Resident Evil 5
It tooks its time - so was it worth the wait?
It's one of the oldest introductory gambits in the book, but Resident Evil 5 is a game you'll either love or hate. There's not much middle ground to be uncovered in this tweaked, tropical, co-operative remix of Resident Evil 4, with its fixed inventories, imposing but predictable level and boss design, and occasionally wooden controls.
I was confident that the evil-virus-on-the-loose storyline at least would be a decided negative, but Capcom has thrown some shine in with the rain. Suffice to say that if you can stomach the fact that a hefty percentage of the cut scenes consist of melon-biceped protagonist Chris Redfield and svelte accomplice Sheva Alomar pointing their guns at the camera, please consider this top dollar entertainment. The voice-acting is pleasingly exaggerated, the facial animation top of its class and the cut scene direction tight.
You might, however, demand a little more sophistication - post Far Cry 2, post Call of Duty 4 - of an action game which draws on such themes as regional unrest and xenophobia in its opening dialogue. While the first few scenes recall Black Hawk Down, the plot soon breaks free of the smouldering, coarse-grained African townscape which dominates the trailers and dives face-first into B-movie tropes like bio-weapon research laboratories and sunken temples.
Lore gatherers will be happy either way, as references to Resident Evils of yore crop up at every turn: scattered journals fill in the picture around the ravaged, corpse-strewn environments, loading screens are graced by snippets from the backstory, and a few monster types from prior iterations get a fresh coat of paint. Keep your eyes on the ceiling in chapter 4.
I can only marvel at the ballsiness with which Capcom has trotted out Resident Evil 4's control scheme, four years after that game's release. Left stick handles movement, right stick changes change camera orientation, L1 aims your laser-sighted firearm and R1 fires. Flicking open your inventory (triangle) no longer pauses the action, which makes the ability to hot-swap preselected items and equipment with the D-pad all but vital during crowded engagements.
Nostalgic players will lap up the familiar, sedate but gripping combat rhythm: take a few shots at an advancing threat, pull back on the stick and hit X for a quick turn, retreat a few metres, quick turn again, reload or fiddle with your inventory, take another few shots. On the other hand, you'll curse your inability to move and shoot simultaneously, or the fact that your character couldn't outrun a lamp-post, or the way shuffling enemies block your tucked-in shoulder view when they catch you from behind (a regular occurrence in the game's saturated, cramped environments).