E3 08: Resident Evil 5 VS Fallout 3 VS Left 4 Dead

Resident Evil 5

The general talk on the show floor is that Resident Evil 5 is just Resident Evil 4 with the fancy graphics. Kind of true – but given Resident Evil 4 was widely regarded as a masterpiece, why would Capcom want to mess too much with the mechanics that everyone already loved?

It's those mechanics that cause us the most problems. Having not played Resi 4 for at least a year, the first five minutes of our mission are a baffling ordeal. I find myself looking at either the floor or the sky, rotating very slowly on the same spot, running round in tiny circles and trying to equip weapons while having my head caved by a big axe. The shameful thing is that loads of people are in the demo room watching my non-skills. Thankfully, Stephen's doing so badly the PR guy has come over to give him some advice.

Once I've got to grips with the controls again (it really is exactly the same as Resi 4) I'm able to make some progress through the Third World shanty town that frames the action. If you haven't got the basic gist of Resi 5 yet through the early trailers, it concerns Chris Redfield's deployment into an un-named African village to fight a scourge of virus-ridden locals. The game is played co-operatively with an assistant called Sheva Alomar, either controlled by AI or by another player.

One of my colleagues was moaning about this co-op gameplay, concerned that he'd be held back by Sheva, constantly having to look out for her. Not in my case – I'd have been long gone if it hadn't been for the constant supply of adrenaline shots she keeps issuing me as I get wrestled to the floor by another Infected.

What strikes me most though as I swing between being viciously molested and unloading clips of bullets into the Infected villagers feet is how stunning the game looks. Your enemies lunge at you, clutch at wounded limbs and generally stumble about with some of the most advanced animations I've seen. Furthermore, Chris's back is one of the best rendered backs I've been forced to stare at in a third-person game.

The set-piece co-op example comes late in the demo where Chris gives Sheva a leg up so she can athletically leap from one building to another to unlock a door. Chris then has to snipe Infected from a vantage point as she makes her way to the switch. I've got an inkling there will be a lot of this get-Sheva-to-open-the-door-for-you dynamic. Unless of course you are playing as Sheva in which case you'll be spending most of your time being athletic and lithesome.

At this point I realise that everyone else has finished the demo (I think Stephen got killed, rather that completing it) and I have the indignity of someone telling me which way to go so they can wrap the session up.

My shame is compounded when an assembled group of games journalists watch my foolhardy attempts at trying to take out a returning favourite from Resi 4; the man with the sack on his head and the chainsaw, who pops up at the end of the demo as a dramatic sign off. I'm having no luck today though and instead of a victory I just get to demonstrate the 'Chris getting his head sawn off' death scene and receive few apologetic laughs from the audience.

You know what? Resi 5 is very much Resi 4 with the fancy graphics. And all of our frustrations we had with the control system then, are the same now. However, we totally buy into the African setting and the brutal immediacy of the shooting and exploring – and if the co-op relationship is used to good effect it could add a new edge to the game experience.

Hype justified? Yes. Any new Resident Evil is good Resident Evil.

Jul 17, 2008