No Evil Here
Games come and go so quickly in our beloved industry, with most being forgotten within months of their release, but when one really does make a mark it gets remembered. You only have to look at the history books for proof of this as Super Mario Bros. introduced gamers to platforming, Super Mario 64 then expanded on this creating the genre we know today; Goldeneye revolutionized first person shooters and Halo perfected the formula, still seen in games nowadays. Resident evil 4 was one such triumph pioneering the 3 person shooter genre. By implementing a new and unique camera angle, shifting to an over-the-shoulder perspective, and creating non-stop action throughout it set a new standard for 3 person games and has changed what we come to expect from them. 4 years later and Capcom have returned with Resident evil 5 to expand upon their masterpiece and boy was it worth the wait.
Resident evil 5 takes place roughly 5 years after the events of the previous game yet minimal references are made to RE4. Capcom has instead decided to return to the plot-line of the earlier games. Without giving away too many spoilers it pretty much wraps up the 50 year long story arc that is sure to please fans who have invested so much time into it. Once again you play as Chris Redfield, the former S.T.A.R.S. operative with a vengeance against the Umbrella Corporation and his former squad leader, Albert Wesker, who betrayed him all those years ago in Resident Evil 1. Chris is now working for the BSAA, a counter-terrorism unit with the job of stopping biohazard weapons falling into the wrong hands. Right from the start the BSAA are sent to the fictional location Kijuju, somewhere in Africa, where Chris immediately partners up with a local, Sheva Alomar. From there things start to go wrong as the inhabitants start to suffer from a form of the virus Las Plagas and it’s up to the dynamic duo to save the day. The story is entertaining throughout with blockbuster set pieces in abundance, some pretty good voice acting and some of the best looking real-time cut scenes I’ve ever seen. Apart from a slightly cheesy script (something we’ve come to expect from the series) and a plot twist that can be seen from a mile away RE5 does a very good job of breaking up the action and making you actually care about what’s going on.
Gameplay wise, a few dramatic changes have been made. First and foremost this is not a typical survival-horror game that the Resident Evil series has become renowned for. Although hardcore fans may be disappointed by this there is no need to fret. Bullet-rationing and limited save points are gone but the feel of your favourite RE games has still been retained. For starters the control scheme fans of the series are so familiar with has remained, with the inability to walk and shoot at the same time. This decision has been at the centre of much criticism lately with complaints that this restraint is needless and feels dated alongside its competitors. It’s true that while Capcom have been busy perfecting the polygons in Chris’ hair (and my god that’s some good looking hair) other franchises have built on RE4’s features. Gears of war has been hugely successful in adding in new elements, including the ability to run and shoot, which has changed the average gamer’s expectations and therefore to some this feels like an odd step backwards. However, after playing just under 30 hours of the game I can officially tell you that those complaints are irrelevant. After 20 minutes with the new controls you’ll slip right back into that nostalgic rhythm of blowing the heads of the infected all while standing still. The intentional design decision is a huge success and in sticking to their roots Capcom have managed to retain that classic RE feeling of vulnerability.
Now the control worries have been dispelled you may be wondering how the actual game plays. Well in short, great. The biggest change you’ll probably notice first is the addition your new partner, Sheva. Now, this is no Leon Kennedy to your Claire Redfield. This isn’t simply someone who you’ll cross paths with occasionally or who you will play as on a second disc such as was the norm of the earlier RE games. Nor is this any Ashley, the incredibly useless and annoying companion we were treated to in RE4. Sheva is a truly valuable ally who saved my ass more than once. The AI is adequate as she can take care of herself most of the time. However if she dies so do you. This led to a few occasions where she would mindlessly run into enemies getting her face eaten off causing me to start again; something that had me throwing my controller across the room and yelling some quite sexist remarks I didn’t think I had in me. Apart from these rare moments this was not an issue as she helped more than she hindered. On top of this Sheva can also be controlled by a second player with another controller or over Xbox Live and this is where RE5 is at its most fun increasing the sense of comradory and the need for co-operation. During my time with the game all of my online sessions were completely lag free and relatively easy to get into. Holding off against the zombie hoard with a friend and shouting down the mic telling him to “get the f**k away from that chainsaw guy” is an experience that should be had by all and adds hours to the game’s length.
The new inventory system, replacing the briefcase from RE4, is managed on the fly making it all the more stressful. Only allowing you 9 slots each you have to be selective about what you carry and managing Sheva’s inventory becomes just as important as your own. The ability to give items to each other and trade ammo contributes to the feeling of partnership and makes weapon selection that bit more tactical. On top of this in between missions you can use gold collected in the levels to buy new weapons, health sprays, bullet proof vests and most importantly to upgrade your arsenal. With access to over 20 weapons and the ability to upgrade almost all of them means you’ll be spending multiple playthroughs in order to collect more gold and harness the full power of each of them.
The core gameplay is for the most part unchanged from RE4 however there have been some adjustments and additions to the already fantastic system. The game is broken up into 6 ‘acts’, usually with 3 stages in each one. On my first playthrough on ‘normal’ difficulty the game took about 12-14 hours to complete. After this, however, I played through on co-op with a friend which took just under 8. ‘Normal’ will probably be just about challenging enough for most players but I recommend putting it on a higher difficulty when you play with a friend as knowing the levels and having upgraded weapons really makes the game a walkover. Most of your time you’ll be fighting off Kijuju’s inhabitants on foot however there are some vehicle sections and numerous boss fights littered in between. On the ground you’ll predominantly follow the process of: manoeuvre, shoot, break barrel, pick up ammo, repeat. However this is mixed up with flying enemy types, grenades, QTE’s and context sensitive actions such as melee attacks on enemies and taking cover (only on certain walls). The levels are usually fairly linear and there is a feeling that the game is leading you through although with a heavy influence on extravagant set pieces this is, to a certain extent, inevitable. However there is a motivation for multiple playthroughs with definite chance for experimentation. There is a considerable amount of verticality to levels with access to rooftops and some open areas that you can approach how you wish. There are also substantial amount of boss battles in the game, nearly all of which are of an epic scale. The production values are clear here as you fight gigantic monsters that really get the adrenaline flowing.
I may have mentioned this a few times already but just to be clear: Resident Evil 5’s graphics are incredible. The blistering heat of Kijuju’s landscape is a joy to behold as every aspect of the game is stunning (yes, even the saliva hanging off a dog’s head that’s split in half). The motion capture for the characters really paid off as their movements look and feel completely realistic. RE5’s visual quality is definitely up there with the big guns of Gears 2 and even MGS4 with the sound effects fitting perfectly and the musical score building up tension at just the right times.
Although RE5’s story mode may not be the longest of games Capcom really have done a good job of putting in enough content to satiate any gamer for months. There are 30 BSAA emblems in the game to find, all of which unlock figurines of hi-res character models, three costumes for both Chris and Sheva and different graphical filters to select. Once you have finished the game you can go back and play as Sheva gaining access to new areas in levels. You also have the opportunity to fully upgrade all of the weapons you find, unlock secret weapons and buy infinite ammo for all of them. Mercenaries mode, returning from RE4, also makes an appearance. At first I considered this ‘arcade-style’ points focused mini-game a bit of a throwaway mode however it became surprisingly addictive as you constantly attempt to better your score and with multiple areas to play through it adds a lot of longevity. Add in DLC that’s on the horizon and you’ve got yourself one massive game well worth its price tag.
Although it is an extremely impressive package there are a few things to criticise about the game. Although a horror game there is a real lack of any genuine scares in RE5. There is more of a focus on atmosphere, which is very good, but it generally leads to an anti-climax and the presence of a partner at your side (who can revive you) removes the fear of death to an extent. The levels towards the end of the game do get tiresome sometimes and there are one or two monotonous boss battles. Also, the fact you can’t exchange weapons with your partner was frustrating and some of the menus were a bit clunky. Really, though, all I’m doing here is nit-picking and these issues aren’t particularly noticeable behind a quality made game.
What I’ve really been trying to say here in the last 10 paragraphs is that Resident Evil 5 is amazing. Admittedly it isn’t an inventor of a genre, like RE4, but it is an innovator. For some it’s a choice between quality and quantity but RE5 chooses both with massive amounts of content, fantastic gameplay and brilliantly fun co-op to boot. It’s in strong contention for game of the year already. It may not be the survival-horror game some were hoping for but if you can look past that then you’ll find an exhilarating and truly great action game instead.