The March 13 release of Capcom's Resident Evil 5 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 (actually something like the 12th game in the series) makes it easily the highest-profile new video game of 2009 so far, and marks the end of the typically dry post-holiday game season.
We've been playing through a preview version of the game for more than a month now, and found it to be a largely successful mix of familiar and new elements. Like all the Resident Evil entries, this is essentially an action game where a somewhat generic protagonist has to travel through creepy houses, compounds, cities, or secret bases, shooting zombies, madmen, and other monsters along the way.
Two key elements separate games of this genre (the awkward Japanese translation is "survival horror") from straight-up shooters. First, there are occasional brain-twisters to solve, such as deciphering a puzzle to open a door; secondly, ammunition for one's firearms is relatively scarce, so making every shot count is important. However, RE5, like its immediate predecessor, Resident Evil 4, tones down both of these gameplay factors, at least compared with earlier games in the series, opting for a more fast-paced (some would say mainstream) approach.
What distinguishes RE5 from its forbearers and imitators is a change of scenery, moving the action to Africa, and trading the traditional Resident Evil look--dark, shadowy nighttime tableaus--for brightly lit, outdoor villages, where sunlight offers no guarantee of safety. This change throws a wrench in the classic "fear of the dark" instinct that we automatically fall back on in movies, video games, and real life. … Read more