Resident Evil 5 Review

Resident Evil 5 has some unquestionably ENORMOUS shoes to fill. Following Resident Evil 4, a game that redefined the Resident Evil series and was widely touted as one of the greatest achievements in game development for its time (still the 12th best game of all time on GameRankings), expectations have been almost unfairly high for the 5th… uh… 15th entry into the franchise. To say that the game has not lived up to the legacy of its forebears, then, is not so much a letdown as it is an inevitability… and a statement of the simple, nigh unavoidable truth. Regardless of these unattainable expectations, however, RE5 is still a fine gaming experience.

Resident Evil 5 expands upon the more action-oriented and less creep-around-corners gameplay style of RE4, casting players as veteran Chris Redfield, star of RE1, and newcomer Sheva Alomar in a cooperative adventure into the heart of Africa, where they will uncover the origins of the Umbrella Corporation’s evil, zombie-producing experiments and plans for world domination. The storyline isn’t likely to win any awards for creativity, but Resident Evil fans will enjoy the many references to prior RE games, as well as the inclusion of some very well-known characters.

New to the Resident Evil universe is Sheva, Chris’ ever-present partner throughout the game’s biologically altered festivities. A second player can take control of Sheva at any time, making RE5 the first non-spinoff title in the series that can be played cooperatively from start to finish, online or locally. It’s exactly what fans have been waiting for, and is an immensely enjoyable way to experience the game. Carefully coordinated teamwork, good communication, and trust in one’s partner are all vital parts of success during much of the mission, with key moments requiring players to perform special “partner moves” and to take on different roles in order to survive.

Unfortunately, this also means that the solo RE5 player will be plagued by an obviously-less-than-human, AI-controlled, hip-swaying sidekick who all too frequently does her best to ruin the gameplay experience. From charging into the open during a careful sniping session and alerting everyone of the team’s presence, to knocking enemies out of the player’s sights at the worst possible moments, to picking up all of wrong items, her presence is less a help than a hinderance, and I personally would have preferred to have just left her in the car. What I did instead was strip her of all her weapons and load her up with as many first aid items as possible, thus keeping her out of my way but still putting her to good use. A simpler solution to her frustrating default behavior would have been to set “attack reaction” to “yes,” an option that nicely regulates the willful lady’s actions.

Enemy AI, and the enemies in general, leave something to be desired, as well. Somehow, the cognizant, semi-intelligent, communicative, and therefore frightening Ganados of RE4 have been replaced by similar, yet far less clever and resourceful waves of a different group of indigenous people, the Majini. The trademark vocalizations of the previous game’s enemies have been minimized in RE5, and players will be hard-pressed to see anything more than drone-like advancement on Chris and Sheva in melee combat situations, although gun-toting enemies become more plentiful and strategic as the game progresses. There is a fairly diverse selection of baddies in RE5, ranging from the simple parasite victims wielding a variety of weapons, to mutated bio experiments gone wrong, to outright monsters, although the breadth of this cast doesn’t match that of RE4. Especially disappointing are the boss characters, who show a lesser degree of creativity in their design, their characterization, and the way in which players eliminate them (expect far fewer context-sensitive button prompts this time around).

It’s hard to critique the game’s enemies without simultaneously examining the environments and situations in which players encounter them. While beautifully rendered in some of the most refined visuals on modern consoles, with incredibly detailed textures and realistic dynamic lighting, the game’s environmental design is not typically conducive to interesting or unusual enemy confrontations. Many of these places, although visually quite dissimilar, feel very much the same as one another due to the way they are laid out and the way the action unfolds within them. Gamers won’t find themselves on the edge of their seats and hanging in suspense in these mildly horrifying locales, despite the moody, orchestrated score providing all the proper ambiance. This is as much (maybe more so) a repercussion of gameplay mechanics as it is of level design.

The game’s controls have been improved this time around, featuring four different setups, including a modified version of the more popular dual-stick controls (with strafing, yay!) found in many modern third-person shooters, but the further the franchise slips from its survival horror roots into action territory, the more dated and awkward they feel. A new cover system to help combat the more gun-loving enemies of the later stages works very well, aside from the fact that players cannot move laterally behind their cover of choice, but can only pop out and back from a single position at a time. Still, a cover system in a Resident Evil game at all feels slightly out of place, and along with the game’s more hard-driven pacing, is more evidence that this is no longer a “survival horror” franchise.

The inventory system, too, has been updated, allowing each player to carry a maximum of nine weapons or items at a time. Ammo, grenades, and mines take up slots, but are stackable. Chris and Sheva can swap items, so long as they are within arm’s reach of one another, but taking a cue from EA’s Dead Space, inventory management happens in real time, meaning the action doesn’t stop while players trade guns or combine herbs. Of course this change warrants a fast weapon-swapping function, and answering the cries of RE fans, the inventory slots corresponding to the four cardinal directions are now instantly accessible via the d-pad. This is absolutely invaluable when a freshly emptied gun goes *click* in the middle of a firefight, and is a welcome addition to the RE series.

All of these updated and improved controls make fighting non-zombies a smoother experience, especially in the returning Mercenaries minigame, a timed game of survival, set in a number of the game’s locations. Mercenaries is playable alone, with a partner, offline, or online, and is an even more action-packed version of the oppressive situations found in the main storyline. Blasting as many enemies as possible nets the team points, and a final ranking at the end of the round. These points can later be used to purchase cool bonuses like new costumes, screen filters, enemy figurines, and unlimited ammo for particular weapons. As in the past, Capcom has given players plenty of reason to keep playing, well after the credits roll. That’s good news, because the main game’s brevity is a contributing factor to many of the enemy- and environment-based complaints noted above.

Resident Evil 5‘s biggest flaw is that it immediately succeeds the most historic entry in the series, and although it does a lot to innovate and deliver a great gameplay experience, it doesn’t do enough to match the ground-breaking performance of its predecessor. To make an analogy of it, RE5 is to RE4 what Majora’s Mask is to Ocarina of Time. Resident Evil 5 does have other flaws, namely some questionable partner and enemy AI, lack of a diverse stable of bosses, and further abandonment of the tempered survival horror gameplay that the franchise was founded upon, but it still remains a shotgun-blasting good time.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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