Resident Evil 5 producer Jun Takeuchi presented the newest trailer for his upcoming survival horror adventure, a game partially set in the shanty towns of an unnamed African locale, at Capcom's recent Captivate 08 media event. Following the trailer, one that reveals protagonist Chris Redfield's newest partner, a mysterious woman who we're going to refer to as Sheva, just for kicks, Takeuchi fired up our first look at a playable Resident Evil 5. Set in the village showcased in the game's original trailer, Capcom's Masachika Kawata—producer of Resident Evil 4 Wii and Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles—guided us through a quick gameplay demonstration.
Our demo started with S.T.A.R.S. team member Chris Redfield in a crude cabin, watching as an angry, infected horde of locals passed by bearing clubs, axes and machetes. After the initial shock of seeing Resident Evil 5 being played for the first time, on an Xbox 360 we should note, it became clear that anyone familiar with Resident Evil 4 will feel right at home with this chapter.
That's not necessarily a bad thing, mind you, just that if you're looking for a revolutionary step forward in the gameplay department, a la RE3 to RE4, you might be left wanting. But we digress...
As the town villagers entered the cabin in which Chris was taking shelter, they began to behave almost exactly like their Resident Evil 4 predecessors, dodging fire with a familiar style and lunging after our hero eager to wrap their mutated mandibles around his head. Kawata, at the controls, spent a good portion of his hands-on time shaking off inhuman villagers with a rapid flick of the left analog stick. When Chris fired on the game's zombie-like enemies they took a bullet just like the Spanish villagers in 4, squirting copious amounts of blood then dissolving in a pile of bubbling black goo.
While the majority of the enemies Chris was battling were of the disposable villager type, he was being regularly harassed by a much larger hooded character wielding a giant hammer. Analogous to the giant ax-bearing Ganado from 4, it would knock down walls in houses and swat Chris to the ground like an insect. It's clear that Capcom knows that there was plenty to like about RE4 and doesn't appear to be mucking around with the new formula, from familiar enemies to a recognizable HUD.
What else is returning? When we talked to Jun Takeuchi later that day, he confirmed that the next Resident Evil wouldn't do away with the "quick time events" that peppered the successful fourth entry in the series. In fact, he said that we should expect more in the way of frantic button pressing, not less.
Takeuchi and Kawata then showed off a good portion of Resident Evil 5's outdoor environments, brightly and realistically lit, drenched in sunlight, with impressive draw distances. When Chris Redfield climbed to the top of a wooden structure, it seemed he could see for miles, the smoke from fires burning in the distance visible from all angles.
While Chris had the height advantage, jumping from rooftop to rooftop, Kawata lobbed grenades—of the concussive and fire grenade type—showing off some of the graphical candy the team must be proud of. There's little to complain about in the visual department, as RE5 looks to favor stylized realism over gratuitous flash. Even with a relatively drab setting, the game doesn't suffer from too much brown, with blue skies and green tones making things pop.
There was a bit of cinematic flair thrown in as well, with camera angles switching up when Chris elbowed a zombie in the face or when he was thrown to ground, the latter giving us more of a worm's eye view of the action for a brief moment. As Chris took damage, he was also increasingly covered in spatters of blood and dirt, a good visual indicator of his vitals.
Unfortunately, we didn't get to see much in the way of the game's dark portions—areas seen in the trailer where Chris is holding a lantern—but Takeuchi told us that those scenes were more horror driven. The brightly lit sections were geared toward straight up action.
Our brief time with a hands-off playable certainly kept our interest in Resident Evil 5 piqued, as Capcom seems to be wisely sticking to much of the gameplay conventions set forth in RE4. Everything looks better with a new-gen coat of paint, with cool tweaks like a more kinetic over-the-shoulder camera and smoother animation—we especially liked seeing Chris swap out the numerous guns strapped to his back and hip—keeping our eyes entertained.
Takeuchi played coy about the majority of RE5's new features—he refused to talk about co-op gameplay or divulge any info on Sheva, but we expect to see much more at E3. What we saw, we definitely liked. We're hoping that they'll be a bit more open about the game the next time we see it, eager to learn more about how it plays and, hopefully, getting a chance to go hands-on with it ourselves.