We've all had that chat. You know, you're sitting around with your mates, and you all say that you'd be safe in a zombie apocalypse, because you're fast, strong, or good with a knife. Within a few seconds of watching Chris Redfield surrounded by a marauding pile of walking, hellish undead, he lived out what we all imagined we'd want to do - he rears up, grits his teeth, and pops a zombie in the face with a haymaker. Nice.
The fifth Resident Evil takes place in an as-yet unnamed African nation, with hordes of undead beating you up under a constant sheen of burning sunlight, giving the game an eerie, washed-out feel. Throughout RE5's dark tale you'll find the origins of the viruses that have plagued Redfield and the rest of the S.T.A.R.S. team for ten years. While this isn't the last Resident Evil game, the return of a big name lead and the promise of some answers to old questions certainly suggests that this could be the beginning of the end for this strand of the franchise.
The Evil That Men Do
The cause of the virus is being left a guarded secret until the game releases next year (no spoilers here), but it's effects are obvious. The term 'zombie' is used loosely - while these are shambling, groaning drones that have a hunger for flesh, their rotten brains haven't quite lost their vigour, somewhere between 28 Days Later and Land Of The Dead's Big Daddy.
Zombies may teeter uneasily on their tattered legs, but they also run, jump and claw, pick up huge geat axes and other implements, and can be intelligent enough to even - unbelievably - ride motorcycles. At one point in the game, Chris fights a horde of zombie bikers (the most apt use of the term 'Hell's Angels' that you'll ever see) armed with a gigantic machine-gun, shooting at both the bikers and their pals standing on a lorry to the very right of Redfield's ride. It's an on-rails shootout, but one delivered with such an explosive thump you'll think MGS4's bike equivalent was a Sunday afternoon picnic.
Said biker-beating vehicle is being driven by Chris' new ally, the pretty-faced, yet no doubt sassy Sheva Alomar, a member of the African equivalent of S.T.A.R.S., the B.S.A.A. - the same organisation that leads Chris into the fray.
Luckily for those of you with friends, she goes beyond a simple damsel in distress.
RE5 finally breaks the series out of one-player mode and lets you bring a friend along for the ride, making the previously lonely experience a much more rounded zombie-shooter, like the latter part of Night Of The Living Dead but with a happier ending. This isn't to say that those of you who want to play in single-player are left out to dry. Miss Alomar can be AI-controlled, and even then, if you meet someone who has RE5, they're able to drop in no matter how far you are in the game.
It's a good thing, too, because the Resident Evil 5 universe is far more hostile and frantic than anything the series has shown us yet. While the hordes in Resident Evil 4 were scary, they had a tendency to feel linear, while
RE5 has made an effort to be more open-plan. You'll be holed up in a ruined building, shooting bullets through the windows and crossing your fingers that you've got enough ammo to silence the thrall, when you see the door thump open and four of the bastards trundle over the threshold, eagerly leading the rest of their mates in for an impromptu flesh-barbeque.
While I hesitate to get techy, the physics engine that Capcom is employing adds a great deal to that 'oh crap' atmosphere. Just after the door splits open in the room I was trapped in, a gigantic hooded humanoid beats down the wall with an axe - somewhere, Boris Johnson sheds a tear.