Published and Developed by Capcom, 2009
It has been about four years since the near-masterpiece RESIDENT EVIL 4 hit shelves and changed the series and the entire survival horror genre (for better or worse). Leaps and bounds were made in terms of combat and pacing, replacing most of the puzzles and backtracking with faster paced gameplay and action. RESIDENT EVIL 5 has a lot to accomplish; not only does the game have to be as good, it has to reset the bar of standards in the horror genre. At the very least it succeeds with the former.
In order to properly look at this, I feel I have to look at it from two angles: The relationship to RESIDENT EVIL 4 and then the relationship to the rest of the series. In order to first view RE4 I had to put aside my biased perception of it regarding the lack of the RE universe “feel” and judge the game for what it was. I must now put aside my favoritism of RE5 regarding the return of the “feel” and look at RE5 for what it is. RE4’s visual style and graphics can’t hold a candle to today’s, but after four years they are still easy to look at. In the next four years the same will be said of this new entry. The environment and aesthetics are not only some of the best of the series; RE5 is one of the best games around in terms of creating an aura of immersion.
That being said, even though the series has certainly deviated from the first four entries (the fourth being Code Veronica), RESIDENT EVIL 5 definitely has the “feel” of a Resident Evil game (my main complaint of RE4). Also, several key plot points from those first four entries are discussed and Capcom has done a moderately good job of continuity linking the entire series up to this point. As I am sure I am one of the few people who cares about the mystique and conspiracy theories of Umbrella and the T-Virus, it was certainly welcome to be playing an actual RESIDENT EVIL game once again.
The original antagonist Albert Wesker returns and plans of what he had been doing behind the scenes the whole time are finally revealed (it’s nothing grand or jaw dropping, so just expect the usual villain fare). While it is painfully obvious that this entire scheme was not planned from the beginning of the series (I’d even bet that it wasn’t planned in RE4) Capcom still does a satisfactory job of putting it all together for it to make some kind of sense. Except the twist in the game was glaring in its obviousness, I literally guessed it before even playing the game. Those, like me, obsessed with RE lore will notice some inconsistencies and contradicting events, but it doesn’t detract from the overall experience.
In terms of gameplay, RE5 is worse than 4 in just about every single way. The little mini-games to participate in while resting at a save point are no more. RE5 also is about half as long as RE4, clocking in at about 12 or 13 hours. The biggest fault are the stiff and slow controls. When the smaller enemies come running or are directly at your feet, it is very hard to hit them, which will lead to frustration. Not everything can be as good as the controls for RE4 on the Wii, but aiming is certainly more complicated and frustrating than its predecessor. There also seems to be no excuse as to why your character cannot run and shoot, I am aware they want to create some sort of tension during the action, but it seems needlessly imposed. If they are trying to create a more realistic feel and a realistic environment, why would they create such an unrealistic feature? I’m not saying you need to have your characters sprinting while unloading a shotgun or chucking grenades at foes, but something is better than nothing.
Several molds of the RESIDENT EVIL routine are broken in this latest chapter. When you see a helicopter, it won’t always be immediately shot down, not every single secondary character is going to die and lastly there are no excruciatingly corny, over-the-top villains (although I honestly miss Salazaar from RE4, I really do) that are as ridiculous as they are retarded. Except for one boss named Irving and his damn Bronx accent. I reloaded my game so I could kill him again.
Your partner’s AI is another point I can’t ignore. They go through ammo like water and sometimes just stand around doing nothing as you try desperately to kill everything. Playing this by yourself with the AI and playing with a friend is a night and day difference. I beat the whole thing with my roommate over opening weekend with ease. I played the final stages again by myself and was pretty frustrated over the AI’s screw ups; they aren’t constant but still noticeable.
It wouldn’t be a RESIDENT EVIL game without puzzles, emblems or files. Although each of those three RE staples are toned down significantly as there is very little backtracking for emblems. The puzzles are ridiculously easy and the only challenging part is during one particular puzzle in which you can kill your partner without realizing it. There are a small amount of files that give good background information on what has been happening behind the scenes, though if you don’t care about the story or haven’t been paying attention the last few games skip these as most of the information will go over your head.
The action packed cut scenes and quick-time events (QTE) are definitely pleasing to the eye. Some of the fight scenes and demonstrations of Wesker’s power will make a few Hollywood executives jealous that they’ve never been so creative. Much like RE4 there are a few scattered moments where a QTE will pop up out of nowhere and will mean your death. Fortunately these are always followed by a Save/Checkpoint so it isn’t too cumbersome.
RESIDENT EVIL 5 had quite a lot to live up to but it delivered an enjoyable gaming experience that fell just short of the greatness of its predecessor. For stalwart fans it offers closure on a lot of loose ends in the RE world. Expect an inevitable sequel to change it up yet again. All said, RE5 is by no means groundbreaking or genre defining, but that doesn’t stop it from delivering a rich and fulfilling experience surely warranting several enjoyable playthroughs.