Dawn of the Dead'ish
No series in video game history has stirred such mixed feeling as Capcom's Resident Evil (Biohazard for the folks in Japan). Since 1995 the good folks at Capcom have given us cheesey dialouge, hammy voice acting, and tons of memories fighting corporate monsters both human and other. The cheese factor aside Resident Evil has been oft loathed because of its "tank" control scheme which all changed in 2004 with RE4 for the GameCube and soon followed by Capcom's typical every videogame platform under the sun business plan for RE. The game that revolutionized Survival Horror by not being Survial Horror is back now and trying to see if round five can maintain the magic that made four such a success. The answer is, sort of.
Resident Evil 5 begins with some shady business going down in the African village of Kijuju, a black market weapons deal is going on involving a genetically enhanced form of the Las Plagas parasite we meant in Resident Evil 4. Original series protagonist Chris Redfield is the focus of this game after being MIA since Code Veronica nearly a decade ago. Naturally things don't go according to plan and an uprising of mind controlled rustic villagers is once again on the prowl. RE5 doesn't stray to far from the basic plot outline of RE4. Though this time around instead of having hardly any references to prior RE games or any reference to the RE mythos at all RE5 tends to shove it in your face a lot. It has a tendency to be a little like "See! See! We referenced RE2 just now did you see?!".
The story also tries to tie up any and every loose end the writers could think of, but in the process destroys any meaning to all of it. In later chapters confrontations with major characters mentioned only in brief in previous games finally make it into the spotlight to only be killed thirty seconds later. Capcom went the extra mile and decided to retconn a fan favorite character's entire backstory for seemingly the hell of it when it was unneeded and took away from the uniqueness of the character.
The major problem I have with this title and to be honest this is coming from a Resident Evil purist mind you is that Capcom did not include the classic zombie into what is supposed to be the opus for the franchise. Ever since the last game it has not felt like Resident Evil, more of an action story. The lack of zombies and the series shapeless corporate antagonist Umbrella are sorely lacking in this finale. Sure there are references and relics of the evil pharmacy in the game but they all feel hollow and at times out of place for the story. And are forced enough to ask questions like why would a facility from the 60s which had been abandoned for at least a decade be completely modern and look like everyone left yesterday?
Story qualms aside the gameplay is what everyone cares about. And if you loved RE4's gameplay you'll have no problems here. In fact aside from a few new tricks RE5 plays almost identicle to RE4. A little switch up on the controls to place the aim and fire buttons on the triggers like in modern shooters was done as well as add strafing to mix it up defensively. Though the developers failed to listen to the one thing people have been saying for fourteen years. We need to be able to move and shoot. This was not a problem in early games, in fact the originals were better off without it. Even 4 didn't really need it. But come on now Capcom it is 2009 there is no excuse. And the tired argument of it adds to the atmosphere and tenseness. Well Dead Space had the exact same control scheme except with moving and shooting and it was ten times scarier and more atmospheric so that excuse no longer holds water.
Resident Evil 5 does mix up the gameplay with the addition of co-op. Chris is accompanied by Sheva Alomar, a local assigned to add Chris in his mission. The addition of co-op really sets this game apart. It is a blast to go through with a friend either online or off blowing away mindless hordes. Though online is much prefferable as the split screen set up leaves each player with a minuscule amount of screen space. Either way this game is designed for two people playing but the A.I. is no slouch either. Sheva is one of the better A.I. controlled partners in any video game, always there to aid you when attacked and competent to take out her own fair share of bad guys. Though she does have her problems. If equiped with a handgun the A.I. will not use a different weapon untill she runs out of ammo, practically destroying your ammunition reserves. Sheva also is incapable of throwing grenades even when she has them. And finally Sheva will heal you or herself at the slightest sign of injury so it is not a smart idea to leave her with valuable healing items.
The game offers a ton of replayability. Containing four difficulty levels including the punishing Professional mode. The Mercenaries also makes return appearance offering up the arcade style who can get the most points gameplay available both Solo and online and off co-op. Dozens of unlockable are available for purchase using the points you gain in both campaign and versus offer up collectibles in the form figurines of characters and enemies, new filters (more on that later), new costumes, and new characters for Versus. And speaking of Versus as of the time of writing this for 400 Microsoft points or $4.99 on Playstation Network the Versus game add-on is available. Offering up a new gameplay mode based on the Mercenaries mode. Versus allows four players to compete for the most points in free for all and team based matches. The player versus player modes in Versus really bring to light the inadequacies of the control scheme as it turns into a game of who saw who first as you are cemented to the ground while firing.
And last but not least the visuals. One thing comes to mind, kick-ass. The game does not skimp in the graphics department, offering crisp detail and some of the best graphics this console generation has produced. Even rivaling heavy weights like MGS4 and Killzone 2. Capcom produced some of the most detailed character models featuring life like facial expressions and motion capturing. Solid voice acting for the majority of characters even with the cheesey dialouge, though Irving sounds like he came out of a saturday morning Anime. The game also lets you spruce things up with various unlockable filters to give the amazing graphics more pizzazz.. Ranging from the classic Silent Hill style film grain (noise) filter all the way to Sepia and a black and white horror film look.
In conclusion Resident Evil 5 succeeds on being a worthy follow up to RE4 all the while maintaining RE4's seemingly disowning of the rest of the franchise's mainstays. It offers up a little variety to the mayhem with fun co-op which must be experienced. It holds to tightly to the ridgid framework of its predessor leaving it feeling more like RE4.5 than it should have. Still despite its shortcomings its a fun and enjoyable ride but doesn't live up to the legacy. Three out of five stars.