Resident Evil 5 - hands-on

The second new stage we played was very different in terms of structure and pacing. Chris and Sheva are infiltrating an oil refinery in search of slippery new character Irving. So begins a claustrophobic section in which we attempt to clear the area of infected and put out a fire barring our progress. We cope quite well at first, shooting, slashing and stomping our way through the endless waves of baddies. Even tentacle heads are no problem. At one point we even manage to evade four baddies with just four bullets by shooting each of them in the leg in quick succession. And then he appears.

Sackhead as we now affectionately call him is absolutely terrifying. It’s not the way he looks – though that bulging eyeball that protrudes from his unusual headwear is undeniably unnerving. It’s not the buzz of the narrow-nosed chainsaw he wields – though it does make our heart race unpleasantly thinking about it. Most of all it’s his relentlessness. He’ll pursue you doggedly through maze-like corridors. He’ll leap up to the platform even as you’re telling yourself ‘he’ll never get me up here’. He’ll cut off your head as you’re try to reload. He’ll probably turn up in your nightmares long after you finish playing. And as our head topples onto the gantry for the fifth time our session with arguably the most exciting game ever ends.

There’s a huge sense of confidence about this fifth installment. Capcom have used everything they learned with the previous game to build an even scarier and exciting adventure. The pace of the game is electric and serves to highlight the Resident Evil team’s genius. The control method, much criticized, is the perfect device for creating tension. The fact that Chris cannot move whilst shooting is essential to the gameplay. It’s those seemingly endless seconds as he reloads and the enemy closes that really get your heart hammering.

What’s more, Capcom have done something truly evil this time. Accessing the inventory now happens in real-time so there’s no respite when switching weapons or using health kits. It’s a minor tweak but one that really ups the tension. It’s difficult to express just how exciting Resident Evil 5 is, but it’s also difficult to disagree with critics who claim the game is just Resident Evil 4.5. If that means it’ll be 50% better than arguably the best action game ever, what’s not to love?

Jan 15, 2009