A Familiar But Excellent Experience.
A fictional African nation called Kijuju is beginning to show signs of an infection similar to the Las Plagas virus in the fourth game, with local residents exhibiting extreme aggression and freakish mutations. It’s time to investigate. Chris Redfield is back in the saddle for Resident Evil 5, but he’s joined by a partner, Sheva, who is inseparable from him (aside from some extremely brief diverging paths). The entire game can be played co-op, either in a split-screen mode or through Xbox Live. Both work well, although you may need a bigger television to play split-screen; the split is quite small in an effort to preserve to aspect ratio.
Actually playing Resident Evil 5 is almost exactly like playing the fourth game. You can run around, inspect points of interest, break boxes and crates for ammunition and health items, and of course shoot your way through lots of infected people in your search to find out the circumstances behind this African version of the virus. The control scheme – controversially – is as it was in Resident Evil 4. You hold a button down to aim and use another to fire, and you cannot move with you shoot. It’s not similarly paced to other popular action games on the 360, but it is not trying to be, either. There is a very unique pace to how action unfolds in Resident Evil 5, and it’s refreshing to experience. Enemies swarm from every direction, and you’ll need a cool head and some patience to make it through the game.
You’ll also need to work with your partner to maximize your stopping power. You can assist each other if you get grabbed by an enemy, trade herbs and ammo to keep each other stocked, and even do some double-team moves on the enemy. Being synchronized like a good team should be comes in particular handy during the game’s great boss fights, which take place against some truly disgusting monsters and often require some multi-tasking between Chris and Sheva. Even Resident Evil 4’s quick time events will require co-operation should you choose to play with a friend, which I highly recommend. Overcoming the game’s challenges while strategizing with a friend is definitely the high point of Resident Evil 5.
High production values are essentially a must if you want to illicit fear and intensity out of the player. Luckily, this game universally succeeds in its audiovisuals. Everything on screen is crisp, detailed, and well animated. The environments look decayed and oppressive, but some of the mountainous of savannah scenes can look quite majestic, as well. The game’s bosses are probably the stand out visually, with their menacing, squirming presence filling up the screen and weirding you out. The audio is great, too, with lots of creepy gurgling noises from the infected and the ever-present hum of the environment. The game is often quiet, but never completely. It’s a good effect. Some ambient music also kicks in when the action begins, and it works well.
Fans will probably get the most out of Resident Evil 5, since many of the game’s later plot developments and returning characters won’t be nearly as poignant to those who have no sense of the series’ history. However, I think Resident Evil 5 could be enjoyed by newcomers as well, with its universally entertaining action, teamwork, and presentation giving it a welcoming aura. It’s not all perfect, and there are some annoying little nicks in the experience. Trading items with your partner gets tricky when you both have a full inventory, for example, and shuffling your gear around is a pain. Leaving Sheva to the game’s AI can also lead to problems, as she can behave erratically and make poor weapon choices in combat. Although these can be annoying and detract from the experience, these are extremely small flaws in the face of an awesome game. Do yourself a favour and check it out.