Jeff Jensen
March 18, 2009 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Zombies are silly. Vampires scare me. So do serial killers. But the shuffling undead? In their tattered funeral dress? Madly chasing after brains? With all due respect to George A. Romero, Danny Boyle, and Zack Snyder: Yawn. As far as I can tell, zombie horror offers only a single, disturbing thrill — guilt-free homicide. Because, after all, zombies may look like humans, but they technically aren?t humans. So watching their heads get blown off with a shotgun? It’s all good!

My zombie prejudice has one exception: videogames. Interactivity really allows you to appreciate the slow-moving terror of an unrelenting zombie-mob attack, where one measly monster pounding on your door quickly becomes a panic- inducing bum rush of 100 cannibals clawing at your skull.

Nobody does this better than Resident Evil. Since its debut in 1996, Capcom’s blockbuster franchise — which spawned three movies starring Milla Jovovich — has told the story of 67intrepid heroes at odds with the sinister zombie-making Umbrella Corporation.

The new installment, Resident Evil 5, ratchets up the gore, graphics, and gameplay for hardcore fans, but goes light on the dense mythology for the sake of newcomers. Agent Chris Redfield, your battle-scarred hero, is assigned to neutralize a possible outbreak in a fictitious African region. Too late: The populace is being infected by red squid-thingies that crawl down your throat. There’s a story, but you have to massacre your way to the details. RE5 gives you a female sidekick, à la Prince of Persia — but unlike that waaaay easy game, your girl Friday isn’t invincible. When she falters, the game switches to her POV as zombies stomp and bludgeon her. ”Your partner died,” the game announces. Heavy.

So is the real-world texture. The film Black Hawk Down was reportedly an inspiration, and while that point of reference accentuates the impressively rendered Third World squalor, it makes for uncomfortable moral ambiguity…for a few minutes, at least. I found myself asking: Is it okay to enjoy killing mobs of impoverished Africans? Then I remembered they were only zombies, and proceeded to slaughter with impunity. B

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