Resident Evil 5 Review
By Gaetano Prestia
There’s no doubting that Capcom are one of the most respected gaming developers in the world. Their broad gaming library stems from fighting titles, action-adventure, horror and puzzles and they set the standard for stylistic experiences set in fantasy worlds dictated by outrageous story arcs and so-bad-they’re-good characters. The Japanese influence is obvious in each and every Capcom title and you have to give it to them for not giving in to Western cultural influences. However, Capcom games lately can rarely be categorised as “masterpieces”. Besides RE4, which redefined the action-horror genre last generation, most recent Capcom titles border “good” and “great” but are never quite as good as they need to be to be remembered 10 years down the track.
Resident Evil 5 is a perfect example of this. It’s a very, very good game, but does it match the quality and innovation of RE4? Resoundingly, no. Unfortunately, that’s what it’s going to be remembered for. Not for its perfectly executed co-op aspects, nor for its amazing visuals and intense action. It’s going to be remembered as just another Resident Evil title – the one that came after RE4. That title will be remembered for decades, but RE5 won’t be. That’s the only major gripe this title has. It doesn’t offer enough of a new and fresh experience to justify being remembered.
Thankfully, that’s all there really is to really dislike about this title. If you’re expecting a completely original experience, one that differs immensely from RE4, you won’t get it, at least on the gameplay front. Still, it’s difficult to really judge this title purely on the fact that Capcom have gone with a “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. That’s because the gaming public is harsh. So harsh, that had this game been completely different to RE4 with new gameplay mechanics, RE faithful would be throwing their hands up in the air, asking why they changed such a successful formula. However, in a generation that seems to be heavily influenced by innovation and evolution, RE5 is too similar to RE4 to be the masterpiece people expected (and wanted) it to be.
But enough about how similar RE5 is to the masterpiece in RE4. The fact is that RE5 is an awesome game. It’s going to blow you away with its amazing visuals and it’s got plenty of edge-of-your-seat moments as you blast your way through hoards of zombies…infectious villagers…whatever. This generation we’ve seen Gears of War seemingly perfect the third-person gameplay experience with its quick run-and-shoot gameplay. People have questioned whether RE5 would be able to counter that, distancing itself from the stop-and-shoot direction that has become a staple of the RE franchise. The truth is that RE5 didn’t need to counter it because the formula is fine. While you won’t be moving from cover to cover through environments, dodging bullets as you make your way through linear environments, you’ll be slowly progressing through unfamiliar areas while infectious beings come after you with everything they’ve got. And unlike GoW, these enemies take more than a few hits from a shotgun to put down. Furthermore, the further you progress through the title, the harder these enemies become, which force you to upgrade your weapons to the highest possible quality.
However, there is one major aspect of the gameplay that has been given a slight tweak from RE4 and that’s the implementation of a real-time inventory system. Capcom have rid the world of the annoying mercenary dude and created an inventory system that can be opened during the game without the need to pause. It definitely generates a sense of satisfaction on the management side of things, giving you the opportunity to be far more precise with how you place your weapons and aid within both Chris’ and Sheva’s inventory boxes. Furthermore, this new system forces you to be overly tactical in two-player co-op mode. In single-player you’re pretty much dictating what Sheva carries and what weapon she uses, but when you’re playing with a friend you can’t really tell them what weapons they have to use and where to place things, so communication is extremely important for a successful co-op campaign. It really highlights how dedicated the co-op experience is to the overall game and RE5 is a title that must be experienced with a friend.
While RE5 hasn’t evolved all that much on the basic gameplay front, its direction as a horror-action title has clearly shifted (evolved?) to simply an action title. Instead of misty European forests and eerie towns, most of the action takes place in well-lit laboratories and sunny villages. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because the action more than makes up for the lack of scares. Series die-hards might see it as a bit of a negative as the series shifts into a far more action-focused setting, but overall, it helps the co-op experience feel more fluid and accessible and really allows you to take advantage of situations with your partner.
When it comes to Sheva and the overall co-op experience, it’s somewhat of a mixed bag. If you’re playing alone, an AI-controlled Sheva does a good job of staying out of the way and healing you when you’re suddenly down on health, however, it’s her sometimes highly illogical item pick-up and usage that dampens the overall experience. Furthermore, your decision to put Sheva in either a “cover” or “attack” stance will sometimes dictate how successful you are in an area. When in “cover” mode she’ll empty her ammunition, barely hurting a soul, before throwing herself in at a hoard of enemies, forcing you to save her. In “attack” mode, she’ll be even more aggressive with the ammunition and before you know you it you’ll both be out. Still, the single-player experience can be one hell of a romp and thoroughly enjoyable and while Sheva’s occasional illogical actions might dampen the experience, Capcom have created a fairly decent AI system.
While some of the above issues might seem like major problems that would ruin the overall experience, RE5’s pros still heavily outweigh its cons. The environments all look superb, the action and gun-fighting are intense and highly engaging, there’s a greater number of weapons and there are enough aspects of previous RE titles, like generously massive boss-fights, random water creatures and sometimes complex puzzles, that all make RE5 one hell of a ride. When you couple all of these with an improved inventory system, an intense single-player experience and even better two-player co-op mode, you have one of the best action titles this generation.
Furthermore, RE5 sets the bar very high on the visual front. This games presentation is incredibly impressive. While the game treads off into familiar RE territory later on in the game, the early African settings look stunning, with fantastic lighting effects, realistic environments and great level design. It’s obvious that Capcom studied real-life African terrain in preparation of this title, as the environments have a strong sense of realism to them. Whether your strolling through the village early on in the title, or riding through the African wilderness on the back of a 4WD (while shooting at oncoming enemies on bikes, mind you), you’ll be awe inspired by the surrounding environments as the sun bounces off the horizon to generate an outstanding atmosphere.
But the visuals aren’t the only area Capcom has excelled in with RE5. The in-game cut-scenes are incredibly cinematic and out-do anything we’ve seen in previous RE titles. While the dialogue still has that cheesy yet charming feel that is reminiscent of all RE titles, pretty much every character is memorable, especially Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar. The cut-scenes are directed flawlessly and really help create the action-feel that RE5 has.
Resident Evil 5 is incredibly easy on the Amateur difficulty and shouldn’t really bother you on Normal at about 12-hours of length. Veteran mode is a large jump in difficulty and is worth setting your teeth into if you’re after a more vigorous and challenging experience. Overall, the single-player can take you anywhere between 9-14 hours depending on difficulty, but then you have the two-player co-op mode which is perfectly executed. There’s also the incredibly satisfying Mercenaries mode as well as plenty of collectables and trophies. Resident Evil 5 has plenty to offer for both the RE veteran and newcomer to the series.
The Final Verdict
Resident Evil 5 is a great action romp. The basic gameplay fundamentals remain from RE4, but it still has enough positives to classify as a worthy title. The new inventory system is great and the co-op implementation is good for the most part. The overall presentation is superb, being not only the best in the RE franchise but one of the best this generation. While RE5 hasn’t reinvented the third-person action title, it maintains many of the great RE qualities we’ve all come to love while implementing particular new aspects and evolving into a highly enjoyable action title.