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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Resident Evil 5 (Playstation 3)

Capcom's long-running survival horror franchise gets another solid installment with the release of Resident Evil 5. Featuring stunning, photo-realistic graphics, impressively smooth gameplay as well as online modes and co-op missions, it offers a challenging, immersive experience. This edition stars Chris Redfield and his new partner Shiva Alomar. This introduces a new dynamic into the game where you work together as you battle the zombie hordes in Africa. RE5's visual flair is incredible and its cinematic approach is smooth and polished. It's gameplay is also faster than previous titles, with a faster pace and more gunplay owing more to RE 4 than earlier installments. It represents another solid installment in the series, offering a pleasing mix of old and new elements that bring the series to the HD era without losing its essential appeal.

It's fitting that the series that almost single-handedly invented the survival horror genre nearly 15 years ago would reinvent, or reanimate, itself for the HD era without losing the things players have loved about the series. Fans of the previous Resident Evil titles should pretty much know what to expect by now. While the game delivers most of the chills and thrills you've come to expect, there are a few interesting changes and surprises around that help to keep things fresh. As the action in Resident Evil 5 begins, you find yourself investigating a new outbreak of the deadly virus in a remote section of Africa. As Chris Redfield, you've seen this before - the shadow of Umbrella Corporation looms overhead. In the earliest stages, you witness the beginning of a new outbreak of the virus as innocent villagers are transformed into hideous undead monsters. This plot should sound familiar enough to Resident Evil veterans. However, there's a twist this time around. Instead of battling the zombie hordes alone, you're joined in the action by a partner named Shiva Alomar who's both smart and aggressive. Unlike the previous games, where the sidekicks merely acted as eye candy and had minimal impact on the play, Shiva takes a more active role during the mission. It's safe to say that without her, you'd have no chance at all. Her presence changes your strategy and approach in a number of key ways, most of which improve the gameplay and make it more interesting throughout. Initially, the action plays similarly, except you can now trade and exchange items with your partner. This comes in handy when you want to stockpile weapons, ammo and herbs. As you progress through your missions, Shiva will also come to your aid if you run into trouble. For example, she'll give you a health booster shot if you're running low on energy. She'll also shoot and target enemies nearby. On the other hand, you also have to keep an eye on her as well, since she can take damage as well. If she loses all her health and dies, the action comes to an end, so you have to guard her as well. This co-operation extends to other sections of the game as well, you can use the two characters to traverse gaps, make co-operative jumps and use other techniques. This gives RE5 a different feel than other games and lets you feel like you're not just looking out for yourself. The game's puzzles have also been adjusted to this new structure. In one section, you might want to have Shiva run ahead and unlock a door while you stay behind. Another area has you guarding her, protecting her from zombie attacks as you wait on the other side of a building. There are numerous weapons, such as shotguns and sniper rifles that you can use to attack the enemies. This would seem to give you an immediate advantage, and in the early stages it seems to work. However, later on you'll face off against more dangerous opponents who are just as good as you are when it comes to gunplay, so you'll need to be careful. Like many of the previous games, there are different types of enemies you'll face off against. Initially, the standard zombies are fairly easy to pick off thanks to their predictable movements and low bullet threshold. Later on, you'll face off against more dangerous foes who'll attack you relentlessly and aren't as easily stopped by a few shots. These include some fairly intimidating boss characters who are almost relentless in their attacks and who aren't vulnerable except for certain weapons.

Most of RE5 takes place in real-time and the controls and interface in these section is fairly simple to understand and use. The action takes place from a semi-third person viewpoint where the camera is positioned above your shoulder. Movement is performed by using the analog pad, while holding down makes your character sprint. Weapons can be equipped from the main menu and one in your hand, you press the shift button to aim and fire. Most of the weapons have laser sights which makes it easy to pick off opponents. You can use the menu system to call up your inventory and can trade items, share objects and even request your partner's inventory as well. This makes for a fairly intuitive system and while the interface isn't as smooth or visceral as a true FPS, Resident Evil 5's approach makes the combat much simpler than previous games. In addition to the action sequences, there are several cut-scenes where you need to press buttons in quick succession to perform moves. This is one of the few areas of RE5 that isn't implemented as smoothly as it could have been, making these sequences choppy reminders of the limitations seen in older RE titles. Despite this, the game is for the most part quite good in terms of balance and pacing. There's a good mix of action and puzzles and as in the previous RE titles, you'll find numerous items by exploring, finding hidden crates and locating items within. However, this time around, your partner will scoop up items along the way, too. This makes a bit of competitiveness in the game that can be a bit annoying. Previous titles prided themselves on giving you limited weapons, but the approach was modified with the more action oriented RE4. The fifth game takes this one step further, with a catch. There's abundant ammo to be found, but since you have to split it between two main characters, you still need to be careful and not shoot blindly. In addition to objects you find during the game, you can also purchase additional things from the shop between rounds, with everything from guns to herbs and first aid spray available. This means you shouldn't hesitate to grab any gold you see along the way. There are other things to aid you on your quest, such as calling out to Shiva for direction and information during the game. The single-player mode also gives you a map which you can use to point you in the right direction. This time around, you can also use your navigation maps to locate your partner in case you get split up, which can be an invaluable aid, since you sometimes can look to Shiva to point you in the right direction if you get lost. While the previous games relied heavily on finding ribbons and typewriters to save your progress, RE 5 seems to have ditched this mode entirely and instead uses a more transparent auto-save system which allows you to progress through with little problem. The frequent save points in the game mean you won't spend a lot of time backtracking. This auto-save system makes RE5's gameplay more enjoyable and while making for a smoother flowing experience.

Despite taking place in sun-drenched deserts and cities of Africa, Resident Evil 5 is still able to create a palpable sense of fear and dread. An impressive level of visual detail is evident throughout the game, with outstanding character design, smooth flowing animation and realistic environments transporting players into a forbidding world. Excellent character models make you feel like you're controlling real people, and the zombies move at you with unexpected speed and menace, giving you little breathing room. As you'd expect, there are many areas in the game that will shock you with their brutality and gore. RE 5's soundtrack fits the bleak mood perfectly, and there's abundant voice-overs and acting that are well done, propelling the storyline forward without being excessively cheesy or distraction. When they're running at you full-force, the zombies themselves look evil and possessed and the game's overall feel is one of constantly being on the run from a dangerous force that's becoming ever more powerful and insidious. The best parts of RE5 are the ones where you and Shiva find yourselves surrounded by seemingly endless waves of zombies and need all your persistence and skill to survive, usually by the skin of your teeth, only to stagger into the next confrontation. This gives Resident Evil 5 a constant sense of tension and fear. One of the more interesting achievements in the game is the sense of teamwork it creates. This is especially true when you see your partner under attack, where your first instinct is to jump right in and save her, regardless of the consequences. This creates an exceptionally interesting dynamic that sets the game apart from the older RE titles, while also giving you motivation to keep going. The storyline itself is fairly interesting and there are many mysteries and surprises lurking behind every corner. While doesn't completely reinvent the basic play mechanics, the use of co-operative techniques gives Resident Evil 5 a unique feel. It helps to immerse you deeper into the action because you end up caring about not just your own survival, but Shiva's as well. Its this sense of truly having a partner in the action that makes the game feel compelling and alive. Between its stunning and occasionally dark visuals, exciting combat sequences and interesting storyline, Resident Evil 5 creates an immersive and interesting world to explore that's simultaneously beautiful and terrifying. It's a solid installment in the franchise that offers new elements while offering the thrills and chills players have come to expect from this long running series.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B+

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