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Resident Evil 5 Review

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Feels like a ‘greatest hits’ spanning the series’ 13 years of terror.

★★★★★

In many ways, Resident Evil 5 feels like a ‘greatest hits’ spanning the series’ 13 years of terror. As well as marking the return of Chris Redfield – a key player in the first adventure back in 1996 – and featuring the playful balance of indoor and outdoor locations that characterised the PlayStation sequels, RE5 is also peppered with the genuinely distressing movie sequences that punctuated Code Veronica and team-based challenges that defined Outbreak, all wrapped in the glorious visuals and intuitive controls that helped reboot the franchise in Resident Evil 4. In short, for anyone who spent their formative console years up to their neck in zombie guts, man-eating moths and betentacled horrors, RE5 is a sublime joy.

Like its hallowed predecessor, RE5 plays fast and loose with the series’ conventions, shifting the action from the familiar streets of an American city to an African landscape of crumbling villages, barren countryside and twisting shanty towns, once again breathing new life into the familiar franchise. But while the new setting is a major departure for the series – and has been a heated source of banter on fan forums – what sets this adventure apart from its forebears is its double-headed action.

While alternative characters have always been a part of Resident Evil, RE5 goes a step further by having a computer-controlled companion by your side at all times, in turn bringing new possibilities to the action; as well as lending a helping hand during gun battles – and being a constant source of frustration when you have to step in and save your partner from being eaten alive – the addition of a second character allows for new co-operative moves and two-person challenges, whether it be giving your friend a leg-up to climb over walls, keeping zombies at bay while your accomplice barricades open doors, or picking off distant enemies with a sniper rifle as your companion uses a handgun to perforate nearby monsters.

But while the new co-op gameplay is fun while playing alone – and your computer-controlled companion does a reasonable job of looking after herself while you get on with the important business of monster mashing – where the dual gameplay really comes into its own is online, allowing a second player to remotely join the adventure and share the horror. And like a George A Romero zombie flick where the human drama of survivors working together to overcome overwhelming odds is just as important as the shocks and gore, having a living partner by your side makes for a much more gripping experience, forcing players to look after each other and watch each other’s back, rather than being solely driven by a greedy sense of self-preservation.

Aside from its two-headed set-up, RE5 is largely business as usual, with puzzle solving, tense combat and ammunition preservation forming the backbone of the action. Destructible environments that allow enemies to smash through walls, smarter monsters who’ll use flanking techniques to corner you and tighter camera angles that add a fresh sense of claustrophobia go a long way freshening the experience, but RE5’s greatest triumph is taking a beloved franchise and polishing it to within an inch of its life, in turn producing 2009’s first killer game and a title that will delight habitual gorehounds and newcomers alike.

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