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No matter what angle you approach it from, Resident Evil 5 has a lot to prove. It's the first sequel released in the HD era, so the visuals have to destroy everything else on the market. RE4 redefined the series and became one of the biggest hits of the past generation, basically demanding that part 5 up the ante all over again. Cries of racism continue to batter the game's African setting despite no one having even played the damn thing. This is a lofty set of problems, but based on our most recent tour of a monster-ridden shanty town, RE5 should still deliver a heart-stopping action-horror experience. As for the alleged racist imagery... it's a little early to make judgment calls on out-of-context trailers and dialogue. Let's wait until game ships, hm?
After fielding a few questions (and answering none, including who the mystery woman is at the end of the newest trailer), producers Jun Takeuchi and Masachicka Kawata loaded up the very first piece of RE5 gameplay seen outside their high-walled fortress. It opens in a very familiar scene - Chris Redfield trapped inside a dilapidated building while scratching, pawing, yelling zombies try to break inside. As with RE4 though, they're not really zombies, but villagers with some kind of new virus controlling their behavior. In this case it's the Progenitor Virus mentioned in Code Veronica (probably due for a Wii remake any minute now). This virus was said to have originated in Africa, so Chris is on the case and is now, much to our gaming delight, surrounded by bloodthirsty madmen.
Right away you can tell RE5 is going to tread different ground. Everything we saw took place in bright daylight, an area most horror tales rarely tread, be they game, print or film. Seeing a horde of axe-wielding maniacs with bits of your skin beneath their fingernails chase after you in a hot, hazy afternoon carries a different sense of dread than previous games. But, other than the time of day (and the expectedly gorgeous visuals), we didn't see anything that wasn't already accomplished in RE4 three years ago.
That's both good and bad, mind you. On one hand, it's guaranteed to rekindle our fondest memories and chest-popping fears from the last game. Another frantic ride like RE4, with moderately altered gameplay and vastly improved visuals is totally welcome. On the other hand, it's not going to blow us away like the last entry. We'll know, more or less, what kind of gameplay to expect and all those neat tricks (chainsaw beheading, action cutscenes, quicker enemies) won't resonate as much. Capcom has hinted at a "new gameplay system," but until they reveal it, we're only left to wonder how much will truly feel new.
So, what exactly did we see? Read on.