An infection of great action.
Resident Evil 5 stars Chris Redfield (protagonist of the original Resident Evil) and Sheva Alomar, two agents of an anti-bioweapons organization. Initially, the two are to Kijuju, a fictional African nation, to prevent a bioweapon called Uroboros from surfacing. However, a run-in with hostile locals unveils links to Las Plagas in Resident Evil 4 and the T-Virus in the first Resident Evil. Aside from discovering the root of the various infections, Chris is also trying to locate his former partner, Jill Valentine. The plot driving Resident Evil 5 only exists to tie up loose ends.
Given the complex timeline the writers had to deal with, the story is certainly competent to anyone not familiar with key events. As someone who’s spent time theorizing over plot holes and conspiracies within the narrative, I was satisfied with Resident Evil 5’s plot. I will say though, anyone going into this game without prior interests will probably not find much reason to care about the happenings. Like previous games, the finer details have to be read in files and journal entries; it’s not the best way to present a story, but it helps put things in context.
Gameplay wasn’t handled in the best way either, since it adopts the same control scheme from Resident Evil 4 with a few tweaks. Personally, I loved how Resident Evil 4 felt, and not being able to move and shoot at the same time is no big deal. It is apparent though, that the enemies are much more aggressive and attack in larger quantities. The pacing of the shooting doesn’t quite align with the surroundings, making for a number of overwhelming moments that end in frustration. That’s even with a second character aiming and shooting just the same; a quickstep or dodge button would have worked wonders.
Having a computer-controlled partner alleviates some of the workload, but most of the time it wastes ammo on poorly placed shots and takes its sweet time when it comes to healing or resuscitating my character. On the flipside, having audio cues for boss strategies and easily overlooked items was helpful, especially on my first playthrough and the partner AI became better at shooting when I played on a harder difficulty; but the benefits of playing single player are outweighed by the benefits of playing multiplayer co-op.
When playing with someone through either split screen or online co-op, the game truly begins to shine. Resident Evil 5 was thoroughly designed as a two-player experience; some situations will cause the two characters to split up, requiring each person to keep a careful eye on their partner as they fight their way through hordes of infected denizens. Beyond all the shooting, puzzles don’t require more than one brain to solve, but the process is expedited when both players know the solution.
As stated before, Resident Evil 5 is more about the action than the games that came before and it’s nothing but a double-edged sword. On one hand, this all comes at the expense of actual scares. Capcom attempted to compensate by offering a plethora of disgusting looking enemies, but their appearances made me cringe more than cower. Aside from the racial baggage the game carries (another topic well outside the realm of this review), I didn’t much like the large spiders nor the dogs cut in half. I suppose it is appropriate, considering how this series is called Biohazard overseas in Japan.
Still, the action adds a lot to the presentational value behind the game. The gunplay is brutal, the battles are cinematic, and the cutscenes surpass many technical feats (NOTE: Watching the making-of video colored my impressions concerning the cutscenes). Lighting contrasts are wonderful, textures are seamless and the animations look true to life. If Killzone 2 hadn’t dropped in a few weeks ago, I would’ve proclaimed this as the best-looking console game released so far.
It’s easy for me to seesaw between aspects of Resident Evil 5 that I liked and aspects I disliked, but pointing out the flaws had no bearing on my overall enjoyment of the game. The separate parts that make up the game are debatable, yet the lump sum is a package worthy of my praise. I saw many ways improvements could've been made and it's very curious how my appreciation isn't hindered whatsoever. In the end, Resident Evil 5 is simply a game that has me coming back for more, whether its the Mercenaries side game or the large amount of unlockables in tow; it's stuck in the mire of its legacy, but I don't mind it at all.
Resident Evil 5 was released on March 13th, 2009 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The version used for this review was for PlayStation 3. Game was played to 100% completion on all difficulty modes in all possible forms (single player, split screen and online co-op). Total time played as of review publication: 56 hours, 17 minutes and 2 seconds.