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Joystiq E3 hands-on: Resident Evil 5

Justin McElroy

Before I get into talking about my brief hands-on with Resident Evil 5, I want to make something perfectly clear: I'm fairly sure you're going to love it. It's gorgeous, it's fun and it looks like it's going to be horrifyingly intense. So why am I about to tell you I'm a little disappointed? Well, as good as it is, it's also Resident Evil 4.

To clarify, where it's not RE4 is in terms of graphics. E3 isn't the best place to judge this stuff because the setting is always so ideal, but the game looks astoundingly realistic. As hordes of not-zombies lurched towards the window of the hut I began in, I was almost a little disturbed at having to blast things that looked so ... human. From the standpoint of graphics, I don't have any complaints about RE5.

Gallery: Resident Evil 5 (06-02-2008)

They're complemented by some really nice camera tricks too, which is something I can't believe I'm writing about in a Resident Evil game. For example, when you destroy a barrel, the camera does a quick pan up to show the full scale of the explosion. It's hard to understand without seeing it in practice, but I imagine you'll see plenty of games trying to ape it in the coming years.

However, as good as it looked, I still couldn't get RE4 out of my head. Remember the first time you played it? How fresh it felt? How every facet had been retooled, re-imagined to really serve the experience? I think that is what I was hoping for from RE5's gameplay. But this is iterative, an evolutionary step forward, nothing like the leap I was hoping for.

Your partner is one of the few tweaks that really adds something new. When they're under attack a light begins flashing in the lower left corner of the UI, and knowing that they need you and you're swamped in a thicket of not-zombies adds an even greater sense of urgency to a game that was already pretty intense.

Though it wasn't available, I imagine the previously announced co-op play could be able to parlay that intensity of having to watch two backs into something that really will feel revolutionary. But it hasn't happened yet. Along those future-looking lines, I should note that this is a small section of the game we're talking about, and there could be plenty of surprises, but I have to judge what I'm given.

I have no problem dinging a game if it doesn't meet my expectations for quality, but this is something different. This is complaining about a game not changing the very landscape of the genre, something I'm not even sure is fair. But as I put down the controller, guts freshly ripped out by a zombie, it was the thought I couldn't get out of my head.

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