Short but certainly sweet!
Resident Evil 4 is probably one of the most celebrated Resident Evil games to date, let alone one of the best 'last-gen' games I remember. So when Resident Evil 5 arrived, there were some rather big boots to fill. I had some concerns as to how Capcom were going to wrap up the story. The big question is if this popular franchise can really cope going next gen. Silent Hill Homecoming has not done so well and we have yet to see another Project Zero or Parasite Eve in the UK.
I am a huge fan of the series, so this was not only a make or break for Capcom, being able to continue making this huge franchise great, but also if I can still get excited about survival horror as a whole. You see the genre itself is a dying breed and you could say that Resident Evil 5 have moved Resident Evil into new territory rather than that quirky door opening carnival back in the 90's. So yeah, some big boots to fill.
This time around you take control of Chris Redfield, who has left STARS and joined the Bio-terrorism Security Assessment Alliance. Also from the BSAA is your new partner, Sheva Alomar. Tackling Umbrella once again in another bio-terrorism war for world domination. Your first playthrough alone will be with what seems to be a steroid obsessed Chris, after completion though you are given the option to play as Sheva, gain access to the area's only she could go and some awesome outfits.
AI wise, Sheva is a clever cat. We all know that AI partners are not all that perfect though (come on Elika, help me turn the crane), so there are some mild annoyances. She will take care of you when you need it, keep the infected off your back when requested, picking up ammo you might have missed along the way, whilst also keeping you topped up. What she will also do is sometimes run off ahead triggering a cut scene when you really just want to quickly check out the area for any more BSAA Medals, a collectible in game, or some much needed ammo. Blocking doors or walking into chainsaws is another rare but annoying occurrence, and with Sheva dead your game ends. You need to watch out for her just as much as she does for you, which is a refreshing change.
My main annoyance with AI Sheva is that she loves to waste ammo. While I'd desperately try to conserve the 'good stuff' for the next boss fight or large horde of Las Plagas infected enemies, she would gleefully pump lead into the easiest encounter when all you want to do is smash them around the head with a knife or electric baton. However compared to AI partners of the past, Sheva is one of the better of the bunch and is very responsive in times of need.
The best way to combat her ammo hunger is keeping an eye on her inventory. The inventory is interacted with in real time, so it's not best to stop during a massive fight and argue over who has what, but you can request anything she has on her for your own inventory. If you are full you can exchange one of your items for hers. I generally kept Sheva topped up with healing and pistol ammo as well as a shotgun, because watching her run into a group and blowing them apart is highly enjoyable. So just make sure you grab the ammo you want from her and try to use different weapons. I mean you will both be rocking the handgun, but try give her the shotgun and keep the MP5 for yourself, plus having separate weapons means she will be topping you up with the ammo she doesn't need. It's good to have a sniper each though for the moments when you are split up.
Being separated provides another challenge where one of you will have to trigger a switch or find an item that is above a broken ladder. When you play as Chris you are left to cover the lower ground, however Sheva is thrown up to high ladders or over large gaps which adds more of a replay factor to the game. While the earlier use of this is very easy, with one covering the other, later on you are both bombarded by enemies and have to not only look after yourselves but also look after each other, as well as rely on them getting to a switch/pulley to both activate it. Team work has such a huge focus in RE5, and it plays beautifully, works well with the theme of the game and is just refreshing.
Co-op play is probably the most enjoyable aspect of RE5, and you can tell it was made to be enjoyed with a friend. I think out of the 3 hours I played co-op (so far), and the 10-12 alone, co-op has seemed much more enjoyable than on my lonesome. You both discuss tactics, as well as becoming more resourceful with ammo and herbs, which are sparse to begin with. This not only makes your playthrough less frustrating but also at a much faster pace. The only thing you'll get getting angry over is who gets the shotgun, and if one of you mess up the games many quick time event sequences.
Talking of QTE's, RE5 is full of them. Though rather than a button press here and there, you are smashing down each in a frenzied panic as you race through and dodge enemies and the environment. Each QTE has been fantastic and I've even replayed certain levels just to do them again. A lot of games try to include QTE's like they are mandatory and end up adding them without any real imagination. RE5 however, with its Hollywood styled cinematic cut scenes, really gets you frantically watching the screen just in case you need to button press.
General combat gets you used to these fun QTE's, with combo punches, kicks and stabs available during fights and boss battles. It does become frustrating and clumsy at times, but then that is what survival horror is about. You're not supposed to run around with ease, popping the head off of all the enemies you encounter. You're supposed to struggle against the enemy, worry about the next corner while taking your time to aim and hope for the best. Mastering this system does not take long at all, and after a good hour or so you'll be wondering what everyone was complaining about. With today's gaming scene being over run with FPS it's refreshing to play a gun game from a different perspective.
I'm actually very glad Capcom kept to its stop and shoot roots, because all these extras would have never surfaced if all you did was run from A to B. There would certainly be no tension or times when you just like to stand there and look at Chris' sweaty biceps, okay maybe I am the only one to do that, but with graphics like RE5 you would only feel cheated to experience it all in first person.
I must mention how beautiful this game is. Resident Evil has always been pretty good looking, especially when it arrived on the Gamecube. The character models were sublime and it all seemed styled so perfect. RE5 is no exception, working with full motion capture the general animations and cut scenes are amazing to watch. The cut scenes are probably the most enjoyable, giving that 'unlock' feeling I used to get when hitting FMV scenes in Final Fantasy VIII. The game feels like Metal Gear Solid 4 in terms of production quality, each scene feels like a movie. The motion capture acting works beautifully and where the voice actors were doing the mocap at the same time it all fits together wonderfully. There is also another MGS4 feeling in the fight scenes, which are amazingly choreographed and never has Wesker felt more matrix. He looks and fights the part! You even have a sexy skin tight suit for a certain somebody.
Focusing back onto the combat side of things, upgrading comes back in full force. While you are not greeted with a merchant (though the guy right at the start sure got me excited), you are presented with a shop at the end of each level. Here you can sell the treasures you have picked up along the way and any unwanted ammo or items. After this you can then upgrade your guns in power, capacity, reload time and sometimes critical damage. While some of you may find upgrading your weapons a bit of a gimmick, it does have a purpose. Obviously this is to create more powerful weapons but also to unlock more weapons and unlimited ammo for the second playthrough.
After completing RE5 you can select another familiar face - Mercenary mode. There are a bunch of characters you can unlock to use in Mercenary mode and the aim of the game is to kill as many enemies as possible in a short amount of time. This is kind of like Gears of War's Horde mode if you will, it's all about getting a higher rank. There are also BSAA medals to collect during the campaign mode, which are large blue medals hiding in random areas of the game. Unlike most medals some of these are really hard to come by. I'd say get used to looking for them with a sniper scope and even look at the roofs of tiny shanty shops that you can't even enter! These unlock a bunch of things including figurines you can collect in the form of Gatcha balls for your personal enjoyment, again like RE4. I kind of like this because I can marvel up close at Chris manly arms, a certain pare of buttocks (Sheva) and even marvel at the size of Excella's breasts! Enjoy the wonderful works of art you control in the game.
All in all this has probably been my most favourite Resident Evil so far. While lacking in any real puzzles at all compared to the confusing tests of the Playstation days, RE5 is not only a masterful piece of gaming experience but also technical art. Probably one of the best looking games on next-gen consoles to date. It has a story that is still gripping, if not outrageous, and gameplay that has me wanting to finish this review up to play some more! I can say that Capcom have succeeded in all my expectations. While it's evolution from survival horror is a real shame for fans of the originals, Resident Evil 5 is still probably the best title on the market currently for this dying genre, and with RE5 being the closing chapter for this timeline it means the next title will be a complete refresh and reboot for the series. Lets just hope it evolves even further.