Okay, I know I’m a critic and reviewer and I try to maintain a semblance of professionalism between snark and playful quips, but can I just take a minute to marvel at the fact that I originally reviewed Resident Evil 5 on a personal blog seven years ago and that I am still reviewing video games now in 2016? You would’ve thought that poor ol’ Rob would’ve found a suitable replacement by now, but here I am, once again fighting zombies with Chris “HATE Boulders” Redfield.
“I keep trying to get out, and they pull me back in!” Wait, are they zombies or plagas…? Or uroboros…? Or those weird fear monsters from- You know what, nevermind.
Actually, all kidding aside, I have played probably hundreds of hours of Resident Evil 5, and to this day it remains one of my favorite co-op video games ever. Yes, ever. I love it, and gave it a very positive review seven years ago when I first wrote about it. That was, however, seven years ago, and this is a HD re-release, so the real question we should be asking is how well the game has been lifted from the previous generation and adapted to the current generation. To get ahead of myself and answer that question: not bad, but let’s rewind and cover the basics with some excerpts from my original review.
Resident Evil 5, as you may surmise from the name, is the fifth installment in the main storyline of Capcom’s Resident Evil series. The previous main series game, Resident Evil 4, received rave reviews for its stellar gameplay, and set in motion a new direction for the series after the destruction of Raccoon City, the worst named and unluckiest town in North America. With few exceptions, Resident Evil has always focused on a core of four people: Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Leon Kennedy, and Claire Redfield. In fact, many of the spinoffs that didn’t focus on these four indirectly involved them, with Kennedy and Redfield mentioned a handful of times as part of some anti-Umbrella investigation or legal action.
For the benefit of those who haven’t played Resident Evils 0-4, first what are you doing here? Second, Umbrella, a multi-national pharmaceutical conglomerate, develops a virus that turns people into zombies, and it “accidentally” gets released to the public in Raccoon City. The outbreak that follows sees few survivors, but many of the people who make it out alive, such as Resident Evil 5’s main protagonist Chris Redfield, end up joining the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance, or BSAA. Since the viruses that Umbrella created were “leaked” out or sold to terrorists throughout the world and still exist on the black market today, the BSAA works to stamp out the legacy left behind by Umbrella.
It goes without saying that they have a lot of work to do.
Chris Redfield finds himself on assignment in Africa this time, but not without a partner. No, it isn’t Jill, but instead Sheva Alomar, a 23 year-old series newcomer (this is still technically her first and only game, even seven years later – which I’d love for you to change, Capcom!). Sheva is more than just Robin to Chris’ Batman, and while Resident Evil as a series has a plot with coherency that Yahtzee Croshaw once compared to mangled octopus bits, Resident Evil 5’s theme is a stark exception to that rule. The game revolves around partnership, and the bond that is formed between two people who learn to trust and rely on one another. This is both a necessity for Chris in his line of work, and also a painful reminder of the past.
What’s funny, as I pepper in these excerpts along with some more updated commentary, is that I originally wrote this paragraph opener in 2009: “Capcom didn’t fix what wasn’t broken. They knew they had something special with the gameplay in Resident Evil 4, and Resident Evil 5 keeps that gameplay (mostly unchanged).” Now in 2016, I have to laugh because A) Capcom has re-released a game that was based on another game which has been re-released three times now, and B) because by contrast, Capcom broke what worked and turned Resident Evil 6 into a messy, awful, incomprehensible disaster. Time makes fools of us all, I suppose…Especially Capcom.
And the people who keep buying the same games over and over again. (And yet here I am, happy to do so…lord, I am a part of the problem and I’m aware of it. Ignorance is bliss.)
Like in the original release, there are once again four different control schemes to choose from, and as always I immediately changed to the control scheme that matched Resident Evil 4’s, but just like in the original RE5, series newcomers can experiment to find which scheme suits them best and even try out a more traditional, shooter-friendly control scheme that uses the typical strafing-turning system for the right and left thumbsticks.
My opinion on the AI partner has changed somewhat for the worse as time has marched on. Sheva can still be a bit trigger-happy, to the point where any ammo worth carrying I kept out of her hands and limited her to exclusively using an SMG (with FEW exceptions). Co-op gameplay still reigns supreme, making the game not only easier, but much more fun, as well. In regards to the easier comment, it’s mostly because the AI is so inexcusably dense with helping you that it baffles me to this day. When an enemy grabs me and tries to eat my face, Sheva still always takes a few seconds to do literally anything but help me, even to the point of watching me struggle before she will help out.
“He looks tough, Chris!”
“He is, Sheva! Please help me!”
“You got this?”
“No, Sheva! I need help!”
“Do you want me to lend a hand?”
“Yes, God, please, he’s eating my neck!”
“HANG ON! I’LL HELP!”
The AI is still inept at discerning when to use healing items as well, and will gleefully blast a full heal right into your eyeballs when a single green herb would’ve worked fine. Why Capcom couldn’t be bothered to add AI preferences into the game or make the response time quicker is perplexing, but then again, it’s Capcom, and not being bothered to do something is item two on every itinerary the company has. Unless we’re talking about Mega Man, anyway. Then it’s items one through five.
“Wanna make a new game?”
“Eh, I guess, but only if it isn’t Mega Man – don’t we have anything else we can remake, though? It’s a lot easier and we have a better profit margin.”
“Well…I guess we could remake the last games we made.”
“Great. Get on that. I’m going to lunch.”
Being a Resident Evil 5 veteran, I elected to play my first remastered playthrough on…veteran, appropriately enough. It was both a wise and foolish decision. Wise because, even with stronger enemies and the base-level weapons with no upgrades, I am still a well-oiled zombie slaying machine. Foolish because every single time I actually “died” on veteran, the fail message didn’t read “You Are Dead” or “You Died,” it read “Your Partner Died.” Thanks, Sheva. Way to go.
The hordes are still merciless, swarming you sometimes literally from all sides, through the savanna, the marshes, an oilfield, ancient ruins, and, yes, at least one nerve-wrecking “Did-I-just-hear-something-move?” laboratory. Resident Evil 5 is still an intense game, made more intense by its still-awkward inventory system. While everyone who is a decent human being who doesn’t hate puppies understands that the greatest Resident Evil inventory system belongs to Resident Evil 4, RE5’s inventory is still only accessible between chapter breaks. The spacing is still also weird, with arbitrary stacks of ammunition taking up the same inventory space as weapons and armor. I still can’t figure out the logic behind five chicken eggs occupying the same amount of inventory space as a shotgun, or an assault rifle occupying the same amount of space as an aerosol can. Seriously, guys, please just look at the dimensions. It doesn’t make sense.
In 2009, I called the graphics “breathtaking,” and said that “were it not for the hideous monstrosities you battle along the ride, you would swear you were watching actors and actresses.” Originally, I praised the lip-syncing as being the best I had ever seen in any game or CG movie, especially that of Josh and Irving. That’s actually still mostly true. It isn’t terribly surprising since this game was released last generation, after all, but the character models still hold up well and the images are all crisper and sharper now on the current gen technology. The backgrounds and environments take the worst hit from Father Time, but that doesn’t mean they’re ugly, just dated. I still really appreciate the small idiosyncrasies that have been given to each character, though, and feel that they breathe life further into an already great-looking cast.
I still feel like the music and voice acting are superb. Chris, Sheva, and really every character in the game sounds unique, providing different accents and giving the vocals a diverse texture. The music is appropriate for every situation you find yourself in, be it creepy and tense or fast and frantic. The creature sound effects – every squish, splosh, and gross noise they make – sound fantastic, and Capcom has done an excellent job in using audio cues to let the player know where to expect trouble. The music during boss fights is especially well done, providing gripping, dramatic background to the action on screen, and the score for the final boss fight still sounds epic.
The game’s longevity is a big plus here, because it naturally includes not only the original game and a fully revamped Mercenaries mode, but both bonus chapters, an online versus mode, and all of the DLC for everything. While admittedly a big part of the appeal for replay value is going to come from how much you enjoy upgrading your gear and unlocking goodies, there’s a lot to do here if you do, and all of it can be cooperative.
So here we are, at the end of the review, and it’s time to address the African elephant in the room.
Resident Evil 5 isn’t the best remastering I’ve ever seen. I searched everywhere I could online to find a definitive statement from Capcom regarding the exact numbers of the improved framerate, as I figured surely it would be 60 FPS, but I couldn’t find anything so concrete. All I came across was “a better framerate” when the original was locked at 30 FPS. The goal, of course, was to go for 60 FPS, but the framerate stays in the high-40s to mid-50s whenever action starts to get intense. I couldn’t conduct this experiment myself as I have no means by which to test it, but Digital Foundry did an excellent framerate test that you can see for yourself here.
If you have both the PS4 and the Xbone, you might consider leaning toward the PS4 version since the Digital Foundry test showed slightly better framerate consistency for the PlayStation console. Now, none of this is to say that the remastered version is worse than the original, simply that it’s less consistent, as the framerate can vary wildly depending on the activity and characters on screen, and the original was locked at 30 FPS. It’s also worth mentioning that the only time I noticed it with my naked eyes was during one of the crazier battles in the village, where it dipped enough to make the game chug just slightly…and keep in mind that my review copy was for the Xbox One. This is either good or bad depending on your expectations from a video game, although I didn’t notice any screen tearing, which is obviously good.
Small remastering flaws aside, if you never played Resident Evil 5 or if you just couldn’t get enough of it, I definitely still recommend picking it up. It’s at a great price, especially for all of the content that comes with it, and you can get yourself and a friend a copy to play together online for less than the price of a new release…or just play locally, with split-screen play for the price of one! Even with its goofiness, it still weaves together one of the best stories in the series by featuring the bonds formed between the series’ staple characters…and the bonds we share with them as fans. While it still has supervillains and giant bug monsters, it also has a surprisingly emotional ride in places you may least expect it.
Resident Evil 5 is available now digitally, and will be out on a disc near you very soon. If you ever hesitated on giving the game a chance before, now is the best time ever to pull the trigger. At least, that is, until Capcom remakes it for the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Project Scorpio.
Review code supplied by Team Xbox