After I pulled the trigger, his head exploded in a spurt of gore. A fleshy tentacle rose from his torso, twisting towards me before splitting open like a spindly, fleshy flower. Later, I would see even more grotesque things. Small, winged leathery imps climbing from men's backs, sloughing off their carcasses like costumes. Giant centipedes slithering out of men's destroyed heads. Dogs peeled apart like figs, the strands of their bodies groping towards me.
The undead and the unnatural have popped up all over the world ever since a mad scientist created a virus for reviving dead flesh. And I've been fighting the results of his pestilential ambitions since the first Resident Evil. Now in its seventh game (after one prequel and a side-story), the series has migrated to Africa. Compared to the ruined mansion of the original and the creepy European village of the most recent Evil residency, Resident Evil 5 is positively sunny.
I remember the eerie scenes from past games: watching a corpse climb to its feet in the first Resident Evil, and facing swarms of monsters in Resident Evil 4. But now I no longer panic when the zombies start to gather-I get frustrated. I'm so poised for combat as to be unflappable. I just stop and point my gun in order to shoot, although perpetually stopping the shooting just to move into a good position makes me feel as uncoordinated as the zombies look.
I'm not even particularly afraid of zombies wielding axes or riding motorcycles. If it's the weapon that's scary, the threat is generic. Sure, there are ultra-zombies and monsters, but they feel like videogame bosses instead of life-threatening obstacles. No matter what juggernaut of death I'm facing, I know there's just a pattern of attacks to learn and carry out.
THE GOOD: Resident Evil has traditionally been a one-player game, even though most of the games in the series have featured multiple main characters. But in the era of co-op, Resident Evil 5 has wisely opted for two players to take to the screen simultaneously. That turns Resident Evil 5's zombie-fests into battles that are much more tactical than they would otherwise be.
THE BAD: In the single-player game, too much energy is spent commanding the second character. She has decent aim, and uses her medicine intelligently, but I'm responsible for putting guns into her hands and telling her to grab ammunition. And despite the range of buttons on a modern videogame controller, communicating with her is pretty much limited to "Go!" or "Come here!"
THE BOTTOM LINE: There's still plenty of gore, but Resident Evil 5 trades much of the series' creepy atmosphere for the style of a straight-ahead shooter.
Resident Evil 5 ★★★✩✩
Rated Mature; Xbox 360, PlayStation 3