Not dark and gory as the previous games, but still awesome.
Another installment of the wonderful series Resident Evil is finally upon us. Resident Evil 5 follows the formula of the previous game, Resident Evil 4, and creates another masterpiece. Resident Evil 4 showed unprecedented gameplay and controls never seen before in the franchise, and this revolution on the way Resident Evil is played seemed as the natural path for the series to take from that moment on.
Resident Evil started off as survival horror, which means that you find yourself mostly alone in an extremely hostile environment struggling for survival with all you have, which actually isn't much. The genre is famous for it's uninterrupted suspense atmosphere and the feeling that you can face some gruesome encounter at any moment with some kind of monster that haunts you in each corner you turn. It was like that with the old games before Resident Evil 4, but it's not like that with this game, and quite possibly won't be like that with any upcoming sequel. The game more and more strays away from its classic roots, and venture into a new world of straight action with tiny little doses of what made the series so much memorable.
But enough ranting, the series has changed, and for what it seems it continues to do so. The new direction leaves much more room for improvement in the graphical department, and that's exactly what you get. Resident Evil 4 is often mentioned as the best looking game for the GameCube, and this one is surely amongst the best looking games not only for the Xbox 360, but also in the gaming industry in general these days. We all know this won't last too much technically, but artistically this game shines just as much. The African setting fitted the game like a glove. What better place to set a chaotic scenario with crazy natives having zombie-like attitudes due to the evil plans of a pharmaceutical company and a diabolical man ready to take advantage of the poor residents of a third-world country for personal evil aspirations? I bet there aren't many.
And then a problem arises, even with all the havoc being wreaked in African soil, it's obvious that the atmosphere wouldn't be gloomy and dark as the other games. Even Resident Evil 4 had an overly dark atmosphere, not par with the older games of course, but the strange foggy village sure had its moments of glorious bone-chilling. If analyzed closely it's easy to notice how fresh the locations on the fifth installment are, but those looking for terror won't find much in it, except for some moments here and there, and in a lesser extent. One problem related to this happens to be how they portray these moments, generally a sudden sound is heard and the camera rushes to show what should be feared in a brief in-game play pause. That's not quite the way to do it, and I get more sure of it when I think about the Licker passing outside the window just a few moments after you enter the police station in Resident Evil 2. You see, nothing major was required, no sound, no camera cut, no action break, just a simple unidentified creature passing by when you less expect. Genius.
Don't get me wrong, the game is still absolutely amazing for what it is. The game revolves around co-operation, not mattering if you're playing solo or with a friend. If you're playing alone the computer will take care of the other player. The cpu will handle itself nicely, but it can get on your nerves at certain moments since your partner will follow you around wherever you go and sometimes will manage get in your way, both while trying to walk or shoot. There's not many commands for the player to choose for the partner, there's only "cover" and "attack", and you won't find much difference between choosing one or the other. You have two action buttons, one for lone actions, and one for coupled actions. It's imminent a comparison between this and Resident Evil 0, where a similar system of co-op was offered. And this game ends up having a more simplistic approach on this matter, Resident Evil Zero had more complex puzzles and the interchangeable actions showed more depth. Of course the reason for this is clear, this game has the co-op focused on action. This might explain the reason why ammo and healing items are so limited, unlike Resident Evil 4, and this fact actually brings this new chapter closer to its classic roots of survival horror, even though the rest of the game doesn't help much about it.
The big question about it was how the controls would be set. The Xbox 360 controller is known for its good design for shooters, Resident Evil 4 wasn't an all-out shooter, but maybe Capcom would choose to follow the industry's trend and change things a little bit. Fortunately it didn't happen. Some changes were made to keep the controls up to today's standards for third person shooters, like the addition of a cover system, something that will come in handy when facing the new "zombies with guns" found later in this game, even though some may argue that they aren't exactly zombies, it doesn't seem right anyway. You have the second analog stick to control where the character faces, but to shoot you still have to hold the left trigger button to enter the firing mode with the laser-aim, only then you'll be able to shoot, which is executed by pressing the right trigger. Again, to use the knife you have the upper left trigger exclusively for it, helps a lot when breaking wooden barrels for loot without having to throw away ammo. Another good news is that the quick turn wasn't extinct, it stands as essential for dynamism, and would have been missed if gone.
What wasn't brought back from the previous game is the menu style. Resident Evil 4 already had a menu system that's different from the series standards, and this time Capcom actually went back on time when it comes to this matter. In the previous game each item has different sizes and occupies a different number of space slots in the menu. Actually, if given a little thought, this is the natural thing to do - after all, a sniper rifle can't take as many slots as a simple green herb. Now the menu will even take some time to get used to. You have an non-upgradable 9-slot menu for your usual in-game item collecting and management, some items can be carried up to a certain number before requiring another slot, it's the case of ammo and grenades, and not the case of herbs, for example. A great little touch is that if you place determined items in certain slots you are able to use them as shortcut by only pressing a direction in the digital pad. For item storage, you don't have chests, you simply are given the option to store them when the chapter ends, as well as when you die or load a game. This was clearly made because of the co-op nature in which Capcom developed it, to ease the online playing experience, with each having their own items to manage and special occasion to do so, without messing with the game's flow. Of course solo players payed the price, not a very steep price, it's true, but it's hard not to be left with a feeling that at least when it comes to menu, Capcom took a step back.
You still find several different enemies along the way. The most memorable of them are the bosses and sub-bosses. Entitled sub-bosses are those enemies who clearly stand out from the average ones, you may fight more than one at a time, and in different moments along the way. Some mark a comeback from Resident Evil 4, some should have, and some debut. The actual bosses are more colossal than ever, really epic battles wait the player during the playthrough, most bosses don't require actual ammo to fight against, and you use a momentary weapon or some tactic, this is good because leaves more room for creating even more gigantic bosses and making an impression that regular weapons wouldn't even make a scratch on it. Another comeback after an outrageous absence in Resident Evil 4 are the Lickers, they're iconic for the series, and they're as deadly as they were in the past. Some monsters that weren't as lucky as the Lickers and didn't make it into the game are the hunters and giant spiders, I still hope to see them in the next installment though.
When I stop and think about the story, I feel that Resident Evil 5 moved the main story forward in a more meaningful way than Resident Evil 4 did. To tell the truth, I wasn't impressed at all by Resident Evil 4's story, the whole cliché "the president's daughter was kidnapped and you shall go and save her" wasn't really fit for a Resident Evil. This time we get a move forward and still receive various answers about questions from the past, like where the progenitor virus was originated from. So it's safe to say that this game moves forward but is still linked to the past by events that happened in Africa long before the Raccoon's city viral outbreak. Wesker is back, now indeed as the main villain. Wesker is great in the role he plays, he has mysterious and intriguing characteristics that make him a great villain. Some known faces can be seen in the game too, as the story evolves.
The music is somewhat limited, you have some orchestrated music for moments of action or mystery, for example. But what really shines are the moments of silence, after all, there's nothing scarier than the doomy, macabre sound of nothingness. The sound effects play a bigger role, especially to those lucky enough to have a more sophisticated sound system. Voices, grunts, glass scattering, bullet sounds, everything recorded in a faultless manner, but nothing breathtaking as well. A special treatment, not only for sound but graphically as well, goes to explosions. Explosions sound and, most importantly, look awesome. The voice-overs do their job quite well. I think the dialogs could have been a little better written, but they work just fine.
In addition to the main mode you have many other things to do, including an improved mercenaries mode, with more characters and more stages. The basic formula of mercenaries continues the same, each character has it own set of items and guns, you begin the level and try to get as many points as possible by chaining killings. The only noticeable difference is that now you don't simply get the time booster, you need to destroy it; simply come up to one and press the action button to destroy it and get more time. There's also lots and lots of extra stuff, like collectibles, guns, figurines, BSAA emblems, alternative costumes, filters and so on. The filters are funny because they change the overall aesthetic of the game; for instance, with a classic horror filter you get to play the game black and white. So it's safe to say that even after you finish the main game you'll have much to do if you're up to it.
Well, this game shows that the new direction is really what Capcom is heading with the series. Even though not appealing to those looking for horror and gore, the game is absolutely amazing for what it is. Even though it's true that Capcom will have a hard time if they decide to enter the third-person shooter world entirely, as survival horror they were masters, but in third-person shooters Capcom would have a supporting role game with a massive franchise. The story received much more attention than the last installment, and the game mechanics should please both newcomers and long-time fans, not sure if will please those accustomed to other third-person shooters with more dynamic gameplay, especially if it's their first Resident Evil experience, but my guess is that they should be fine. And of course, playing in co-op highly increases the fun you have playing it, but playing solo continues as enjoyable as it can get. This is surely one of the best games this generation has to offer, and is especially a must-have for fans of the series.