Games: Zombie delight
March 22, 2009
Slow and steady really does win the race.
The zombie-blasting genre is known for running and gunning. However, "Resident Evil 5" is a winner because it forces you to confront your foes at a much more deliberate pace.
The default movement speed in the third-person shooter from Capcom is "cautious," and you can’t fire your weapon unless you stop to take aim. That means that you’ll spend a lot of your time fighting toe-to-toe with some incredibly fierce opponents. Talk about intense.
You play as Chris Redfield, a member of a special agency that fights biological terrorism. He’s in Africa to get to the bottom of the latest pathogen-induced zombie infestation.
Redfield is joined by the shapely Sheva Alomar, a local native and fellow agent. She’s essential to the mission’s success — providing help, healing, ammo and, of course, firepower. She can even revive you when you’re dying.
Sheva’s also the character friends will assume when they join in online or split-screen co-op. While Sheva normally does a good job when you’re playing solo, putting her in the hands of a friend greatly enhances the game play and fun.
Most of the game involves battling crazed zombies as you search for information on the infestation. However, about halfway through the game, you land in something that feels like a "Tomb Raider" episode. Ancient ruins, puzzles and traps create a fun detour before a return to more traditional shooter territory.
In "Resident Evil 5," your foes aren’t the stereotypical ambling zombies of yore — a fact mentioned by Chris at the beginning of the game. They’re generally pretty speedy and intelligent for creatures whose brains have been hijacked by parasites. They wield chainsaws, shoot flaming crossbow bolts and ride motorcycles. And boss battles are pretty intense, often requiring a good degree of teamwork to win.
Of course that brings up one of the game’s few flaws: Sheva isn’t always a good team player. She often barges ahead of you or places herself in the line of fire or in great peril. This tendency can make boss battles a little more difficult in solo play.
The makeup of the zombie horde drew some criticism when an early trailer showed the white-skinned Chris blasting away at scores of dark-skinned enemies. Developers denied any racist intent and claimed the images were a reflection of the particular level depicted and the fact that the game was set in Africa. In any case, the final population includes a decent amount of ethnic diversity.
The graphics are terrific. The environments are extremely detailed, adding to the intensity — and creepiness — of the action. The character renderings and animations are very realistic.
The game’s controls are very smooth and easy to learn. Admittedly, adrenaline junkies might find the deliberate movements a tad annoying. However, each encounter has much more impact when it lasts more than a millisecond.
The game is rated M for gore and violence. While it doesn’t revel in severed limbs and buckets of blood like the ultra-gruesome "Dead Space," it does rate high on the ick meter. It’s pretty common to see weird thingies creeping, crawling and bursting from various orifices and wounds. Unlike some other games, "Resident Evil 5" doesn’t offer the option to tone down the gore.
After completing the campaign, you can jump into eight levels of "The Mercenaries," a timed zombie-fighting competition that can be played solo or co-op. Capcom has also announced a head-to-head multiplayer mode that will be available for download in "a few weeks" — filling one of the few gaps in the game’s offerings.
But no matter the mode, "Resident Evil 5" proves that action doesn’t need to be frantic to be intense.
Platforms: Xbox 360 (tested), PlayStation 3
On the Web:www.residentevil.com