Summary [9.0 out of 10]
Resident Evil 5 continues the saga and ties the early games in the series back into the new storyline started in Resident Evil 4. The game trades solitary survival horror for intense co-op action. Retaining the control scheme and third person, over the shoulder perspective seen in Resident Evil 4, this installment replicates the that title’s tight gameplay and adds some new and fun innovations.
I’ve been a big fan of the Resident Evil(RE) series since it first debuted on the Playstation and when RE 4 showed up on the Gamecube I loved it enormously and said that if the sequel would just give me more levels of that I would be happy. As it turns out, that is pretty much what they did and it was mostly for the better. As much as I liked number 4 there were some things that could have been done a bit better or not at all. Overall, however, RE5 is an enormously tight and addictive game that largely hits the mark.
- Gameplay: Basically this is RE4 with a fresh coat of paint and a buddy. While that may sound like a dismissal, given just how great RE4 was this is a very good thing. All the basic mechanics work very well and all fit together to produce a fun experience. That is really the biggest thing here, it is just really fun. I never really get bored of anything that goes on in the game and keep coming back for more.
- Unlockables/replayability: There is a ton of extra material here from additional modes to costumes to weapons. The level of extra stuff here is staggering and makes the game absolutely addictive. I finished the game weeks ago but continue to play day after day unlocking things to go back in and play with. It is a testament to the quality of that content and gameplay that it is worth so much additional play for its own sake.
- Graphics: The visuals in the game are gorgeous. RE4 was a revelation on the Gamecube and this puts that to shame. The in game graphics are just as strong as the cut scenes and the environments are equally beautiful. Explosion effects, fire, water, and all the generally hard stuff looks great as well. It isn’t quite up to Uncharted or Metal Gear Solid 4 but it is still a wonder to behold.
- Sheva: I was super skeptical when I heard about having a partner during the single player campaign as typically AI sucks like a chest wound but I am totally sold at this point. The single player goes pretty well as your partner Sheva isn’t braindead. She uses healing items a bit too much and will sometimes wander off when you need her but compared to other partners in games, she does pretty well. Also? HOT.
- Multiplayer: Mutiplayer is where RE5 really shines. Both local and online co-op are offered and both are awesome. In both cases one player takes Chris and the other takes Sheva. Local co-op is served through split screen which is somewhat off-set to make it easier to differentiate between the screens and while it is sometimes difficult to see on the smaller area, having another human controlling your partner makes up for it. Even better, the online co-op obviously gives each player their own screen. It is exactly like playing the single player campaign only you can talk to your partner who is most likely a better player than the AI. The addition of voice chat is key and was not a foregone conclusion given its omission in Capcom’s previous attempt at an online muliplayer RE by way of the Outbreak series.
- The Inventory Screen: The on the go inventory select screen no longer takes you out of the action and you can switch equipment on the fly. This way you don’t have to stop in the middle of the game every couple of minutes to run through menus to reload or switch weapons. This is particularly important in co-op games where you can’t be pausing both players games just to use a health spray.
- Controls: the controls are largely carried over from RE4 for better and for worse. Given the controls on that game were enormously tight and responsive, this is a pretty good thing. The button layout is all right there for you and you won’t struggle to do anything once you get the hang of it. There might be a bit of a learning curve if you didn’t play a lot of RE4 and are coming off an FPS but generally it is pretty intuitive. Some people are trying to call this ‘Tank’ controlling and are complaining about it but the addition of a quick turn command gives you the ability to do pretty much what you want. The big caveat to that is that there is no strafe feature so when you fire you have to plant in one spot. This was apparently to keep the game scary or frightening but given that the gameplay style eschews the horror for action, this is sort of a lame reason and smacks of Capcom trying to force a bad design choice down gamers’ throats and reminds me of the lack of voice support in the Outbreak series. Still, even without strafe, the controls are tight and intuitive.
- Mercenaries Mode: This is a RE staple since RE3 and it has taken different forms across the games. This incarnation may be my favorite. It is not terribly different from the Mercs game in RE4 but the online and local co-op makes it shine. I am not a HUGE fan of this mode offline but the multiplayer is a huge amount of fun. The premise is simply to accrue points through kill combos in a variety of levels against a two minute time limit. With two players, this mode is addictive and adds even more unlockable content to go after.
- Wesker: Albert Wesker is to RE what Randall Flagg is to Stephen King’s universe. He has been a pain in players’ asses since the first game and he takes center stage as the main heavy in RE5. Fighting Wesker in the game is always unique and interesting and he always manages to keep his sunglasses on. Impressive.
- Weapons: RE5 throws a lot of weapons at you in this game including special ones you unlock once you’ve upgraded particular others all the way. The sheer variety is staggering and most of them are actually worthwhile. Being able to upgrade the guns is a hold over from the previous game and still works well. That being said, it is probably best not to take the Gatling gun into a local multiplayer game, however, as the back pack takes up a goodly portion of the limited screen.
- Chapters/item carry over: This seems like a small thing but it really isn’t. Unlike previous games in the series, RE5 allows you to go back and replay whatever levels you want and allows you to keep all your gold and items from each play through. This means you can go back and find anything you might have missed with ease and also allows you to mine levels of riches over and over again which makes upgrading much easier. It also makes you a better player as it turns out since you have to keep on fighting over and over again.
- Storyline: The story is where everything gets dicey. There are a few problems. The first is that by and large there isn’t much of a story at all. Chris and Sheva are chasing down an arms dealer after a bust goes bad. Then there are not-zombies that are similar to the Los Ganados from RE4. That is pretty much it. Then you have some nonsense tying it all in to Umbrella and a twist so bad that I saw it coming from the preview trailers. RE4 took the series in a new direction with the story and RE5 makes a U-turn back to the well worn floorboards of the first four games in the series. I would have much rather seen the plot line from RE4 lead somewhere entirely new. What we are left with is something that is a tangled mess but still manages to be sort of bland and uneventful.
- Structure: There have been people complaining that the series needs to go back to the pre-RE4 days fixed camera, pre-rendered backgrounds and real tank like controls but I think that is ridiculous. RE4 was a response to those same people complaining against those things they are now advocating. I think people are confused. It isn’t the gameplay or any of that which is stale but rather the structure of the story and the game. It is just as if they pallet swapped Chris for Leon and changed the scenery a bit. Follow me here: I show up, a couple of dudes that aren’t zombies but have weird alien shit coming out of their mouths show up and put them down. Then I witness a brutal slaying by a guy with a big ass weapon that can kill me in one hit. I have to survive in a shanty village long enough for a gate to open up so I can get out of the stage. Quick which game’s opening level am I talking about? It doesn’t stop there either. It just keeps on following the same tired beats all through the game.
- No Leon: He is a badass and I would rather play as him than Chris any day of the week and twice on Sundays.
- the Inventory Screen: I know I have it listed in the good column but this causes some problems in its own right. Sometimes when you have a bunch of dudes bearing down on you with spears and machine guns you just don’t have the time to switch weapons or find that healing item. They should have implemented some kind of hot key assignment to the D-pad so you could change weapons and items on the fly. A quick reload feature you can perform with a button press helps this a lot but it is still a drag when you mean to switch to your magnum and end up accidentally holding a box of shotgun shells instead.
- Difficulty/length: I should say lack of difficulty. I have played a lot of Resident Evil over the years so maybe that is it but I found the normal mode to be way too easy and amateur to be laughable. Veteran is a bit more like it but overall the difficulty leaves a lot to be desired. It is also way too short. It is 6 chapters but it could have been longer. I suppose you want to leave people wanting more but I could have done with a lot more.
- Boss Fights: the bosses are generally big and impressive looking but they all go down like bitches. Once you know what you are doing with each fight they are super easy.
Conclusion [9.0 out of 10]
Resident Evil 5 is not a perfect game and I doubt it will see the Game of the Year awards that its predecessor enjoyed but it is still enormously fun. The move to action over horror has put a lot of fans out but as an action game it soars. Length, difficulty and story could have been better but again what is there is amazing. There are tons of things to unlock and collect and plenty of modes to keep you busy. It is a fun time and worthy of the franchise despite the issues which keep it from snatching a 1o. Highly recommended, particularly to fans of RE4.
Note: There is a versus mode available on Xbox Live and the Playstation Network which basically plugs competitive play into the Mercs mode. This is a fun mode but with a price tag of five dollars for something that just unlocks content already on the disc, it is better to just skip it altogether. The co-op Mercs mode is more than enough to satisfy.