Resident Evil 5
6th Dec 2008 | 10:00
As the camera zooms into a shadowy figure there's only one man it could be. Albert Wesker, it's good to see you again. We've known about Wesker and Spencer's involvement in Resi 5 for over a year; one a frail old man who created Umbrella, the other a resurrected villain with more in common with a supernatural being than any human. His stylish fights with Chris feature so many theatrics and ludicrous moves you'll swear the DMC4 and RE5 teams were trying to outdo each other in the cut-scene department. The OTT scraps can only mean one thing: Krauser-esque QTE knife battles are a given.
Thankfully, Capcom decided to unveil more revelations about RE5's seventh key chapter than just a few fights with the antagonist. Excella Gionne, the voluptuous lady who debuted in the last round of trailers, has aligned herself with the born-again god. It's a powerful allegiance given her position in the African arm of the new Umbrella, Tricell Pharmaceuticals.
She's not the only female villain, though. The robed figure known up until now only as 'Mystery Person' is, as we suspected, a woman. Seen walking around Josh as he's attacked by oily leeches it's not known if she's a willing participant in Wesker's plans. You could argue that the scenes where she partners Excella and a crazy, young currently nameless man suggest as much, and if not the punch-up between her and Sheva confirms it. All-but.
Downed choppers, leech monsters, tribal warriors, killer spiders, lake monsters and a short-lived shemagh-wearing ally... plenty of new information can be spotted if you care to look at the trailers on our DVD. The merchant's identity is still a mystery but Chris and Sheva's lust for pocketing gold confirms there will be some sort of black market to dabble with. Whether or not the friendly troops seen firing on the Ganados play a role we've yet to see, but surprisingly the talk of TGS wasn't the plot or the returning characters, but the confirmation of the new control scheme.
Takeuchi has opted to include two control methods - the standard input is exactly as you remember: firing and knife stances rest on the triggers with x doubling up as both the generic action button and fire, and a acting as reload and sprint. LB helps you locate your partner who can be called with b, while y allows you to hot-swap items on the fly. Action controls, on the other hand, are closer to Dead Space's set-up. Strafing appears for the first time, and it's the right trigger that fires your weapon, not a face button.
Instead of just moving the camera the right stick turns Chris or Sheva, although the decision to keep sprint mapped to a feels like a missed opportunity, especially given the need to operate the right stick as you run from an enemy as well. But the control system doesn't allow you to fire on the move, and still feels dated, despite the other improvements.
Changes to the series' traditions don't stop there, either. The typewriters have finally been given the heave-ho in favour of segregating the game into chapters and checkpoints. The result, alongside the new control scheme, feels more like Gears of War than Resident Evil. Which shouldn't come as much of a surprise; Resident Evil ditched the survival horror genre long ago.
If Leon's Spanish excursion wasn't enough to convince you of the series' jump from horror to action then Resident Evil 5 will beat you senseless with ammo, ammo and more ammo until you grudgingly accept the truth. Any horror roots have long been severed. Tension which featured as recently as Resident Evil 4 is - literally - sidestepped by the change in controls and the inclusion of co-op. As Chris and Sheva stroll through the opening town there are no scares, no flanking villages and no break in the action. The second player has ended the feeling of dread every time you open a new door. It's the series' Dino Crisis 2: waving goodbye to its frightening roots and embracing its action genre with open arms.
It's a shame, especially as some recent hands-on time was slightly underwhelming. For instance, is the annoying appearing and disappearing act that our partner keeps pulling next to us going to make it through to the final version? Will Sheva also continue to try her best to not only ignore our cries for help but also become embroiled in a death grip of her own when a spider clings onto our back?
And just why, when the focus should be on surviving and only surviving, does the inventory micro-management play such a large role in co-op play? Swapping items between the two players to optimise each player's inventory space is a truly laborious process, and one that's in danger of turning the king of survival action into Mary's Professional Handbag Manager 09.
In a recent interview with sister magazine Official PlayStation, Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami stated that he wouldn't play Resident Evil 5 because it'd be too painful: he'd spot too many things which would have been different under his direction. The eye-candy cut-scenes and the exciting plot are everything we've hoped and prayed for, but when we get to grip that controller... Let's just say that'll be the real test as to whether Mikami's fears are justified.
We're huge fans of the series, and by including familiar faces and popular mechanics Capcom has been hitting all the right notes. But - and there is a but - we've since experienced Dead Space, which managed to bring some new ideas to the table. Whether Resident Evil 5 can top them remains to be seen. It's a likely bet, but not a certain one.