Apologies for not bringing this one to your attention sooner, because it really is excessively cool. While Capcom doesn't appear willing to release a playable demo of Resident Evil 5 on PC for now, it has unleashed a very nifty benchmarking tool that allows gamers to accurately gauge performance of the final game on their hardware. Choose your desired levels of graphical excellence, then engage the benchmarking tool to see the game play out with your chosen settings across a series of test scenarios.
Two distinct tests are on offer. The fixed test creates a carefully stage-managed environment that is identical from one run to the next and is pretty taxing on your system. Think of it as a stress test for your PC built around one of the earlier Resident Evil 5 cut-scenes. The variable test concentrates more on actual RE5 gameplay across four different environments and offers varying performance each time it is engaged (a bit like running the game itself).
I gave it a whirl on my high-spec gaming system: Core i7 quad core CPU at 3.33GHz, combined with a NVIDIA GTX 295, still the most powerful graphics card on the market. It's running 64-bit Vista Ultimate, while Resident Evil 5 was engaged at 1080p in DirectX 10 mode, v-sync on and everything at max. The only compromise in my settings was to set anti-aliasing to 4x multi-sampling. The higher quality variants saw frame rate drops to the early 40s, but in the video you'll see that the only real obstacle to performance during gameplay is the introduction of explosions and fire.
And below you'll find screenshots of the actual result. As is usual for Capcom's performance analysis tools, my rig earned a mere "B" rating for both tests (perhaps because the HDMI output I used tops out at 60FPS), but the exercise itself was enough to remind me once again of PC's oft-astonishing gaming credentials. Gameplay here looks absolutely identical to what we've seen on the console versions, but seeing those beautiful assets in play in the PC environment is something else entirely. The game looks absolutely phenomenal, arcade-like if you will, with the 60FPS frame rate. If you're not interested in downloading the benchmarking tool, the equivalent 500MB of bandwidth can be spent downloading this 720p h264 video running at 60FPS, and compatible with PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 media players.
I'll certainly be interested in taking a longer, deeper look at the final PC version. In fact, I'm seriously contemplating an upgrade to a 120Hz monitor because Resident Evil 5 supports NVIDIA's particular brand of stereoscopic 3D. It's also clear that there's real, tangible advantage in running with console-beating resolutions too. In the original console face-off, I mentioned that the carefully stage-managed cut-scenes were perhaps a lower resolution version of the sort of visuals we should be expecting to see in-game in the next gen consoles. For the characters of Chris and Sheva alone, there are at least three different 3D models of various complexity deployed according to the artistic direction and technical limitations of each cut-scene. It's really rather impressive. While I'm not sure that the full-on models are being deployed for gameplay in what we see of the PC version here, it's still an immediate and tangibly superior look to the existing console versions and hopefully that should in part justify the horrendous time delay in getting this game released.