Resident Evil 5. An eagerly awaited game awash in a sea of racial controversy that seems silly when every morning for the past week I woke up, look out the window, and was greeted by a 200 foot tall advertisement for Tropic Thunder featuring Robert Downey Jr. with his face painted black. I think the gaming public has pretty much moved on at this point, which is nice, because I don't want my hands-on impressions of Capcom's E3 demo for the game sullied by conflict.
The demo starts off with my character (Chris) holed up in a shack with Rosario Dawson.
Okay, so she isn't Rosario Dawson, but the South African B.S.A.A. member Sheva Alomar bears a striking resemblance to the Clerks II actress. In fact, throughout the demo I could be overheard mumbling, "out of the way, Rosario" or "I'll save you Dawson!" Perhaps an unintentional likeness, but I'd like to think that if I found myself in the middle of a zombie holocaust Rosie would be nearby, just in case.
Chris and Rosie are holed up in a shack, peering out the window as a big boss baddy has a character executed by a bulky figure with an axe, much like RE4's giant guy with chainsaw. Of course we all know what happens when you peek. The bad guy sees Chris through the dirty window and orders his minions to attack.
You're in a dirty shack in a small African town and you're surrounded by zombies. What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO!? You and Rosario Dawson open fire, of course. The controls are very similar to RE4 right now, though of course that's subject to change. Hold down the right trigger to pull your gun, aim with the stick, fire with one button, reload with another. Pull up the menu to switch weapons, left trigger does a melee attack with your knife.
These new zombie-ish enemies begin pouring in, crawling over obstacles, coming through windows, or using the door like polite diseased madmen. Killing them is extremely enjoyable. Shoot them in the head and it could blow off, revealing a strange tentacle creature sprouting out of their necks. The enemies react to where you shoot them, which is even more enjoyable when you switch to the shotgun and start shooting them...well, everywhere.
From time to time you'll be forced to do the old left-stick waggle out of a grapple trick, or you'll get the opportunity to deliver a special attack with a button push in certain situations. Rosie gets into a lot of trouble with the zombies, required you to rush to her aid, brutally brushing off her attackers. She also returns the favor, responding to your calls for help when things look most dire.
Your enemies keep coming in relentless waves, as the whole point of the demo is to survive until your support opens an escape route via missile strike. The game looks slick, though there are a few places where nitpicking can be applied. At one point I took cover against a wall and could see the zombies on the other side clipping through as they lined up to scale the surface and take us out. Other times enemies reacted strangely, such as the executioner from earlier, who would take a swing at me and then just stand there with his back turned until I did damage to him. Of course an E3 demo isn't the full game, and I am sure they'll get that cleaned up in post.
While I am not the biggest fan of the Resident Evil series, I have stuck with the series over the years and am happy with the evolutionary steps the franchise has taken. Resident Evil 4 wowed me when it debuted on the GameCube, with graphics unlike anything we had seen on the system and new gameplay mechanics. Resident Evil 5 isn't as much of a leap. It looks great, but aside from a few mechanics (you crouch to pick up items) it feels the same as the last one. That fact bothered me for a moment, and then I pulled out the shotgun and took out six of the crazy bastards at once. Not too big of a leap, but when your starting point is as excellent as 4 was, anything above that is icing on the cake.