A finely crafted action experience that will divide players
Resident Evil on the ps1 was possibly one of the earliest video games I recall playing, along with the scarily pyramid-breasted Tomb Raider game. It's a game that at the time (and granted I was probably far too young to be playing it) had the ability to scare the crap out of you several times over. It was suspenseful... atmospheric..and it had intense action and great visuals to boot. And whilst the puzzles were challenging enough to make me want to punch the controller into my face at some points, and the voice-actors had the talents of 3 hired toddlers- it was still a great game.
So roll on all these years and the series has taken more then a few changes along the way to the release of Resident Evil 5. Resident Evil 4 saw Capcom take the series down a far more frantic and action-based route. With great success. And kudos to Capcom for at least developing and evolving the series. You could see Resident Evil 5 as a further evolution of that premise with the added support of CO-OP gameplay.
That looks insane. (visuals)
I find it near impossible to fault this game from a technical standpoint. If you have a HDTV the game looks simply stunning from the first opening sequence. sharp and detailed character models, realistic lighting and some great looking environments really shine in this game. Capcom have really used the power of the current generation consoles to make this one of the best looking games on 360 in my view.
You play as Chris Redfield whom to those who know the series should be quite familiar. Chris is deployed to a fictional town in Africa to search for suspected terrorist activity. Alongside him joins his new partner Shiva Alomar. This partner aspect of the game is quite fundamental. Shiva acts as a co-op AI partner with you through singleplayer. Or allows another player to join you through the campaign. The gameplay style is very similar to that of Resident Evil 4 in the sense that it's a series of quite intense action set pieces mixed with quite a few puzzle elements that take use of co-op play. That is - obstacles that must be overcome by using both Chris and Sheva. These can be sequences where 2 players are needed to pull 2 separate levers. Or helping another player reach higher ground to push a switch. And whilst I will say that this makes good use of the co-op mechanic....it possibly could have been implemented in more exciting ways in some parts of the game. Theres only so much lever-pulling one can take before the mechanic feels very obvious and not integrated into the bulk of the gameplay as seamlessly as it could have. Furthermore - I would recommend playing this game with a friend to have enjoyment from the co-op experience. As there is to be some frustration with the AI through the single player mode. Whilst mostly competent...do expect Shiva to stand still willingly and get damaged at times. Or not be of general great help during those times where you really need it.
The typewriter save points of the series are now gone. Instead replaced by between checkpoints and chapters. This system removes any frustration for sure...but arguably removes some challenge as well. When you die in the game you also have an option to go back to the inventory screen and buy more equipment or first aid spray, and also keep any amount of gold or treasure you had before you collapsed on the floor in a bloody heap. Nice. This allows you to replay that section and with the possibility of an upgraded handgun etc. This game is definitely not punishing you for failure. A thing that will possibly seperate players depending on what type of challenge they like.
It features the other staples of Resident Evil 4. Dynamic cut-scenes with quick-time events.Oh and don't forget them tasty herbs. The inventory managment where searching for ammo and weapons is as crucial as ever. You also have the inventory management of Shiva to deal with during single player as well. You can request or transfer items from your inventory slot and to hers and vice versa. This can become quite the pain in singleplayer as you juggle items and weapons between you. An issue that isn't quite as obvious when you have a friend playing with you.
One of the absolute best things in Resident Evil 5 is that much like 4...there is a ton of unlocks to be earned throughout the game. Whether this be through finding emblems hidden throughout the game, unlocking new costumes...buying new weapons.... there is simply a ton of things to find, by , and unlock. Therefore it's great for re-playability.
Dude...cant move while I aim! (controls)
This is something that will split some players. Not a surprise to those who played resident evil 4 , but something that may feel somewhat outdated and unwieldy to those whom have played recent third-person shooters like Dead Space. You cannot move whilst you aim. To some this may lead to frustration. But from a gameplay standpoint I can see where it comes into play. By forcing you to stop and aim at enemies, and run back when things get hairy...it really ramps up the suspense during those intense action sequences. On the other hand I do feel that the system does perhaps at this point feel sluggish . After all- the ability to move and shoot whilst aiming in Dead Space did not hamper the suspense during that game. Perhaps Capcom would have been wise to evolve the system from 4 and find a compromise for players. It's down to personal taste largely on this one.
The who..wait. What? (Story)
I am obviously not going to spoil the storyline here for everyone. But my personal take on the story in resident evil 5 was one of a mixture of confusement and overall disappointment. Whilst I applaud capcom for taking so many different directions with the series...I cannot help feel a little lost at the plot sometimes and some of it' supernatural twists. That's not to say there wont be people who will enjoy the story perhaps. I think it's largely based upon knowing the wider context of the story and having played through all the games in the series ...if you are a series veteran then the storyline probably makes alot more sense. There are some returning characters from past Resident Evil games in here. But overall I found it a largely forgettable storyline that if anything was a vehicle for a series of action sequences. On the plus side...the voice acting is much better in this game then some of the previous games of the series. Not like that is a hard feat after the first game. But it's solid voice work.
Overall....Resident Evil 5 is a highly-refined, short (around 6 hours for the campaign) and enjoyable action experience that for alot of people will offer hours upon hours of enjoyment. This is largely down to how one feels towards the control scheme and the change in direction for the series given it's original starting point. Whilst it crafts an admirable and intense campaign....for alot of players it may feel a little too similar to Resident Evil 4. And too little a step from that game. It may also depend on whether you have any friends to play with trhough the campaign as this removes the AI issues and allows far better teamwork and overall enjoyment. And the re-playability through unlocks will keep players coming back
For me the bottom line is this - I appreciate the game for the action blockbuster it is. But I feel the action route that is now cemented in this series has somewhat lost it's steam now, following in the footsteps of Resident Evil 4. With Gears of War and many other countless action games on the market....I almost wish resident evil as a series would swing back the other way and make a compelling and atmospheric game that the original game was once again. Or at least evolve into something that is beyond a mere step from the gameplay that Resident Evil 4 laid down.
Whatever the next game in the series holds...i'm sure Capcom are willing to change direction and surprise people once more.