Resident Evil 5
Taking place five years after the events of Resident Evil 4, Chris Redfield, now a member of the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance, is sent to Africa on assignment. His mission is to rendezvous with a local agent, Sheva Alomar and apprehend an arms dealer that is apparently selling bio organic weapons on the black market. When things predictably turn sour, Chris and Sheva find themselves battling the locals who have been turned into fast, deadly monsters called Majini and uncovering a sinister plot that once again threatens all mankind.
If Resident Evil 4 burned your hopes of a scary, survival horror title, then prepare for Resident Evil 5 to dance on the ashes. The game is an action packed title filled with swarms of monsters that can be shot, stabbed, set on fire and blown to pieces. Chris and his new partner can even perform melee attacks such as punches and kicks if the slavering hordes get too close and personal. Enemies come at you with spears, knives, stun batons and even glass bottles, but soon wise up and start packing guns, grenades and rocket launchers. This game is as far from a leisurely stroll through a creepy mansion as you can get and if it wasn’t for the frequent cut-scenes that ramble on about viruses and bio-organic weapons the game could almost be mistaken for the next Gears of War clone.
While Capcom had no problem leaving the roots of the series in the past, it appears that they have a much harder time letting go of the archaic control scheme. Unwieldy and cumbersome doesn’t even begin to describe what players have to deal with when it comes to wrestling the controls. As soon as you draw your weapon, Chris is firmly rooted to the ground, which was fine when enemies were slowly shambling corpses, but not so great when they are fast mutations that are armed to the teeth. You cannot even move when attacking with your secondary weapon a knife, which leads to ridiculous scenarios where you take a swipe, miss, have to put away the knife, walk forward a step, redraw the knife and attempt to attack again. It is possible to get used to the diabolical controls, but it serves as a constant reminder that you are playing a modern game with an extremely dated control scheme.
The frustration extends to the inventory system which now has to be used in real-time. You only have nine slots and the whole affair is way more cumbersome and tedious than it has any right to be.
Imagine finding shotgun ammunition for the shotgun in your inventory, but you cannot pick it up because all the slots are filled. This despite the fact that there is no ammo in your shotgun and your character has two hands empty. The same thing can happen with healing herbs. You find one that you desperately need because your health is low, but you can’t pick it up without discarding something from your inventory. There is no dodge move, except during boss battles, where it will show up as a quick-time event which demonstrates just how useful it would have been to have. You can take cover behind objects, but can’t move unless you disengage from cover and reposition your character in order to get a better vantage point.
Don’t even get me started on the AI partner that the game introduces. As far as I am concerned, Sheva is fine as a mobile first aid station, but to give her a weapon or expect any kind of intelligent backup during battles is a waste of time and energy. You can instruct her to stick close where she will constantly obscure your view and get in the way or attack enemies at which point she will sprint ahead and waste all her bullets on anything that moves before getting overwhelmed and probably killed. Since the game is over if she dies this is generally not a lot of fun. The game improves immeasurably when a second player takes control of Sheva, but if you play the single player mode, you can expect to run into a few very frustrating encounters, especially with bosses.
The visuals are excellent, but the sun drenched African locales soon gives way to dark caves and dreary gray corridors. It is really a pity that the further you get into the game the less impressive the scenery becomes. At least there is no tedious backtracking and the quality of the animations remains impressive throughout. There are a few on-rails sections that demonstrate just how far the game has strayed from its roots as you mow down hordes of motorbike riding majinni with a mini-gun from the back of a speeding vehicle. The audio isn’t too shabby with some decent voice acting considering the corny lines that the actors constantly deliver. The music is also nice, but not really memorable.
It took me about twelve hours to complete the story mode, which then unlocked a new mercenaries mode. It is also possible to replay the game with a “+” mode where you retain your weapons and items which is handy for hunting down the hidden BSAA badges. You can spend points earned during the game to unlock action figures and costumes so there is at least some replay value. The story lacks anything that can even remotely be called a puzzle apart from flicking a few switches or rotating some pedestals which is probably good news for action junkies. You can also collect treasure during the levels which can then be sold to upgrade your weapons for improved firepower, ammo capacity and reloading speed. Auto saves and frequent checkpoints also take the sting out of death, but the game still has its fair share of challenging sections thanks to the clunky controls.
There is a lot to like about Resident Evil 5 but the best experience is probably going to come from playing with a friend. There are some very questionable control and design issues but fortunately there is still fun to be had. If the game had a decent control scheme such as the one in Dead Space I would have scored it higher, but as it is I recommend you play the demo first to see if you can put up with it.
*Review originally published in 2010.