Even with its obvious shortcomings, RE5 is easy to recommend.
In the earliest portion of 2005, Capcom dropped a bomb with the release of Resident Evil 4, breathing new life into a franchise mired in tradition and antiquated mechanics. While impressing critics, fans and naysayers alike, the game also did something much more important by redefining the third-person shooter.
To even begin to hope that Resident Evil 5 – the latest installment in the long-running blockbuster franchise – could even begin to live up to the hype surrounding its release is simply outrageous. There’s simply no realistic way that this game could have possibly been the current generation equivalent of its predecessor, but in this humble reviewer’s opinion, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Given the length of the game’s introduction sequence, the first thing to notice about Resident Evil 5 is that it is absolutely gorgeous. From the rich, detailed environments, to the atmospheric lighting effects, to the subtle movement of the characters on the screen, Capcom doesn’t seem to have pulled any punches with their engine in this case. Even sitting next to industry beauties such as Killzone 2, Resident Evil 5 is among the most visually pleasing titles that I’ve experienced this generation.
The visuals truly lend themselves well to the game’s cutscenes, of which there are extensive amounts. Though the dialogue isn’t perfect, and the overall narrative is quite a ways from being Oscar-worthy, Resident Evil 5’s heavily involved plot at least has a very cinematic feel. The early events of the story benefit greatly from this, as it at least gives them the illusion of being vaguely interesting.
As far as the plot goes, Resident Evil 5 takes place five years after the events of the last game, and sees Chris Redfield (one of the protagonists from the original game) as a member of a bioterrorism control taskforce (called the B.S.A.A.), venturing into Africa to meet his new partner Sheva Alomar with whom he lays waste to many, many parasite-plagued African and Arabic villagers
For fans of the series’ story, this game is a throwback to the very beginning of it all, heavily involving the Umbrella Corporation and series antagonist Albert Wesker. It’s actually mildly disappointing to witness with how refreshing the post-Umbrella plot of the previous game was, but Resident Evil 5 serves as the culmination of these events and seems to wrap these things up nicely while still managing to flesh out enough new intrigue, making it easy to guess what’s next for the series.
On the game play side of things, Resident Evil 5 really doesn’t offer much to segregate it from its forerunner. The over-the-shoulder, third-person perspective is still very much intact, as is the zoomed-in laser-sight targeting that makes it relatively easy to pinpoint what exactly it is that you’re about to shoot.
There are a few minor improvements to the game’s general interface, the biggest one being a complete overhaul of Resident Evil 4’s atrocious inventory. Gone is the seemingly Tetris-inspired inventory screen of old. Instead you are now served with nine inventory slots for holding weapons, ammunitions and medicine. Thankfully, explosives (grenades and proximity mines) now stack into their respective slots, and combining herbs is a quick way to free up a slot, as well as a more effective means of recovering lost health.
Resident Evil 5 has also done away with everyone’s favorite wandering, inconspicuous merchant. Instead you are met with a preparation screen between chapter segments and after each death, prompting you to organize your inventory, as well as to purchase and upgrade weapons. In addition, this screen also provides a seemingly unlimited storage cache, allowing you to store and withdraw items as needed.
As part of the new inventory system, the game’s action no longer pauses when rummaging around in your pockets for a different weapon or for an herb to heal that nasty axe-to-the-face, making in-combat item-browsing significantly more hectic and tense. Weapons and items assigned to certain slots in your inventory are also assigned to corresponding buttons on the directional pad, countering the active inventory with quick weapon swaps and a fast way to pull out that first aid spray.
The biggest addition to the game since Resident Evil 4 is the presence of Sheva Alomar, which makes Capcom’s approach to cooperative game play as the primary means of playing the game rather obvious. This game is definitely best played cooperatively with a friend by means of either Xbox Live or splitscreen. Without a buddy to play with however, Sheva is actually quite exceptional as an A.I. controlled character. Her presence in the game is never really harshly felt, though she can occasionally get in the way. She does seem a far to prone to wasting ammo, though her kill count can oftentimes be impressive, making it easy for me to recommend that the first play through be a solo experience.
Though atmospheric and intense, Capcom has obviously steered this series away from its roots that were previously planted in survival horror, a genre that the original game practically invented. Whereas Resident Evil 4 did what it could to instill fear into the player as the game progressed, this sequel has wholly abandoned the scars in favor of thrills. This isn’t a bad thing from my personal point of view, but it could certainly be off-putting for long time fans of the series.
Even after the credits roll, Resident Evil 5 carries on the last game’s legacy with a plethora of post-game unlockables. There are still plenty of reasons to soldier through a few more rounds of the main story, such as unlockable costumes, visual filters and weird little virtual figurines of which the purpose escapes me. There’s also a super, super hard unlockable difficulty mode, or so I hear. I’m not man enough to have unlocked it yet.
Resident Evil 5 also carries over the fan-favorite Mercenaries mode from Resident Evil 4. The concept is much the same as before with a bit of polish thrown on top, along with a variety of new Resident Evil 5 locales and the option to play cooperatively with a friend.
As a whole, Resident Evil 5 really isn’t anything new, but realistically I don’t think anyone really should have expected it to be. Despite the lack of innovation, this game is a highly polished and intense action game that’s exciting and fun to very fun to sit down and enjoy. It definitely could have been a better game, but it’s shortcomings are far from being enough to make it condemnable.