Resident Evil 5
18/09/2008 at 22:53
Resident Evil 4 was a much needed shotgun blast to the rotten backside of a flagging series, carving out a new direction for survival horror and laying to rest the stuffy signature fixed cameras and pre-rendered backdrops synonymous with the Resident Evil name. With Alone In The Dark the self-confessed inventor of the genre recently failing to fashion a decent next-gen effort out of the popular horror premise and Silent Hill 5's outlook looking somewhat uncertain, the responsibility falls once again to Resi to show the competition how it's done. Yet, with the announcement that co-op play will debut in the highly anticipated horror fest that will be Resi 5, we can't help but feel a tad concerned.
Surely the prospect of online co-op is something to get excited about though, no? Call us old fashioned, but the unrelenting sense of dread that pervaded previous Resident Evil outings was largely down to the fact that you were alone for the most part. Hence, the addition of a helping hand could quite possibly drain a great deal of tension from the sinister atmosphere that Capcom has made one of their calling cards with the Resident Evil series.
While this may seem like misplaced worry, there's little evidence so far to suggest that Resi 5 will up the ante to compensate for the presence of two human players. From screens and trailers we've seen, there appears to be a slight increase in enemies on-screen at any one time and they certainly behave a lot more aggressively than before, pouncing ferociously for your jugular with a murderous glint in their eyes. But will this be enough to keep the pressure ratcheted up to the anxious levels that we're used to? We have faith that Capcom has the foresight to include an adaptable difficulty level for co-op play to keep things as thrillingly taut as always.
Despite our unsubstantiated fears that co-op may dilute the terror, it could well be an immensely positive addition bringing with it a host of interesting features. Playing as sultry African operative, Sheva Alomar, a second player can join the action and interact using co-op devices similar to those introduced in Army Of Two. Swapping weapons, items and ammo will add depth and strategy as will healing your partner and helping them out when they're plagued by ravenous infected hell-bent on eating their face. Best co-op game since Gears Of War? Don't rule it out.
There's no arguing that Resident Evil 5 can't deliver in upping the ante over it's predecessors, but what is Capcom doing to develop the enormously successful template set by Resi 4? In terms of control, it appears as though the dev team had initially decided to stick with the old adage of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it.' Instead, Capcom have recently announced plans to adopt a more fluid control system akin to that of Gears Of War.
Despite the decision to resolutely adhere to a winning formula, keeping the changes minimal, Resident Evil 5 will no doubt still deliver on the scares and nothing is more terrifying than the hulking axe-wielding (or is it a giant meat tenderising hammer?) maniac glimpsed in the latest trailer. Yes, Resi 5 goes one better than the fourth game's chainsaw toting sackhead Dr. Salvador, introducing a marauding behemoth armed with an enormous chopping implement that he can use to smash through walls, slice through trees and huts making nowhere safe from his inexorable pursuit.
Zombies with braaaiiins...
Resident Evil 5's enemies are intelligent, assembling in packs with certain members of the group peeling off for vicious surprise attacks. If an enemy gets close, the new strain of virus infecting the villagers manifests itself as a horrifying protrusion from the host's mouth. Like a face-hugger from Aliens, it clamps itself to your face presumably planting its seed in much the same disgusting way. Each antagonist is gruesomely detailed with rotting, vein-riddled flesh and searing eyes focused only on sinking their teeth into your flesh. Chilling.
Much has been made of the game's African setting, raising all manner of controversy, but Capcom have always maintained that this is where the progenitor virus originated and that Resident Evil 5 seeks to tie up the loose ends and plot strands from previous games. The new trailers indicate enemies that are now more ethnically diverse and your new co-op partner Sheva is an African native. Could this be Capcom's way of quelling the moral outrage that the initial trailers provoked? The game's producer, Jun Takeuchi denies that any controversy provoked by complaints regarding racism have had any effect upon Resident Evil 5's overall content or design, but it seems hard to believe that the sudden appearance of various races as enemies could be a coincidence in light of the much-publicised outcry.
Nevertheless, controversy or no controversy, the bottom line remains that Resident Evil 5 may prove to be the best in the series so far. Although the controls may yet remain familiarly clunky, this should ensure that the panic-inducing action remains unspoiled and that fans won't be disappointed. And despite the obvious visual enhancement that comes with developing for current-gen consoles, we expect Resident Evil 5 to be (cliché alert) more of an evolution than a revolution. However, there's still a lot to be excited about here and with that March 2009 release shambling into view, we look forward to sitting in a darkened room and playing Resident Evil 5 for the first time with the support of a trusted friend. Fingers crossed that we don't have to interrupt a co-op session to change our underwear. Now that would be scary.