Attempting the impossible
I will be one of the first to admit that I think Resident Evil 4 is one of the best, most innovative video games ever made, plain and simple. Yet whenever such a game comes out, the inevitable question always surfaces: How can a sequel possibly live up to the standards set before it? The short answer is that it can't- but it also doesn't need to. Resident Evil 5 is more or less content to bring us more of the fantastic gunplay that defined Resident Evil 4, and as a result is another thrilling action shooter from start to finish.
If you've played Resident Evil 4, then you'll immediately feel at home with Resident Evil 5. The controls are much the same, and still allow for tons of precision while feeling natural to boot. I've heard complaints about the slow turning and/or movement speed in these games- I feel like those who make these complaints are missing the point. This isn't Unreal Tournament, and you aren't "twitch master extraordinaire". This is a more tactical, methodical shooter that puts a lot of emphasis on positioning and aiming. It's a refreshingly different kind of shooter, and makes for a unique experience that is a ton of fun in its own way. That isn't to say the controls are perfect, however. It would be nice to be able to walk while aiming (think Dead Space), item management is still an annoyance, and running could also be a little less wonky. But these things are mostly a non-issue, as Resident Evil 5 still provides top notch controls that manage to work with the player a whole lot more often than they work against.
Aside from its definitive controls, Resident Evil 5 carries a lot of other things over from Resident Evil 4. You still have your quick-time sequences, lots of different guns to upgrade, and enemies that react accordingly when you shoot them in different body parts. Most of this stuff is great, and I'm happy to see a lot of it return once more (though quick-time events are getting a little old). Resident Evil 5's pacing is also fantastic, and moves you from one exhilarating action sequence to the next with near perfect timing. There is also a ton of extra content to be found here, giving you a lot of incentive to keep picking the game back up again and again. The highlight here is the spectacular Mercenaries minigame, which is just as addictive as always. The biggest change to Resident Evil 5 is the addition of Sheva, your partner. She's with you from start to finish, and can be controlled by either the AI or a friend, though the AI is not exactly what most would call "smart". Playing with a friend adds a whole new dimension to the game, however, and is ultimately what sets this experience apart from Resident Evil 4. It's really the best way to experience the game.
Minor grievances aside, Resident Evil 5's biggest drawback is simply the fact that it's a direct sequel, and one that borrows a ton of content from its fore-bearer. As such, it's not always a new experience, but when your inspiration is a game as good as Resident Evil 4 you don't always have to be. Resident Evil 5 still stands at least as tall as its current competition- I ultimately had as much fun playing Resident Evil 5 as I have any other recent shooter, making it one of the premier shooters of this generation, and one that I can easily recommend to any fan of the genre.
For additional information on my review style and scoring system, click here.