Scared yet? Neither am I.
For about ten hours, Resident Evil 5 provides one of the most polished action experiences on consoles. The graphics are jaw-dropping, the setpieces are ludicrously intense, and the story is wonderful and campy. Although RE5 seems to have transcended the need to actually be scary, the heartpounding action more than makes up for the loss of the horror elements. The full package amounts to one of the most polished video games I've ever played. Unfortunately, RE5 is a 12-13 hour experience in single player, not a ten hour one. Due to some intentional design decisions on Capcom's part, the last few hours are kind of a bummer. But I may be getting a little ahead of myself.
RE5 is not a horror game. Not once while playing the game did I actually feel fear. Protagonist Chris Redfeild and his partner, Sheva Alomar, come packing some serious heat. If you search the levels diligently to find hidden weapons, you should come out of the tail end of the game with several assault and sniper rifles, shotguns, pistols, and even a grenade launcher with four types of ammo. That said, RE5 remains a very suspenseful, very stressful game, much more so than other action games. This is due largely to Redfield's infamous inability to shoot and move at the same time. Yes, lots of people have been moaning about it; no, it really does not hinder the game for the most part. The other factor that makes RE5 so suspenseful is the enemy design. While none of them are particularly frightening, they are all pretty gross, and you just know that something messed up will happen if you let them get their claws on you.
Sadly, the perfect balance of suspense and action is thrown off in the last two Acts of the game. At this point it seems as if Capcom realized that their game was coming out to be about half the length of RE4, so they tossed in a bunch of annoying enemies and a few time consuming "puzzles" to lengthen the process. The enemies contained in the last few hours of the game have evolved from spear weilding villagers to machine gun packing guards, and monsters such as the Lickers, unseen since early RE games, come out to play. Since you can't run and shoot, it becomes necessary to take cover at predetermined points to beat the soldiers. The Lickers, on the other hand, have a very long reach because of their sharp tongues, rendering cover pointless. The high difficulty of these last few levels wouldn't be a problem if it weren't for Sheva; after all, if the game didn't become more difficult as it progressed, victory would feel cheap. Sheva's AI, while seemingly excellent in the beginning of the game, just can't keep up with the intensity of some of the endgame setpieces. Her split second hesitations that seemed in the beginning of the game to be acceptable become potentially game-ending. I ended up dying more because Sheva couldn't handle herself against a horde of monsters than because of my own missteps.
Luckily for RE5, this is the part of the review in which I praise the fun co-op mode. During the last three hours or so, when Sheva's AI starts to hold you back, co-op play becomes kind of important. The entire game is designed around the concept of cooperating with another character, whether it be trading items with your partner or flipping an elevator switch while your partner rides up and activates a failsafe switch. These moments become increasingly important as the game wears on, and in the end it's a comforting feeling knowing that a competent friend has your back.
Like its predecessor, RE5 sports a plethora of endgame content such as alterate costumes and game modes. Most prominent of these is the Mercenaries mode, of which the goal is to kill as many enemies as possible in a time limit without dying. This mode is just as intense as any moment in the campaign, given that you have so many factors working against you. Co-op play is also available in Mercenaries mode through a patch, which is a really good addition. Finally, a recent patch has added trophies that indicate an online versus mode is on the way via paid DLC. Personally, I wonder how well this could possibly work when players are limited by the control scheme, but we'll just have to wait and see. At least Capcom seems devoted to supporting this game into the future.
RE5's presentation is almost flawless. The graphics are some of the best I've seen, especially considering that this is a multiplatform game. The little touches, like Sheva's detailed facial expressions, really make the experience feel much more deep. Music plays a big part in RE5, with tense strings alerting you to upcoming danger. When the music dies down, it's safe to say that the battle is over for now. The one misstep in the audio department is a character named Irving. This man has the most rediculously strained, high pitched voice I've ever heard in a supposedly serious video game. While the sotry is great, Irving totally ruins some scenes through idiotic dialouge and his insuffrably whiny voice. Good thing he doesn't get much camera time.
Thanks to its plentiful enemies, memorable boss fights, great graphics, and high replay value, RE5 manages to shoot its way towards the top of the first quarter's must-play list. While it's not as revolutionary as RE4 was, I don't think anyone really expected it to be. With RE5, Capcom has taken a superb formula and refined it even further. Without a doubt, this is a wonderful investment for action gamers from beginning to end, even if lone wolves will have to slog through a little crap to get that far. RE5 might not be scary anymore, but the series name carries more weight than ever.