Leaking screen shots, videos and even short parts of a game is a reliable way to generate buzz for an upcoming title. It generally works well when a game needs a boost, or to give excited fans a taste of things to come.

Leaking screen shots, videos and even short parts of a game is a reliable way to generate buzz for an upcoming title. It generally works well when a game needs a boost, or to give excited fans a taste of things to come.

This week, we look at the demo version of the highly anticipated Resident Evil 5.

The Resident Evil franchise is known for two things: clunky combat controls and lots of zombies. This basic but popular formula created a following among gamers for the entire survival-horror genre.

The latest edition also features that modern graphics fad: a color palette that uses every hue of brown imaginable. While that might muddy many titles, here it augments the African setting and highlights Resident Evil 5's potentially racist undertones, as a white hero parades through desolate, dingy villages with an attractive girl at his side, shooting hordes of dark-skinned zombies.

The demo sets up hero Chris Redfield in a very confined space with a mob of opponents who meander after him. The enemies feel like African versions of Resident Evil 4's infected Spaniards, and maybe there's a connection, but there's no clear explanation in the preview.

The addition of a comely partner brings a cooperative feel to Resident Evil for the first time. It's a good idea, all the better if she ultimately allows other players to jump in.

The demo is too short to get a sense of the story; basically, you guide your two characters amid club- and claw-wielding degenerates.

It does offer a new inventory management system, which allows players to swap items, reload and heal without leaving the main perspective, but it feels like an early castoff of every generic Japanese RPG. While it's an improvement on Resident Evil's previous system, it still needs some tweaking.

From early, limited exposure, Resident Evil 5 seems to suffer from the designers' decision to cripple gameplay with obtuse controls (you have to pull both controller triggers to fire, for instance). Central characters are still sluggish while the enemies become faster and more reactive with every new release. It doesn't bode well.

Initial impressions leave me hoping that some changes are made before the game's release, that the early look is just that. Regardless, I'll be playing just like everyone else when the full title arrives in March.