Try as it might, RE5 can't fill the shoes of its predecessor
- Gorgeous graphics
- Dark continuation of the Resident Evil franchise story
- Co-op for the first time in the series
- Option for duel-stick aiming
- Roller-coaster of awesome setpieces and scenes
- The perfect length: not too long or too short
- Mercenaries mode has been improved and also has co-op
- Co-op with AI is atrociously unfun
- Takes all the "B-Movie" greatness of Resident Evil 4 and decides to be serious. Doesn't work.
- Sparked a bunch of racial controversy
- Everything that was even remotely hinting at scary is completely gone and replaced by straight action
- Some of the bosses are stupidly unfair on the hardest difficulty
- Breaking the game up into individual, selectable chapters (ala Devil May Cry) breaks the fluidity of the game
- None of the characters are particularly interesting like they were in Resident Evil 4
- Fixes a lot of control problems, but still keeps arcane ones for no apparent reason
- Violence and gore are considerably toned down, especially for character deaths
- Quick time events aren't as novel as they were in Resident Evil 4
- Zombies on motorbikes? Really?
|Grab a buddy and shoot some not-zombies|
In celebration of the Resident Evil 6 trailer that just came out today, I've decided to take a jump back into two years ago and review the previous game in the series: Resident Evil 5. I went into this game with lots of high hopes, and in all honesty I probably should have reviewed Resident Evil 4 before this one (all you need to know: one of the best games from last generation of hardware) since I'm going to probably be making comparisons between the two, but since pretty much 90% of the gaming population has at least heard of that game, I'm sure you'll somehow manage.
Resident Evil 4 changed both survival horror and the market for third-person shooters. Releasing at the end of both the Gamecube and the PS2's lifespan, Resident Evil 4 was graphically impressive, controlled fantastically, and ramped up the action to an unheard of level. Resident Evil had always been known for two things: it's B-Movie zombie horror and awful controls. Resident Evil 4 fixed almost everything by making the game better to control but still not superhuman, while jacking up the tension to white-knuckle level. It still plays quite well to this day, the HD remake popping up on most modern consoles (which you can bet I bought...which means I've now bought Resident Evil 4 on every system, and twice on the PS2). It paved the way for other amazing games like Gears of War, and changed the face of survival horror.
|Also: extreme, gritty gore. Thanks, Resident Evil 4|
So when I heard about Resident Evil 5 I was BEYOND PUMPED. When I heard it was going to have co-op for the first time in the series I was also totally floored. Co-op? Like...Resident Evil 4 but with two players? That would be awesome! I literally could not wait, and actually bought Resident Evil 5 on release day (something I don't do very often) and managed to convince my friend to as well, and we both ditched school to get on Xbox Live and play through the game together.
It was after a couple hours that I realized...Resident Evil 5 really isn't that great.
|This guy begs to differ|
It wasn't that it was bad per say, it just wasn't...exceptional. Following up Resident Evil 4 wasn't going to be easy and I knew that, but they had changed so much that I found myself no longer enjoying it as an experience. There are a few key issues I had with it, which I'll now address.
First, however, let's get something clear: this game plays pretty much exactly like Resident Evil 4. The over the shoulder shooting, the limited ammo, even the enemy animations when the not-zombies are hit is exactly the same. You have the same chainsaw guys that are tougher than regular guys. You still use herbs to heal and mix yellow with green herbs to up your max life. So I don't really have to go into much detail about the gameplay except it's a third person shooter that punishes you a lot if you get hit. Easy? Alright.
So here's my problem with Resident Evil 5: it wants really hard to be an action game without actually being an action game. What do I mean by this? Well, let's first see what the changed to make it an action game:
- The "tetris" inventory from Resident Evil 4 has been replaced with a more traditional, "four slot" weapon system
- The creepy shopkeeper is completely gone, replaced with a bland menu between chapters
- The chapters aren't really streamlined into the game like they were in RE4, instead they are deliberately broken apart like Devil May Cry. This really kills the flow of the story and the horror experience; how can I be scared if you keep jerking me out of scene?
- You man turrets to gun down zombies on motorcycles. What.
- Near the end of the game you have zombies with guns and you actually have to take cover (badly) in order to shoot them back. With awful, tacked on controls.
- All the cornyness and sillyness from Resident Evil 4 is replaced by "super serious action military shooter using words like 'extraction point' and other such nonsense."
- There is nothing scary at all in this entire game. Nothing. And if you are playing with a human partner with a headset, it's even less scary.
So that's some basic issues, but the ramifications from these design decisions run deep. I'm going to now complain about something that everybody who has played this game complained about, and I know it's overused but I've got to mention it anyway: you can't move and shoot. In an action game.
Now, RE4 didn't let you move and shoot and it turned out just fine. The reason this doesn't fly for Resident Evil 5 is the fact that your immobility means they had to essentially gimp every single enemy in the game to accommodate for you having to stand rooted to the spot everytime you wanted to fire a weapon or use your knife. So you have a game that really wants to be a fast-paced action game ala Gears of War, but your enemies (and character) lumber about like morons. It really kills both the "nonstop action!" bit as well as the "survival horror!" bit.
But I think the real problem with Resident Evil 5 is that it came out after Dead Space.
|Not going to lie, Dead Space is one of my most favorite games ever.|
Dead Space was a game made by pretty much a bunch of no-names employed at EA who saw Resident Evil 4 and thought "dude, this game rocks, but what if we set it in space? With some of the scariest and most messed up enemies ever?" Then somebody was like "but what about moving and shooting? If it's an action game, wouldn't being immobile mean all our enemies would suck?" So guess what they did? They made their enemies insanely fast and horrifying and let you move and shoot. And made it so headshots didn't count for nothing. And about a hundred other fantastic things that really make Dead Space one of the best action-horror games ever made.
Anyway, getting away from Dead Space, this ball-busting masterpiece showed up the year before Resident Evil 5 came out. I'm guessing it was too late in development for anybody at Capcom to change their minds, but after playing through Dead Space (which really is almost a "spiritual successor" to Resident Evil 4 in terms of both scares and gameplay), everything in Resident Evil 5 seemed clunky and dated.
|Pictured: A brilliant analogy. Chris is Resident Evil 5. The big badass is Dead Space. You can figure out the rest.|
One thing Resident Evil 5 DID have that Dead Space didn't, however, is co-op. You can play through the entire game online with a friend, or split-screen on the couch. It really is the only way to play and is loads of fun, especially since playing with an AI partner is the worst experience ever. She takes your ammo. She wastes all of her ammo instead of conserving or planning ahead. She wastes healing items. She dies constantly and for stupid reasons. She can't do anything on her own. The majority of Resident Evil 4 was essentially a huge escort mission (Ashley, the president's apparently helpless daughter, follows you around and complains) but it was never that annoying because she didn't steal your ammo or eat your herbs. This is not the case in Resident Evil 5. So if you play this game, you really need to get a buddy.
...except if you really want to play a co-op game, you could have just picked up Gears of War 2, which had come out the previous November and was not only a better action game, but played better in co-op. Yeah, it wasn't exactly horror, but to be completely honest Gears of War 1 had scarier scenes than anything I saw in Resident Evil 5. And hey, guess what, that had co-op too. And chainsaw guns.
|This is why video games exist. So we can do stupid crap like this.|
So now that I've whined about how mediocre this game was, I'm going to back up and defend some points. The graphics are gorgeous. It was a good call to set this game in the light; you get to see all the nasty monster designs in their full glory and appreciate exactly how fantastic the art direction is in this game. The sound is also all great, as is expected from the franchise, though the voice actors sort of seem to sleepwalk through most of their lines. The story, while "super serious," does finally answer a bunch of lore questions that have been persistant throughout the Resident Evil fiction, and closes a pretty massive plot arc that has been around since the very first Resident Evil. It also loves to throw characters from previous Resident Evil games just to explain how it all fits together, and there are nods to nearly every game in the franchise, which makes a Resident Evil fan like myself very happy.
|The game looks pretty dang sharp|
The game also boasts a host of DLC, including competitive verses (why would you ever play this...?) and some other story elements that I unfortunately haven't played. Capcom does it's usual (and now apparently industry-wide) "release a game again with all the DLC at a cheaper price to screw over early adapters" thing, which I suppose is ok since I wasn't that invested in the game anyway, but if you were to pick it up I'm guessing you'd want that version (Resident Evil 5 GOLD) since it has all the extra stuff.
So...here is the hard part. The score and price. Because despite all my complaining, I actually beat the game like three times, and once by myself and twice with a buddy. I finished every chapter except two on the hardest setting (stupid bosses messing me up) and got every achievement except the one for beating the game on the hardest difficulty (so close!). So I certainly invested a hefty amount of time in it, even if I never really thought it was that great.
Probably my biggest hang up was it wasn't as good as Resident Evil 4, which really isn't a fair way to judge it. Still, they could have done better regardless, so my criticisms stay.
Anyway, score. You can get Resident Evil 5 Gold new right now for $20, which I think is a totally fair price. The game hasn't aged well thanks to not being able to move and shoot, but if you have any investment in Resident Evil as a series you you'd for sure pick it up (if anything to know how it ties into the forthcoming Resident Evil 6). I don't give half-stars in some attempt to keep myself from nit-picking the star rating, but I'm really hung up on whether to give this game two or three stars. So I think I'll give the game the benefit of the doubt and give it three out of five, if only because I had a fun time in co-op, and making my character shout "CHRIS!" over and over just to annoy my friend was kind of awesome.
Oh yeah, and this is still really stupid.
|Zombies on motorbikes. Just...urrrrrrgh.|
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