Resident Evil 5 • Page 2

Down with the sickness. Chapters 1 to 3 dissected.

So ends the first chapter, and you get the chance to restock your weapons (but not your ammo) from a menu. No sign of the merchant from Resident Evil 4, but you can sell trinkets, gems and treasures discovered on your travels to earn more gold. You can also rearrange your inventory, putting essential weapons and items in the left, right, up and down slots for fast access using the d-pad.

Chapter 2 brings the first encounter with infected dogs, which often prove tougher to kill than the human enemies, and leads you through a booby-trapped storage yard to a broken bridge where fast reactions are required to prevent a maniacal Majini from running you down in a truck. Survive that encounter and it's down into the sewers, where you're up against more dogs as well as flying mutants that hatch from dead bodies. There's then another swarm battle in a dockside market, before you reach the Shanty Town section which formed the second half of the demo.

Then it's down into some mines for the first true co-op part of the game. There have been a few moments where Sheva is able to be boosted up to a higher level and take an alternate route, but in the mines teamwork is essential, because one of you has to carry a large battery-powered lamp while the other provides covering fire. Played with a human partner it's probably a real blast, although when you have to rely on Virtual Sheva's rather flaky responses it's hit-and-miss. If you're the one doing the shooting, she's not always illuminating the areas you need to see. If you're handling the lamp, there's no guarantee that she'll do a good job of shooting the enemies. In a game where ammo is at a premium, watching her waste shots can be frustrating.

Once out of the mines, the game continues to deviate from its established formula. You finally get to meet Irving, a weasel-faced villain who talks like James Cagney. Before you can arrest him, he's spirited away by a mysterious woman in a bird-like mask. Clues suggest they're headed for a nearby oilfield, so you battle your way along a cliff-face for the next big boss fight against a giant mutant bat-scorpion. It's a tricky encounter, and once again shows up the limitations of the partner AI and real-time inventory. Sheva has a habit of picking items up without your permission, but if she grabs an explosive she'll hoard it rather than use it and cause you damage.

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Chapter 3's oil refinery, where Chris and Sheva must keep Josh safe from harm while he hacks their exit.

This is problematic, since you need to use proximity mines to stun the creature and if Sheva has grabbed them you need to stand next to her, open the inventory, navigate over to her side, select the mines, request them, wait for her to hand them over, open the inventory again and equip them. It's a horribly long-winded process, and sometimes proves fatal when there's huge monster stomping around.

It's also a fight clearly designed for co-op play, since the creature's weak spot is only vulnerable from behind. One character must lead it away while the other shoots. Stun it with the mines and you get a longer window of opportunity to whittle down its hefty defences. "We need to trap it between us. I'll take the rear!" exclaims AI Sheva. Except she doesn't. I ran around wasting ammo for several minutes wondering where she was, before realising she was still jogging along behind me. You can change her stance from defensive to aggressive, but the difference is minimal. Playing on Normal difficulty, it's very easy to run out of ammo and explosives while trying to get your computerised partner to assist in the fight. It's rather telling that when this section was last demoed to the press, the infinite ammo cheat was activated.

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The facial animations are often amazing, and help to bring some depth to an otherwise ludicrous yarn.

Beat the monster and you're thrown into a chase sequence where you use mounted machineguns to mow down Majini attacking from motorbikes and trucks, and this leads straight into another boss fight against an El Gigante from Resident Evil 4. Once again, you're using fixed gun emplacements to blast the Plagas pods on his body, while dodging his attacks using quick-time event button prompts.

It's all incredibly action-packed and breathless in its pace, served up with the polished production values you'd expect from Capcom, but nothing up to this point has felt very Resident Evilly. There have been almost constant gunfights, but nothing you could really call a puzzle and no adventure elements at all. That changes slightly in Chapter 3 as you venture into the marshlands in pursuit of Irving and must locate four quarters of a plaque to open a doorway. In the Resident Evil games of old these pieces would be hidden away, unearthed by moving statues or matching patterns. Here, they're just marked on your map and you zip off to find them in a rather nifty airboat. It feels like the vestigial remains of the old Resident Evil, paying lip service to a more varied experience, but with little interest in developing anything beyond the gunplay.

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