Despite steering the series in a new direction and being overshadowed by its fantastic predecessor, Resident Evil 5 is a terrific action horror game.
Resident Evil 4 was one of the most seminal games of its generation and a title that’s remembered fondly even by those who weren’t fans of Resident Evil franchise. Needless to say, Resident Evil 4 had set the bar extremely high for third-person shooter action horror games which is what made Resident Evil 5 such a highly anticipated sequel. Luckily, Resident Evil 5 is a terrific action horror games, but it steers the series in a new direction that will put some people off and it’s overshadowed by its fantastic predecessor.
Let’s recap some of the events that transpire before Resident Evil 5. After the fall of the Umbrella Corporation, the viruses developed by the company fall into the hands of bio-terrorists who decide to sell the infectious agents to third-world countries. Chris Redfield (who you might remember from Resident Evil and as the brother of Claire Redfield from Code Veronica) travels to an unnamed African country to investigate the black market with the hope of locating the chemical weapons. Chris has the help of Sheva Alomar, a local agent who operates as part of the African branch of the Bioterrorism Alliance and really knows the villages, the language and the people who live there. The story has some compelling twists, but there’s nothing remarkable about it: there’s a virus, some government conspiracies and a village infested with zombies (called Uroboros.)
But while the experience might see a little too familiar, there are a few improvements. The first innovation comes in the form of female partner Sheva who transforms the traditional Resident Evil experience into a cooperative game. I know this addition has its detractors, since playing a horror game on your own creates a sense of claustrophobia and desperation. Nevertheless, I think this change is for the best, since it makes you think about the environments in new ways and now you need to manage ammunition. Sometimes Chris and Sheva need to split up momentarily which means that one needs to explore an environment or look for a key and the other needs to provide covering fire from a safer place. Other changes include the possibility of taking cover on some flat surfaces and controlling the camera movement with the right stick.
As I just mentioned, the inventory system has been completely reworked. Remember that in Resident Evil 4 you had limited amount of space and you needed to rotate items in a grid-based inventory to carry as many pieces of equipment as possible? Well, that’s pretty much gone. This time around, you and your partner can carry up to nine items each (each item takes a slot regardless of its size) and you can even exchange them on the go. In other words, whenever you access the inventory in a level, the action doesn’t stop which definitely makes the experience more urgent than before. Between chapters you can organize, purchase or sell items via a menu which means that the memorable merchant from Resident Evil 4 is nowhere to be found here.
As part of the cooperative mode, you can play with someone else locally (using system link or slit screen) or online (via Xbox Live) and the experience you have will depend on the skill level of the other player and how willing he or she is to cooperate. Alternatively, you can play the entire single-player campaign on your own and the AI assumes the role of your partner. The AI is competent enough, though there were definitely instances where it took some poor decisions (such as wasting ammunition when it was scarce.) Note that at this point, the only people playing online are those who are replaying the adventure for the umpteenth time and have perks like infinite ammo, so playing with a friend is your best bet.
So some mechanics have been modernized, but what about the controls? Apart from some innovations mentioned above, the controls are pretty much the same as in previous entries and whether you like it or not, you character’s movements might seem a rigid when you compare this game to other third-person shooters on the Xbox 360, but I don’t think Resident Evil 5 would benefit from letting playing shoot while they move around. Also, every firearm you have has a laser-sight that tells you exactly where you’re shooting and for the most part, this works remarkably well.
There are still quick time event in some of the cutscenes and if you fail to push the right button at the right time, you’ll see the “You’re Dead” screen. Interestingly, the button prompts don’t change at all when you have to replay section which made me wonder why have them in the first place. The typewriter system of saving has been replaced by checkpoints which is a modern addition, so the action isn’t interrupted as often. Once you complete the story campaign, you unlock Mercenaries mini-game, but I didn’t end up playing this extra mode as much as I did on previous Resident Evil games, even when you can unlock new characters.
Could have Resident Evil 5 live up to its predecessor? I don’t think so. This entry in the series represents a departure from the survival horror genre and while some older players might lament that, I think most changes were for the better. The cooperative structure, exhilarating action and fresh mechanics make this game a worthy successor to Resident Evil 4, even with it has some problems (such as the dated control scheme, inconsistent artificial intelligence behavior and the inability shoot while moving.) In the end, Resident Evil 5 is a frantic survival horror game that offers an exciting and tense experience that’s well worth your time.