After years of waiting, Resident Evil 5 has finally set up residence on current generation platforms. It seems like an eternity has passed since the early target videos were shown, and if you wanted to get all teary eyed and nostalagic, an even longer period since the very first game appeared on the Playstation. Nostalgic overtones and lengthy waits aside, Chris Redfield, who was one of the main characters in the first game is once again thrust into a situation where bio-terrorist activities, strange viral infections and crazed megalomaniac adversaries are the order of the day. Gone are the city streets and spooky mansions, which make way for the diverse and encompassing dark continent as the game’s setting. That’s right, Resident Evil 5 takes place in Africa, and with this switch of scenery compared to the older games, means that gamers will get to experience a new side of Resident Evil that has stemmed from the antics of times past.
Resident Evil 5 (RE 5) is a third person action game, which loosely sits next to the Survival Horror genre, with perhaps plenty of horror and some survival undertones present. Life is still fragile, but is not precariously balanced on a precipice of threatening and unwelcoming gameplay. Therefore what RE 5 offers is a game that you can pick up and play at your own pace and garner enjoyment from your own style of play rather than be chaperoned into specific gameplay mechanics (although there is a bit of that as you would expect). People who play RE 5 are going to fit in one of two groups, the fans of the series and those who are new. I would hazard a guess that most fans are going to be right at home here and sink their teeth into the roller-coaster ride that’s on offer. Sure, some will undoubtedly moan like they did with the change of pace in Resident Evil 4, but on the whole, as a fan how could you possibly moan at a new game for the series you love? Newcomers on the other hand will be presented with a game that has all the right ingredients, but requires some semblance of adaptation. I guess a lot of games these days are very user friendly and cater towards being mass appealing, whereas from the old school, some effort was required on occasion, and so Capcom have stuck firmly to their guns and produced a game that adheres to this rule without question or faltering to the wayside for the sake of mass acceptance.
So…to begin let’s focus on the game’s controls. It’s easy to dismiss them as rather Marmite in flavour – where you’ll either love them or loath them. I don’t think it’s as clear cut as that. On the one hand, the characters move with the grace of a tank, which is only noticeable when running. Walking is perfectly fine and poses no issues. However, there are lots of occasions where you’ll need to be running away from enemies, and so this creates its own problems. The game does not allow for movement whilst shooting, which is a feature present in pretty much all of the Resident Evil games to date. The idea is to create a certain level of tension, where you’re left pondering whether to stand your ground and aim accurately, or do a u-turn and get some space between you and the enemy before firing off the next volley of rounds into their soft flesh. This element would be lost if you were able to move and shoot at the same time. It’s what makes the Resident Evil series what it is. So as a gamer or newcomer to the series, you need to adapt to this approach and dash out any preconceived ideas you may have from other games. Once you can overcome this mechanic, and embrace it with both hands, then you should be able to appreciate why the game is like this. It’s not because Capcom can’t make the character run and shoot, it’s because it’s part of the gameplay.
RE 5 offers a fairly linear experience across multiple locales, however this time, and it’s certainly not a new mechanic for the series; the main character is accompanied by a secondary AI character. We’ve had the dogs in Fallout 3/Fable 2. Elika in Prince of Persia and now Sheva in RE 5. AI partners seems to digress from the solitary experiences we’ve grown accustomed to in favour of presenting gamers with the dilemma of caring for someone else, rather than saving ones own skin. It works well in RE 5 because although Sheva is quite adept at looking after herself, you still have to keep a close eye on what she’s doing. You’re very much a team, and rather than Sheva being a mere follower, you work together to accomplish goals, not only through the story but in the gameplay as well.
There’s an element of management to the team work because using a persistent inventory system means that the two characters will be shuffling items back and forth to get the optimal performance nailed. Sheva is able to pick up items on your command, although if you tweak her AI status she’ll be a little more thorough and grab stuff herself more readily. There are a number of nuances with the AI that are probably quite easy to miss, and it’s with some experimentation that you’ll get to see them in action. The cover and attack AI status being one of them, and knowing when to send Sheva to attack and when to stand back offers variable results when tackling the game’s many foes. You’ll be able to heal Sheva when the chips are down, and vice versa, and so you establish a respectable relationship within the confines of the game space. This bond is certainly worth fighting for, and not only aids the story progression, but makes for a heightened gaming experience.There are some inconsistencies, which will make you frustrated, but nothing that is so infuriating that you’ll throw the pad and game out the window. It’s like falling over, dusting yourself off and trying again, with all dignity in tact.
The game offers some minor puzzle solving, however these are not as heavy as previous games in the series, as the game has taken a more action orientated approach – you’re always pressing forwards with little to no backtracking involved, which is great because you’ll get to experience a wider variety of locales. The game is split up into chapters, of which you can replay completed sections over and over, to the point where it’s possible to build up items before moving on with the story. This approach is a first for the the main Resident Evil games, and feels more in tune with co-op play with a friend rather than the single player. However, it works really well and is certainly an optional feature for you to take or leave.
RE 5 features lots of weapons to kill the not so undead hordes that rush at you. There’s something for everyone here and it means that you’ll be able to experiment with sniper rifles, shotguns, handguns, grenades etc etc. What is welcome is the option to upgrade weapons with cash that you’ve collected, so you’ll get more power, larger clip sizes, and faster reload times. The whole management aspect works perfectly here and gives you much incentive to replay the same levels over and over. The enemies to plough bullets and explosives into are a varied bunch of locals, infected militia men, experimental nasties and some insect like creatures. They all offer different nuances in how you tackle them and with the use of projectiles and some guns being fired in your direction, means you really need to keep on your toes and be fully aware of your surroundings. There’s a minor cover system you can use, but I found this to be somewhat fiddly and not a necessity for success.
The game features some impressive boss encounters which require lateral thinking to beat. There are also some on rails moments where you’ll be firing from a gun emplacement, making for a more action orientated experience all round. This certainly breaks up the regular running around on foot and is definitely a welcome contrast which helps keep each chapter fresh and exciting. There’s even some QTE thrown in for good measure. It all adds up to a game that is well mixed in its approach, and totally entertaining throughout, where the word repetitive has no place here.
RE 5 looks impressive indeed. There’s a lot of detail in the environments and you’ll get to experience a wide variety of different locales at various times of day and night. From dark and moody caverns, dusty marketplace districts, the open Savannah to the more conventional laboratories, it’s all here in its diverse and welcome state. The dark continent never looked so good before. Your enemies come in various tones and guises and are suitably well designed and indicative of the continent. It’s a PR nightmare for anyone who is African, but I guess the Germans have gotten used to being killed in video games so the Africans should feel honored. This also should please those gamers who feel there are not enough black folks in video games. I’m jesting, but in all seriousness, there’s some excellent character design and the whole African ideal has been captured perfectly. It makes a stark contrast to the zombie filled Americanized locations of the past games, and the Euro setting in RE 4.
The game plays very smoothly, with no hiccups or issues what so ever. The loading is kept to a minimum, and everything just flows seamlessly. There are some excellent dramatic cut-scenes which propel the story and are well worth watching again in the movie viewer. Chris looks amazing despite looking like he’s been spending all his waking hours in the gym, and Sheva is gorgeously beautiful like an elegant and queen like gazelle amongst the gritty and murky crocodile filled waters. You can view models of the characters to your hearts content, just to see how lovingly crafted they are. Capcom has done an amazing job with the animations, although if I was to complain, it would be the over exaggerated mouth movements when characters talk, it borders on comical at times.
RE 5 features a some decent voice acting from the main cast, and whilst there are less moans and groans, you’ll certainly have an earful of banter between the two characters and sounds from the looming opposition.There are some cheesy lines, which seem to crop up from time to time, but generally the script is pretty solid this time round. The music is fitting but in a non intrusive way. Sitting here, I can’t really recall the music during play as a stand out feature although it certainly is there and retains a tribal element at times. The music compliments the action but in reality every other visceral element captures the imagination before hitting your ears. Sound effects are as you would expect, and there’s only really the ambient sounds that you’ll notice if you leave the characters idle for any period of time – the rest is made up of footsteps and heavy breathing. As with the graphics, the audio has been well produced and can’t be faulted. If I was to be really picky, then I would have to say that Sheva and Chris could have shared a few more lines of speech during gameplay.
RE 5 is quite a meaty game and although you could probably rush through in a round 8 hours for a first time play, there are enough distractions to elongate the experience. As already mentioned, you’re able to replay the missions as you see fit, and there are several difficulties to mess around with to add suitable challenge. The game also features online co-op for two players, and offline co-op for you and a friend to tackle the game in tandem via split screen. This adds another impressive layer to an already well accomplished game.
The game also features lots of unlockables, and in an age where downloadable content seems to be taking over, it’s nice to actually have a game that rewards players for spending the time to master it. There’s a lot on offer here, and with extra costumes, collectibles, gameplay modes and weapons to unlock, I think most gamers will be well occupied with this game for a long time.
As a fan of the series, I cannot complain about RE 5, as I left my complaints well and truly at the door of Resident Evil 4 when it came out on the Gamecube. Capcom have done wonders with keeping the elements that made RE what they are, but also moving it forwards just enough to remain fresh. The term survival horror and RE might have become somewhat blurry, but as a game in its own right, RE 5 is a spectacle to behold. It’s not too far from Resident Evil 4’s pacing and style, and the added return to co-op play as seen in RE 0 is very welcome in my books. Sheva and Chris are an excellent team and I really loved the whole management aspect because this reminded me of the old Resident Evil Outbreak games. It seems that RE 5 is a culmination of the eclectic mix from all games in the series and most certainly a refined and well designed game. If you can dismiss the somewhat clunky controls and adapt your habits (like any self respecting gamer should be able to) then you’ll find a well rounded experience that takes you on a rugged and wonderful gaming safari. Capcom do not need to change anything to cater to the number of whining gamers who like their hands being held. RE 5 is not trying to follow the crowd, but rather, keeps its own identity amidst a sea of similar action games, that are frankly quite forgettable. RE 5 has been well worth waiting for, and is a game that is truly deserving of your time and money whether you’re a seasoned fan or newcomer.