Capcom’s long running Resident Evil series has been in my top three favorite gaming franchises for a long time, ranking right up there with Zelda and Mario. With an outstanding history of high-quality games (with the exception of a few titles), it’s easy to see why. Not to mention zombies.
Resident Evil 5 quickly became my most anticipated game for 2008. Then 2009. It takes after its revolutionary predecessor, the critically acclaimed Resident Evil 4, and ditches the traditional slow-moving gameplay, tank-like controls, and super restricted ammo counts in favor of fast-paced action more akin to recent zombie movies. Oh, speaking of zombies, it also gets rid of those.
In Resident Evil 5 players take control of Chris Redfield, the hero from the very first Resident Evil adventure. He is no longer a member of STARS (Special Tactics and Rescue Service) but is instead now a member of the BSAA (Bioterrorism Security Assesment Alliance). Tagging along at his side is Sheva Alomar, a completely new character to the series who is also a BSAA agent. They meet up in Kijuju, Arica and set out on your adventure, only to quickly find they’re getting themselves into a much bigger mess than they had ever thought.
There’s a quick intro to story, but there is so much more to it. For instance, RE5 tells a ton of backstory about Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine so players know what they were up to after the first game. You are also presented with flashbacks that show exactly what happened to some of the key players in the T-virus’ development, and how Albert Wesker came to power.
Not only is there enough story in the game to satisfy most fans, no matter how ravenous for back lore they may be, there is also an entire history of Resident Evil which you can find in the library. A few of these little snippets are shown to you during loading screens, but you’ll have to sit down and read through them yourself just for a little series recap. There’s no new information to be had, all of that is found in-game, but this serves as a nice little break from all the mutant-killing mayhem.
That’s enough for story, if I keep going I’m afraid I might blab something some of you may not want to hear. In short the story is very satisfying, provides a couple of twists (though you will undoubtedly see them coming), provides a back-story for Chris and Jill, and the History of Resident Evil feature in the game’s library might just want to make you go back and play through some of the older games in the series again. Or just Umbrella Chronicles.
On the gameplay side of things is where Resident Evil disappoints biggest. Like I said, it takes after Resident Evil 4’s more action-oriented gameplay and RE4 was fantastic! What could be wrong with being more like 4? It’s hard to really explain, but I’ll give it a shot.
The first thing you have to know is how Resident Evil used to play. I’m not talking about the controls, which were slow and sometimes tedious. I’m talking about what made the games so scary. Atmosphere. The early RE titles feature cramped, claustrophobic hallways with dynamic camera angles and a strong emphasis on actually scaring the player. I remember when I was playing the original for the first time as a child. The famous zombie dog through the window bit actually made me poop. In my pants. And then I cried.
RE4 took the series and completely rebooted it, making it exclusively for the better. There was still that atmosphere that made the player feel scared, and now there was a far more action-heavy side of the game as well. It did this not only with creepy settings in dark, cramped caves or basements, but it also introduced the series to the outdoors, where there were far more enemies and fewer places to hide. The fear brought about by being outside was a fear of being overwhelmed. Feeling helpless and out-numbered. Resident Evil 4 was perfectly split between true horror and intensity.
Resident Evil 5 leans almost exclusively towards the intensity side of the equation, losing the horror part of the action-horror genre RE4 crafted. You no longer feel outnumbered. Ever. There’s always plenty of ammo, enemies are far from aggressive, Sheva is always by your side so you’re never alone, and there are rarely ever truly scary moments in the game. It’s all action, which is a very disappointing fact.
The big gaming magazines and websites out there will tell you that RE5 has undergone a massive transformation or that it’s in the middle of an identity crisis. These people are idiots. The reason RE5 turned out like it did is simply due to the fact that Capcom wanted to hold on to what it gained with Resident Evil 4. Therefor they tried to create a game that was thrilling and intense like it was, only better. But they entirely forgot about the horror side of things because all of 4’s praise came from the new action-friendly camera and intense gameplay.
Not only that, but they have also taken the two characters at one time thing way too far. In RE4, players were tasked with constantly protecting and watching over the president’s daughter. The feeling that someone who was completely helpless was relying on you for protection was suspenseful in itself. In RE5, the second character is a trigger-happy agent who constantly wastes your ammo and health if being controlled by AI. If you play with a human partner, however things get far more fun but completely quit being scary altogether.
The feeling of knowing there is always someone there to save your skin and cover your back completely destroys the fear presented with being alone or having to watch over someone else. It also excels RE5 even deeper into the action-only genre. Which wouldn’t be all that much of a bad thing if the controls were made for intense-action gameplay.
Remember everyone’s biggest complaint about Resident Evil 4? You can’t strafe while aiming. The exact same problem exists in RE5. Not only that, but Capcom tried to fix the inventory system people cried about in RE4 because it “took you out of the action too frequently.” Now, thanks to people who were finding something to pick on just to pick on it, the inventory system in RE5 is far worse than it ever has been.
You have nine item slots with which you select via the d-pad. This doesn’t sound too bad, but when you’ve constantly got enemies running at you and you need to pull out a grenade or herb but can only do it by bumbling through the stupid inventory which takes far too long unless the item you want is assigned to one of the cardinal directions and lose a lot of health because of this inferior design choice it’s very frustrating.
Not only is the inventory nothing more than a pain in the ass to operate, there are only nine non-expandable slots. This is a huge pain when you get a little bit further into the game and need all the health, ammo, and guns you can carry. There’s always the option of letting Sheva carry your magnum around for a while, but she’ll just waste all of the bullets on something you’re very capable of killing with a handgun. Or your knife.
Aside from these gripes there is one thing the game does an absolutely outstanding job of. Resident Evil 5’s visuals are so unbelievably beautiful that you’ll almost forget how bad the inventory sucks or how much you wish you could just shoot Sheva and begin having fun without her pissing you off. Seriously, absolutely everything in this game is wonderfully appealing to the eyes. Especially explosions.
Not as impressive but still pretty amazing is the sound design. Guns, moans, chainsaws and weird sounds I can’t explain are all expertly recorded and properly utilized in the game. The background music is always intense and claustrophobic heartbeat effects while you are dying make it much more suspenseful when trying to get closer to your partner so she can revive you. Voice acting could use a little work and the African music is, at times when it is the centerpiece (like during the credits), really annoying.
As far as entertainment value goes, the main game is disappointingly short to say the least. Around 8 hours is under half the average play time RE4 took. But after you beat it you’ll get tons of neat un-lockable guns and game-modes to give the title far more value and the new online play also adds for tons of replayability as you can choose what chapter you want to play through with your buddy and just go from there. Partner that with the new library which lets you read through Resident Evil’s entire history and all the documents you’ve obtained during the game and you’ve got yourself a decent package.
Not to mention the release of Versus Mode which we will (hopefully) be reviewing soon.
I know it seems I am being a little harsh towards Resident Evil’s latest installment, and I probably am. All in all it’s a great game, it just lost a lot of what made Resident Evil such a standout franchise in the first place. But no matter how disappointed you may be with it when comparing it to RE4, Resident Evil 5 is truly a great game on it’s own accords and one that all fans of the series should check out.
- Gorgeous graphics
- Great sound
- Amazing story
- Can’t move while aiming (still)
- Horrible inventory system
- Short campaign
- Lost so much of what makes Resident Evil such a great franchise in exchange for suspense and action
- BRING BACK THE ZOMBIES!
Score: 7.0/10 (Good)
Story: 7.5/10 (Great next chapter in the Resident Evil universe)
Gameplay: 7.25/10 (No strafing, horrible inventory, very few, if any, truely scary moments)
Graphics: 8.5/10 (Absolutely beautiful)
Audio: 7.0/10 (Great, some cheesy voice over)
Entertainment Value: 6.0/10 (Short campaign, online adds to it)