Crispy Gamer

The Five: Resident Evil 5

The 10-Cent Tour: The spectacular Resident Evil 4 gets a sequel. But does it tarnish the series' good name? Uncle Crispy grabs his shotgun and heads to Africa to find out?

1. The two levels I played through in the demo were both terrifically unsettling ? even though both took place in broad daylight. After playing through RE 4 a disgusting number of times (I unlocked the unlimited ammo rocket launcher; there's something to tell the grandkids), having a new, totally unfamiliar environment and not knowing where the next enemies are going to come from reminded me of the first time I walked into RE 4's opening-level village (and didn't walk out alive, at least not on my first try). I had a serious case of the heebies during my hands-on time with RE 5. And that's a very good thing.

2. There's a great deal of emphasis on cooperative play this time around. I had my lovely sidekick, Sheva, with me throughout both levels. She kicks much ass, heals me when I need healing, and will even share her ammo with me when I run low. Also: It doesn't hurt matters that she's supremely attractive. I tried to make Chris Redfield and Sheva kiss, or perhaps engage in a "special hug," but to no avail.

3. If you thought you were overwhelmed in RE 4, wait until you play RE 5. Zombies swarm in even greater numbers, and they're more fleet-footed than ever, bearing down on you with a great deal of speed. And just when you think you're in the clear, some huge, bad-ass mofo appears. In each of the two levels I played, I encountered what looked to be an eight-foot-tall executioner wielding a medieval battle axe and a skinny, burlap-sack-headed creature gunning a chainsaw. Sadly, neither encounter ended well for me.

4. Zombies -- or whatever Capcom decides they are this time around -- seem to come in wider varieties in RE 5 than they did in RE 4. No longer will a zombie horde be populated by identical zombies wearing the same clothes as if they all shop at the Zombie Gap.

5. A couple of concerns: The game looks terrific, but doesn't qualify as an eye-popping marvel, at least not at this stage. Clipping errors abound, especially when you are surrounded by enemies. Capcom, of course, will clean all of this up by the time the game ships. And while working together with a partner is a nice concept -- in one sequence, I sniped from afar as Sheva endured a zombie attack -- it somewhat betrays the you're-alone-with-four-bullets-left spirit of the previous games. And why are we still knifing barrels and wooden boxes to find loot? Wouldn't doing away with this ancient gaming clich? make the game exponentially more immersive?

The Crispy Forecast: Hot. Africa hot. Though gameplay feels dangerously familiar at this point, RE 5 still got my heart pounding like no other at E3 this year.

This preview is based on a hands-on demo of the game at E3. The game is targeted for release in 2009.