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‘Resident Evil 5’ good, but can’t top predecessor

Many genre games get compared to the one title that serves as the standard bearer for that genre.

When it was released, “Saint’s Row” was immediately compared to “Grand Theft Auto,” which sits at the apex of open-world sandbox games. When it comes to survival horror games, “Resident Evil” is the game that’s receives the most praise.

So when it released “Resident Evil 5” in March, Capcom was facing an uphill battle to top the previous game in the series, which some argue is the best survival horror game ever.

The company released the original “Resident Evil” for the PlayStation in 1996, and immediately received praise for popularizing the survival horror genre. Other games pre-dated it, but none had the staying power or the impact of “Resident Evil.”

Capcom released a number of sequels before striking gold with “Resident Evil 4” in 2005. The Nintendo GameCube game was called the system’s best game by Nintendo Power, and readers of the Web site voted it the best game in history.

The fourth installment in the series left some pretty lofty expectations for the new game, the first installment for the current generation of consoles.

“Resident Evil 5” puts gamers back in the shoes of Chris Redfield, the protagonist from the first two games in the series. Redfield heads out to investigate some zombie happenings in the Kijuju region of West Africa.

The biggest difference between this game and the previous one in the series is the inclusion of a partner. Sheva Alomar stays by Redfield’s side the entire game, lending a hand in battles and providing a level of cooperation not usually seen in games.

Other games have emphasized co-op elements, but none have integrated them into the game so well, particularly not when it’s a computer player — you can play with another human online or locally via split screen.

The co-op system works so well it nearly makes you forget about the terrible inventory system, which makes you call up a screen in the middle of a battle without being saved by the pause button.

The game also has a robotic shooting system. There is no running-and-gunning. When he engages a bad guy, Redfield stands stoically and shoots. But this was an element in “Resident Evil 4,” so this was expected.

The graphics are fantastic, bringing to life war-torn and impoverished Kijuju.

Previous games in the series have given us monumental boss battles. “Resident Evil 5” doesn’t disappoint.

Several of the boss fights are epic, meticulously staged struggles that just don’t appear in games that much anymore.

While it’s probably the best game released so far in 2009, “Resident Evil 5” can’t match its predecessor. It’s probably not fair to compare it to one of the best games ever released, but that is what happens with most genre games and “Resident Evil 4” is still the best survival horror game ever released.