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Resident Evil 5 Review

Published April 3, 2009 by |

When the first Resident Evil landed on the PSOne back in 1996, it made a huge impact and despite earlier titles laying the groundwork, was the first game to be dubbed ‘survival horror’. Bringing with it flesh eating zombies, pre-determined camera angles, limited ammunition, tank-like controls and a highly tense atmosphere.

A number of successful sequels followed across a number of consoles before Resident Evil 4 arrived in 2005 and dramatically changed things. Gone were the static camera angles and hungry zombies, instead replaced with an over the shoulder view, angry Spaniards and a greater emphasis on action than the previous offerings. This received critical acclaim and was noted as being a step forward for the franchise, and gained many new fans with its gameplay alterations.

So now 4 years have passed and Capcom have released the next chapter in the story, but how have they built on their winning formula?

In truth little has changed. The way the game plays is very much the same, aside from a reduced inventory and the quite substantial addition of a partner.

As Resident Evil veteran Chris Redfield rolls into town he’s instantly joined by his African counterpart, Sheva Alomar. She stays with you the entire game, and is either controlled by AI, or by a friend, which is something thats been missing entirely in Resident Evil’s of yore; cooperative play. Although you’ll be spending most of your time side by side, there are a number of instances where you’ll split up to solve a puzzle or defeat an enemy.

The controls still remain from the previous game, including the inability to shoot and move, and it is a shame to see that after four years this hasn’t changed, more aside from a new strafing control style being added. Also retained from Resident Evil 4, are the context sensitive attacks that allow Chris and Sheva to perform some impressive demonstrations of physical force. These result in the pushing back of crowds as well as the occasional instant death moves. There’s no doubt this obvious lack of revolution will split opinions, but historically the Resident Evil controls have always added to the sense of survival and this installment is no exception.

With the controls updated slightly and a partner by your side it’s no surprise that the enemies are even more resolute than before. Crowd control is definitely the aim of the game with the masses descending on our plucky heroes from all angles and wielding an extensive array of weaponry. Not only have they been better equipped but they have been given a boost in the brains department as they work together to hunt you down relentlessly and despite the lack of cannibalistic intent that zombies possess, there’s still a risk of jumping as you turn to see your crimson eyed opponents baring down on you. Apart from those moments it’s clear that the fear has definitely been sacrificed in favor of high-octane action and there’s an abundance of it. From the claustrophobic encounters with the hordes, to the epic encounters with the colossal infected beasts, Resident Evil 5 grabs hold of you and doesn’t let go. Unfortunately the locations and scenarios are very predictable, although the addition of your partner adds enough variety to prevent it becoming too stale.

This game is undoubtedly best played with an actual human as opposed to the AI. As despite being a good shot, is terrible at ammunition and health conservation, choosing to heal at the slightest scratch and attempting to use short range weapons to dispatch far away enemies. This isn’t to say that AI Sheva is useless but there’s a definite need to keep her on a tight leash. The local and online co-op works seamlessly with the latter experiencing little to no lag. The set up for online play is uncomplicated with three options at the beginning of each level for playing solo, invited people only, or the game being open to all. The additional player will join after a restart of the level or the next checkpoint whereas a local co-op can join whenever. Both times the game will revert back to the load out screen where any upgrades or new items can be bought and arranged. All of this adds up to an incredibly accessible shared experience that few games on the market can beat.

One thing the game does very well is delivering the goods with its visuals. Environments are appropriately dusty and battered while the sun beats down on them with fantastic visual flair. The lighting effects are further put to use in the murky innards of the game and provide a convincing world to get sucked into. Character models are superbly detailed and the animations are convincing enough, though more variety would have been nice when it comes to shooting specific areas of enemies.

Due to the persistent bursts of action the game offers, little time is given to admire the technical prowess that’s on show, but nevertheless Capcom have delivered a visual gem. Add to this an intriguing story that presents old and new characters in a typically ostentatious style and you have a refined effort that we’ve come to expect from the Resident Evil team.

Not content with making a lengthy story mode, the developers have added multiple difficulty levels, collectable figures, costumes and unlockables that reward the persistent players. The most impressive of these additions is the return of Mercenaries mode in which the aim is to survive as long as possible in set arenas with limited ammunition and time. At times this provides a tenser atmosphere than the main game and is a fantastic addition to the package. Points earned from both the Campaign mode and Mercenaries mode are available to spend on unlocking the collectable figures and unlimited ammo perks for use during the story.

There’s no denying that Resident Evil 5 sadly finds itself in the shadow of its predecessor as well as the expectations that the step up to current gen consoles brings. The issues with the bulky controls will put off some but anyone who can get past this will find an incredibly satisfying game that manages to deliver grin inducing action balanced with an adequate sense of adventure and plenty of replay value despite the evident feeling of deja-vu. Very few games deliver this kind of polish and coupled with the fantastic co-op option this may not be the next true step forward for the franchise but it’s definitely worth an audience with die hard fans and newcomers alike.