Capcom held an event this week to show off Resident Evil 5, the latest entry in the reborn survival horror franchise. Two areas inside the game were showcased, the first being the same basic demo we've seen over the past few months, which has morphed into the upcoming public demo. On the other hand, the second area featured never-before-seen areas and gameplay that hinted at what else the game is going to offer. More importantly, the new areas gave us a glimpse of cinematic sequences that offered some bits of information on the storyline. Given that we're gluttons for punishment and curious about the story, we dove right in to face any number of deaths in the promising game.
We started out with the boss-fight level taken from the game's second chapter, which pit lead character Chris Redfield and his partner Sheva against a mutated creature that was a cross between a bat and a scorpion. The battle took place in a rocky canyon that afforded some room to maneuver, and by "maneuver" we mean "run for our lives." Escape seemed to be the name of the game in the fight, given that Mr. Scorpion-Bat Hybrid is nimble and not entirely pleasant. The biggest issues to be dealt with are ground and air attacks because the critter likes to mix things up. We're at least grateful that it wasn't burrowing under the ground, which would have made things even trickier. Even so, the battle was fairly painful and lengthy, despite the fact that infinite-ammo cheats had been enabled. Thankfully, as with most things RE, a little patience and several million bullets usually do the trick. We're pretty sure there's a smarter way to kill the thing more quickly, hopefully using Sheva in some way. Although we're not knocking our helpful, life-restoring buddy, we will say that it would have been nice if she had done a bit more and gotten out from underfoot. Once the creature was killed, we were treated to a cinematic that gave an annoyingly simplified, albeit cool, impression of the fight. We would have liked to just take the thing out with one well-aimed pistol shot as Chris does in the cinematic, but that's not quite how things played out in the fight.
After that battle, we were able to check out part of a cinematic that segued into a battle with motorcycle-mounted majini (who aren't letting their virally infected state block them from enjoying all available options for chasing down Chris and Sheva) that had Chris manning a gun on the back of a moving jeep. Unfortunately, we got only a taste of that level before we had to jump to the next playable area from the game's second chapter. That level finds Chris and Sheva hot on the trail of the mysterious man named Irving. The search leads the duo to an area that's equal parts refinery and chemical plant, which, unsurprisingly, is crawling with majini. Although the stage featured the expected quota of shooting, dismemberment, and melee action, there was also some traditional RE puzzle-solving. Your path through the first part of the area is set outdoors and blocked by jets of flame, locked doors, and other obstacles, requiring you to hit switches and use zip lines to access different areas. Besides the puzzle elements and mobs of majini, we got to deal with several of what is currently in the running for most-hated enemy in RE5, the burlap-hooded chainsaw maniac. The tenacious foe requires multiple shots to the head, which can get dicey when he's advancing on you.
Once you make it past all of that, you'll meet up with Josh, one of the remaining survivors from a STARS team that's been thinned out after an encounter with majini. From a story standpoint, there seems to be some tension between Josh and Chris; Josh doesn't seem to be a fan of Chris' approach to recent events. Over the course of an intense conversation between the two, it's revealed that one of the reasons Chris is so driven to make his way through all the madness is to find a friend. Josh, on the other hand, is more than ready to get out of town. In any case, everyone's stuck with each other, and your group gains an additional member for the remainder of the level. This latter part of the level is set indoors, adding a claustrophobic vibe to the action, and has you working your way through building interiors, in some cases covering your party members as they hack a computer and open up a new path. The second part of the level does a good job of building dread, considering that you're not always able to see exactly what's coming due to the cramped quarters, although you can hear them good enough. This leads to some nice, albeit irritating moments when you hear and then see flashes of Mr. Chainsaw dutifully making his way to your group.
The game plays much the same as it has the last few times we've tried it. If you're familiar with the handling of the GameCube version of RE4 then you should be right at home with RE5. Using Sheva effectively takes some getting used to, considering that she can be quite effective but does require some directing on your part. She can also be a liability because you basically have to drop everything and go help her when she's in trouble, seeing as how you'll fail the mission if she dies. As far as looks go, RE5 is shaping up nicely on both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
Overall, we like what we see and anxiously await the game's March 13th release. Look for more on the game in the coming months, and keep an eye out for the playable demo due out early next year.