Resident Evil 5 (PS3)

Much has been said about Resident Evil 5's polarizing shift to a more action-oriented gameplay experience, but there's no denying the polish and quality evident in the final product. You're not going to be having zombies gnawing at your legs or dogs jumping through windows anymore, but the action on display here is top-notch. It's beautiful, intense, and offers a healthy dose of replay value thanks to the co-op capability, carryover weapons and the unlockable Mercenaries mode.

Many have described it as the same experience as Resident Evil 4, but there's a lot more going on here than that. The most obvious change is the inclusion of Sheva, your always-there partner and Beyonce doppleganger. She's nothing like the cowering Ashley from RE4, she's a fully capable (and fully armed) partner. You'll swap weapons with her, rely on her to give you an herb if you're dying, and do tag-team maneuvers like the assist jump.

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All of the guns are still upgradable, but the entire inventory structure is completely different. You'll have nine static slots for items and weapons, and these can be interchanged at the end of chapters. You have infinite space in your inventory, but can only have nine items equipped each time you head out of the organization screen. Perhaps the most dramatic change I noticed was the fact that the game does not pause at all when accessing your inventory in the middle of a mission. You'll simply get an overlay of your items, but the action never stops. This adds a new element of strategy to the game, as you certainly can't take your time and select your healing items or weapons when there's a mob of not-zombies surrounding you. I did enjoy the suitcase system in RE4, but this new approach makes the game more intense and realistic.

While it's a blast no matter how you play it, I can't stress enough that co-op is the way to go with this title. Covering each other and strategizing how to take down bosses is incredibly rewarding when you're playing with a friend. The action never lets up throughout the game, as it's constantly throwing a barrage of not-zombies, boss fights, and fantastic vehicle sections at the player. One vehicular section in particular is more entertaining than almost anything in the series' history.

For all the complaints about it "not being a Resident Evil game", there's far more throwbacks to classic RE here than in the previous title. Without spoiling much, there are some major familiar faces that make return appearances. These appearances aren't just fan service or brief cameos, as they're integral to the story and beneficial to the overall experience. Even a classic creature that hasn't been seen in a while makes a big return.

Once the story is over, there's still plenty more to do. All of your weapons will carry over to the next playthrough, and the Mercenaries mode is like another game in itself.

All of the environments are visually stunning. You'll go through African marketplaces, ancient tombs, and gigantic laboratories, and they all feature a huge variety of eye candy and great setpieces. Characters animate beautifully, and all of the effects and action runs at a smooth framerate throughout. Audio might not be as crucial to the experience as it was in the earlier games, but it still fits the mood perfectly.

I simply don't understand what all the controversy is, or why so many people are quick to criticize the series' new direction. From the minute screenshots were released of not-zombies on motorcycles, comments sections and message boards were flooded with messages like "Thanks for making my mind up for me Capcom...looks like I won't be purchasing this one". Resident Evil 4 was universally hailed as one of the best games of all-time, so you think it would follow that a natural progression of that formula would go over well with the fans. You can call it the natural evolution and improvement of a franchise, or you can call it a betrayal of the series' roots. One thing you can't say is that it isn't a damn fine game.

Graphics: 9.5

Sound: 9.0

First Play: 9.5

Replay Value: 9.5

Gameplay: 9.5

Overall: 9.5

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