Jul 21, 2008

Remember how innovative the original Resident Evil game was? It essentially defined what the survival horror genre should be on consoles -- and in spite of its infamous "tank" controls and fixed pre-rendered camera angles, it become an instant-classic for PS1 fans everywhere. Resident Evil 2 was also a great game, but it simply added more of what fans came to love about the first game.

Resident Evil 5 is Resident Evil 4's immediate successor. When RE4 debuted on Gamecube last generation, it was praised for its innovative reimagining of the then-aging series. The series lost its fixed camera angles, and gained a behind-the-shoulder perspective to fight a horde of intelligent enemies. RE5 for PS3 is simply more of what we've come to expect from the new invisioning of the franchise.

Considering the accolades RE4 received when it debuted (considered by many to be the finest game of the last generation), continuing with the established formula shouldn't come as a surprise. With a new coat of (incredibly beautiful) paint, will RE5 garner as much praise as its PS2/GC predecessor?

The answer is sadly, no. While the core mechanics were fresh back in 2005, we doubt Leon Chris' tank-like controls will come as accepted, especially with the number of enemies that are on screen. The tactics we're able to employ from RE4 work just as well in RE5 -- a bit disappointing because it no longer feels surprising. We're able to simply run by enemies, shoot their kneecaps and go in for a melee blow. This process can be repeated over and over again. Considering my familiarity with RE4, RE5 came much too easily. Not once in the entire two-level demo did I get hit by an enemy.

That's not to say that everything is a carbon-copy of RE4. Your new partner is far more interesting and helpful than Ashley could ever hope to be. Seeing her capably work through the non-zombies is refreshing -- having her give you ammo when you're low is incredibly helpful. The graphics engine runs incredibly smoothly on the PS3, rendering dozens of detailed enemies at high resolution without a hitch in the framerate. The destructible environments and beautiful explosive and fire effects add to the immersion. One must also point out the fantastic sound design: the sounds of enemies crashing through windows as they circle around you easily brings out the goosebumps.

There isn't much in the demo that "wow"ed us, but it would be a downright lie to say we weren't excited for this game. While we're a bit disappointed at how familiar the experience was, the moody atmosphere and the still-visceral gameplay still has us excited. We're undoubtedly picking up RE5 when it releases next year, but we're not going to hope for any genre-redefining experiences.


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