E3 08: Resident Evil 5 hands-on impressions

After plowing through two press conferences this morning, I finally got a chance to meet with Capcom to plow through hordes of racially diverse zombies in Resident Evil 5.

If you haven’t already figured this out, Resident Evil 5 is beautiful. Of course, Resident Evil 4 was no slouch in the graphics department, but I was pleased to finally get to lay eyes on this stellar looking game in person. The new enemies and locales are a sight to behold in high-definition, and the direction seems even more cinematic than in previous games. I did notice that many of the interactive elements, like barrels, plants, and items, looked like higher resolution versions of the same items in Resident Evil 4. Of course, this game is not final, so these could change.

I managed to play through both of the campaigns that their demo offered. The first one I tried, named Assembly Plant, began in a sun-drenched African village. I was Chris Redfield, watching a public beheading from what I thought was a safe location. Right after the beheading, I was noticed, and countless angry villagers were then ordered to attack me. The other, named Shanty Town, gives several hints to what the co-op play will be like. There are a few you cover me, I cover you moments, and some paths were impassable without teamwork.

Chris reminds me of RE4’s Leon in many ways. His control and movements are very similar, and if you’ve played through RE4, you’ll feel right at home after picking up a controller.  Now, RE5′s Sheva is nothing like RE4‘s Ashley. Unlike Ashley, Sheva is happy to provide cover, save your ass, and even heal you when you’re down. She can also carry more items, help you solve puzzles, and even team up with you to overcome obstacles. You’ll have to bail her out every once in awhile, but for the most part, she’s pretty tough, and can hold her own. 

Hit the jump for more details on Resident Evil 5

The gameplay basically boils down to an upgraded Resident Evil 4, and you’ll hear no complaints from me about that. As always, zombies are stupid; I watched one with a crossbow continually run toward and into a wall. He posed no threat to me at all, and I managed to walk right by him. Of course, the game is still early, and this was just a demo.

Things got a bit more interesting when I encountered the bag-headed beheader from the demo’s opening cinematic. In true Resident Evil fashion, I turned around and there he was, hacking at me with his huge ax. He nearly killed me, but Sheva rushed over to heal me and provide backup. I pumped bag head with plenty of headshots, but he wouldn’t go down. And to make matters worse, Sheva was overrun with angry villagers. I was embarrassed when I died, but the Capcom reps let me start again. It was just as fun the second time.

In the other scenario, our chainsaw wielding friend from RE4 is back. This time he’s an African villager, and he seems much more aggressive than his RE4 farmer counterpart.  A well-timed barrel shot had chainsaw guy crouching on one knee. I was prompted to run up and hit a button, which caused Chris to land an epic uppercut to Chainsaw’s face. The addition of these finishing moves are more than welcome.

I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was playing a new chapter of Resident Evil 4. I tried both the Xbox 360 and PS3 demos, and both played very similar to RE4. Chris does manage to turn a bit easier with the left analog stick, and there are some new tweaks for facing another direction, but it still feels like Resident Evil 4. Again, I’m not complaining. The gameplay in RE5 also remains largely true to that of its predecessor, though new finishing moves and cooperative elements have spiced things up. I guess the biggest change is found in the visuals, which were already outstanding, and are sure to get better with time.

It’s a shame that we couldn’t get our hands on co-op play today, but I have no doubts, after seeing how Chris and Sheva work together, that it will please Resident Evil fans. As far as single-player goes, what I saw so far had me longing to get lost in Resident Evil 5′s world. I didn’t want my test time to end. 

Be sure to check out the screenshots below.

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Dale North
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