of the virus, and a certain Albert Wesker will be involved - I, for one, hope to be able to give him some payback this time around...

Initial impressions: it's a great looking and sounding game, although I'm not sure I like the palette. Everything seems to be far too yellow- and brown-heavy. Hopefully this is just in the initial locales - of course, this being a Resident Evil game, there will no doubt be some radically different locations later on, probably involving secret labs. The game does, however, look glorious. The in-game action is almost akin to CGI in its quality.

The control system seems a little clunky, especially after the successful optimisation for the Wii with Resident Evil 4. It does, however, manage to retain the Resident Evil sense of panic. It varies between being annoying, while at the same time adding to the stress that I'd like to call "Res Factor". Even the mundane enemies offer a threat, and I found I had to constantly back-peddle, stop, shoot, and repeatů

"...Evil Chainsaw Sack Mask Dude..." 

Talking of enemies... Zombies - are they zombies? We were promised zombies! However, the levels I have played seem to be frequented by Las Plagas-style monsters. Maybe there's a connection between Resident Evil 4's enemies and these? All culminating in Zombie Las Plagas Hybrid monsters? Who knows, but I hope we see some proper zombies later in this one. 

Early on, you'll be greeted by a familiar character. Remember the Fear Doctor Salvidor? That's Resident Evil Chainsaw Sack Mask Dude to the non-geek population. Be prepared to meet his more gruesome, more ferocious, taller counterpart. Needless to say that, after my first encounter, it wasn't long before the familiar "YOU HAVE DIED" message was filling the screen. Other early pleasures include a huge guy swinging a massive mace - not nice at all...

A new addition to the series is co-op mode, playable both online and offline. Online it works particularly well, and looks likely to prove itself a great addition to the game. One memorable scene sees you sniping a horde of bad guys to protect Sheva whilst she's off to activate a switch - it looks like cooperative gameplay will play a great part in Resident Evil 5.

Even the offline experience seems to work well. Sheva's AI is exceptionally well implemented - she throws you ammo when you're empty and is a great help in a firefight - although the lack of being able to "assign" her a specific strategy could well prove problematic. She's definitely her own woman and can look after herself, unlike "Ashley the Liability" in Resident Evil 4.

A welcome addition is the wealth of new control method options - you still can't move whilst shooting (where's the fun/panic in that?) but can now side-step/strafe. It takes a little getting used to, but it's quickly becoming my method of choice.

It's a shame the gameplay mechanism hasn't had much of an overhaul to go with the next-gen graphics, but hopefully things pick up later on. Fans of Resident Evil 4 will no doubt be eager for more, although I'm slightly tentative. Still, it's visually impressive, gives a constant sense of being on edge, and makes brave use of a very different environment to the previous games. I, for one, hope that this proves to itself to be at least on a par with its predecessor, the current pinnacle of the franchise.

Contents
Issue 4

Podcast

Editor's Note

The Special Report
A silly video! Hooray!

The Evolution of Horror
A look back at the genre's history

16-Bit Boy
Do our minds corrupt the most innocent games?

Is it 'Game Over' for survival horror?
Where's the genre heading?

The Angry Gamer
Are games programmed to cheat?

Listen to your Elders!
Lessons from the FPS grandfathers

Interview:
Vince D. Weller
What makes a good RPG?

Interview: Dan Pinchbeck
How far can we push FPS boundaries?

First Impressions: Resident Evil 5
Rekindling the spirit?

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