Resident Evil 5: Midnight Madness

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Midnight Madness: The Resi 5 Birmingham Launch!

Midnight Madness: The Resi 5 Birmingham Launch!

Resi 5 Midnight LaunchA windy central Birmingham in the dead of a Thursday night / Friday morning might not be everyone's idea of a good time, but for a crowd of loyal gamers this was the scene of a midnight madness celebrating the latest release in one of gaming's most enduringly popular, and downright frightening series.

Resident Evil 5 is of course the title in question - the sixth core release in a franchise that's spanned thirteen years, created the evocatively named 'Survival Horror' genre, and has found a following on everything from Sony's original PlayStation console to Dreamcast, GameCube, and now the twin powerhouses PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Resi 5 LaunchFor a series so predicated on scares, it was fitting for Resident Evil 5 to release at the stroke of midnight on the creepiest date in the calendar - Friday 13th. The atmosphere in the Birmingham Pallasades GAME Store a couple of hours before launch was suitably tense; "I'm really not sure what to expect tonight" admitted Store manager Sarah Stallard. "The Wii launch was big and there were huge queues for GTA IV last year, but Resi maybe has a more cult appeal - I certainly wouldn't say it's a game for everyone."

She had a point: with a stark BBFC 18 rating, shedloads of gore and not a small smattering of disturbing imagery, Resident Evil 5 is certainly a game for the adult horror flick fanatic and people that like their games jump-inducingly atmospheric.

Resi 5 LauchAmongst that number were the Store's three assistants, Sean and Dan Sheahan and Jason Lobban, who had dressed up as zombies especially for the event. Loading up a retail copy of the game to get in a few sneaky goes before the doors opened to the public, all three were blown away by Resi 5's HD visuals (the word "lush" was used on more than one occasion), although it wasn't long before they were stuck. "How the hell do we get out of this room?!" they cried in frustration, before finding that they could jump out of a first-floor window - and right into a crowd of bloodthirsty, seemingly inhuman villagers. "LEG IT!" they yelled - and they did, right into a nearby hut.

Resi 5 LaunchA cutsecene quickly fired up, showing Resident Evil 5's main character, Chris Redfield, bolt the door shut. "Did you just lock me out?!" yelped Sean, playing as Redfield's new partner Sheva Alomar. Of course, he hadn't - such an act would go against Resident Evil 5's main theme of co-operation. But it goes to show what Resi 5 can do to your nerves - just a few minutes in, and the panic was already apparent.

And half an hour before the tills opened, so too were the customers. Queues weren't exactly around the block for Resi 5, but it wasn't long before a pack of dedicated (dead-icated?) Survival Horror fans had made their way into the Store - to notably enthusiastic spoofs of Resident Evil 4's Merchant. "What're ya buyin', stranger?" growled the blood-splattered assistants with knowing smiles, before making themselves available to talk about the new Resi 5 products available from midnight. The Mad Catz console skins attracted attention, but it was the Xbox demo pod running Resi 5 Launchthe full game which was the understandable focal point - plus the sweets and pizza that the Store had kindly laid on for all in attendance.

It was during these final few moments before midnight that the tension was at its peak, so I took the chance to quiz a few eager gamers about just what it was about Resi that had brought them out into the midnight March air. "I used to play it on PS2", professed attendee Paul Allen. "Code Veronica was my fave; you were always on the seat of your pants. And the dogs, you were always trying to run away before they got you - can only imagine what they'll be like in this!" Asked what his plans for playing the game were, he admitted he didn't have a co-op partner lined up, but did plan to play the game through the night. "I'm off work sick with a bad knee, so while I'm up I might as well enjoy it!"

Resi 5 LaunchThe midnight launch attendees were also keen to find out more about the game they'd come to buy. The consensus was that no-one wanted to see an incredibly short game, so having completed and reviewed the game earlier in the week, I divulged that my own co-op clear time had been in the 12 hour region - much to everyone's relief. Xbox 360 Achievement Points were also discussed (15g per chapter completed, and 45g for finishing the game), but it was the dual confirmations of the unlockable Mercenaries Mode and a planned multiplayer download which raised eyebrows - the latter of which will boast full-on competitive play, and should be available to buy for 400 points on Xbox Live (no word yet on PSN) in the not-so-far future.

Blitzed

Resi 5 launchSwitching back to the demo pod, Resi fan Nadim Shamsuddin clearly couldn't get enough of the 5th game. "I've blitzed the demo man, and I absolutely killed Resi 4 - the story, Mercenaries, everything. The thing I like about 5 is in 4, you always had ammo, but here you're always looking for it - it's really tense! And I'll be honest, it took me a few tries to kill the big axe guy - I shot and missed, and he was on me! That's frightening man." Asked about his favourite Resi game, though, he had a few problems. "Code: Veronica was like, just when you think it's ending, here comes Chris Redfield. But my favourite might have to be Resi 2, it was brilliant. Resi 4 was great but it didn't have the zombies - I hope they bring them back. And I think Billy from Resi Zero was a good character; he should be reintroduced."

Talk then turned to the characters, including the series' ever-present villain Albert Wesker. "Is he still half human, half biological weapon?" he asked "and is Ada in it? Actually, don't tell me - I'm not sure I wanna know!"

Resi 5 launchRight on queue

With that, it was nearly midnight - and with the excitement palpable, the queue at the tills begun to form. Chomping pizza, swapping old Resi war stories (that first Licker confrontation; the El gigante fight; how to become a 'master of unlocking'... well, maybe not that last one) and getting a final few bits of buying advice from the undead-styled staff, it was Paul at the front of the line who was the lucky first to get his much sought-after game - a PS3 Special Edition complete with Strategy Guide for a proper night of professional monster bashing, greeted by a round of applause from everyone present.
Resident Evil 5 Midnight Madness

Resi 5 launchIt was a unique and enjoyable evening, culminating with the first purchase of the Limited Edition Red Resi 5 Xbox 360 Elite console - and it's safe to say that everyone went away happy, and ready to face the zombie (well, technically, parasite-infected) hordes. You can join them by grabbing your copy of Resi 5 today - and for the full lowdown on Capcom's latest classic, check out the review.

A big thanks to everyone at the Birmingham Pallasades GAME Store, and to everyone who attended one of our hundred-plus midnight openings across the country.

Article by: Mark 'Walking Dead The Next Day' Scott
Published: 13.03.09

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