Gaming & Technology

Original hero returns for 'Resident Evil 5'

The newest Resident Evil game launches next Friday and sees the survival-horror staple move to Africa, where the threat of bioterrorism surfaces again.

The series, which arguably launched that game genre, has become one of publisher Capcom's most successful properties, perhaps rivaled only by Mega Man and Street Fighter. Since the series debuted in 1996, Capcom has released more than a dozen Resident Evil games and sold more than 34 million copies.

Available on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Resident Evil 5 features the return of Chris Redfield, the protagonist in the original Resident Evil and Resident Evil: Code Veronica.

Redfield has been tracking the bioterror scourge around the globe and comes to Africa, where a virus is "literally transforming the people and animals ... into mindless, maddened creatures," Capcom says.

Redfield is a longtime hero, but he'll be joined by new character Sheva Alomar.

Resident Evil 5 also introduces a new online co-op gameplay.

Before you head out to pick up the newest installment, here's a primer so you can brush up on the zombie-murdering madness from the games and the feature films.

The story so far

Zombies, zombies and more zombies. With the notable exception of Resident Evil 4 and 5, the games revolve around attempts by police and others to survive outbreaks that turn the average citizen into a brain-munching drone.

Behind the evil has been the Umbrella Corp. It's known to the public as a health care and consumer-products company, but that veneer hides a firm that deals in genetic engineering. One of the products of that experimentation is the Tyrant Virus, or T-Virus. It's explained in the films that the T-Virus is designed to reanimate dead tissue. It's a potential cure for diseases, but if not used in concert with an antivirus, it can turn a person into a zombie.

As the games have progressed, Umbrella's role in the outbreaks has been exposed, and the company has gone bankrupt.

Game chronology

Here are the primary entries in the series and some offshoots. A number of other offshoots have been produced, as have compilations and slightly tweaked rereleases. Rankings after the titles are from, which compiles and weights rankings from various critics. If a game was released on multiple consoles, the highest of the scores is published.

1996: Resident Evil. The launch of the series sees Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield, agents on an elite tactical police team, survive an onslaught of zombies near Raccoon City. They seek shelter in an old mansion and find that it is hiding genetic experiments by Umbrella. The game was later remade for the Nintendo GameCube in 2002. Metacritic rating: 91/100.

1998: Resident Evil 2. Redfield's sister Claire teams with a new Raccoon City police officer, Leon Kennedy, after Chris isn't heard from for weeks. It turns out that zombies are on the loose again. Metacritic rating: 89/100.

1999: Resident Evil 3: Nemesis . Timed to the events of Resident Evil 2, the third incarnation follows Jill as she investigates murders caused by the outbreak in Raccoon City. But it's not what she finds; it's what finds her. Nemesis, an Umbrella-bred creature bent on her death, must be vanquished. In the end, Raccoon City is destroyed when the government launches missiles to stop the outbreak. Metacritic rating: 79/100.

2000: Resident Evil: Code Veronica. Claire, still searching for her brother, heads to an Umbrella-owned island in hopes of learning the truth. The two are later reunited. Rating: 84/100.

2002: Resident Evil Zero. A prequel to the first game, Zero follows special agent Rebecca Chambers, who teams with a criminal to survive the zombie outbreak outside Raccoon City. Rating: 83/100.

2004: Resident Evil Outbreak. Take on the role of one of the few still alive who are trying to escape the zombie infestation as told in the second and third games. Rating: 71/100.

2005: Resident Evil 4. Taking place several years after the destruction of Raccoon City, the game details that Umbrella has gone bankrupt after a government investigation. Kennedy, one of the survivors, is now a government agent and heads to Europe, where a cult has kidnapped the president's daughter. The game features no zombies. Instead, the baddies are humans controlled by parasites. With a Metacritic rating of 96/100, it's the best-reviewed of the series.

Movie by movie

Resident Evil (2002): The main character, Alice (Milla Jovovich), who is not from the games, is an Umbrella security worker who collaborates with another to steal the T-Virus. Its domestic box office total was $40.1 million, according to Internet Movie Database.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004): Based partially on the events of the third game, Alice teams with video game protagonist Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) and others to fight off an outbreak that has infested nearby Raccoon City. Its domestic box office take was $50.7 million, according to IMDb.

Resident Evil: Extinction (2007): The virus has spread worldwide, with only small bands of survivors dotting the landscape. Among them are some of Alice's friends from the second film. They plan to head north to Alaska, but along the way, they will encounter Umbrella. The film grossed $50 million domestically, according to IMDb.

Resident Evil: Degeneration (2008): This computer-animated film, which had a very limited theatrical release followed by a DVD debut, takes place after Resident Evil 4. It reunites Kennedy and Claire for the first time since Resident Evil 2.