Welcome back. Today we’re covering Resident Evil 5, a little continuation of the survival horror kick I’ve been on lately. It was originally released in March of 2009 by Capcom and was ported to PC in September of the same year. You play as Chris Redfield, working for the BSAA, trying to deal with people that looked at Umbrella’s unorthodox business strategies and decided “Yeah, bio-engineering monsters for profit, that’s the way to go.” You’re being sent to a village in Africa to break up an arms deal, and things escalate from there in typical Resident Evil fashion. The Gun -> Melee follow-up combat and scrounging for items is still intact from RE4, so the base gameplay is the same.
RE4 was applauded for its more action oriented gameplay and a few other things. RE5 attempts to distill these elements, cut out the filler so to speak. The resulting game is noticeably shorter and lacking some of the more comforting staples of the RE series, like the Save Rooms and puzzles, while also throwing out some of the good features RE4 introduced in the first place, like pacing and amusingly corny dialogue.
Take, for example, the town assault sequence from RE4. It was awesome, but the execution is what made it so. You got introduced to a handful of enemies in small fights to get a handle for the combat system. Then when faced with a dozen angry villagers, you likely did the sensible thing and ran into a building to slow them down, only for them to start busting in windows and climbing onto the roof and then Mr. Chainsaw shows up and you realize just how bad things are. RE5 jumps straight into it, and the effect is diminished.
Additionally, RE5 tries to be serious, but it often falls flat because of the sillier moments. *Spoilers* Take Chris’ character arc. He’s consumed with guilt over the loss of his old partner, and is understandably cautious about letting his new one get close. After a lot of fighting together, series baddie Wesker is hanging onto Sheva to avoid being thrown out of an aircraft, the music gets all poignant as Chris flashes back to the loss of Jill, and time slows to a crawl as she tries to sacrifice herself just like Jill did. Then a prompt to save her appears. That’s actually well done.
And then in the very next area we have the infamous boulder punching sequence! I’m not saying your game can’t have both kinds of moments. The Metal Gear Solid series is great at balancing the two, but RE5 is not.
Graphically speaking, the game is fair. The colors are needlessly washed out (See picture 2 for a good example), and the environments aren’t as varied as they are in RE4. That said, there’s still a number of different enemies that all look fairly cool. As much as I hate the Reaper’s 1 hit kill, the character design is solid. It also help that RE5 came a little later than RE4 and thus could put more work into textures and such that have held up better to the test of time.
Moving on, the big new feature of RE5 is the buddy system. You can now fight the BOWs with a friend, or an AI controlled partner (Sheva by default, though you can have it flipped once you’ve beaten the game) if you’re a hermit like myself. Now I really need to talk about the latter.
Sheva’s AI needs work. I don’t expect her to carry the game, but she has some serious flaws that become difficult to deal with past Normal and are completely crippling on Professional. She’ll follow you closely in most cases, resulting in her firing 3 rounds into the back of your head when the ganados show up. Better yet, when you try to evade an enemy’s attack, you’ve got a second hitbox trailing behind you like a kite, which is not what you want when the executioner or chainsaw guy is going for a 1-hit kill. She won’t use melee unless a staggered enemy is nearly tripping over her, so she burns through ammo like nobody’s business. She’s also indifferent to enemies and areas that have an instant death radius, so that’s another couple unnecessary deaths. When she’s not shooting you in the back, she’s accurate enough, but it doesn’t outweigh the disadvantages.
This means that single-player sucks, because you’re dragging a millstone around with you as you try to fight off the countless enemies, one that burns through your supplies noticeably faster than you do. In a survival horror game.
That said, when Sheva isn’t dragging you down, the game is plenty of fun. The combat is satisfying, especially when you bowl over an entire crowd of enemies with a follow-up punch, or narrowly dodge a BOW’s attack. The game isn’t quite balanced for the gun wielding enemies because there’s only a few spots in the entire game you’re allowed to take cover, but otherwise I’ve no complaints in that department.
Another plus is that the weapon upgrade system got a definite improvement: You can now see little progress bars for each improvable attribute of a weapon, which gives you a sense of what the gun is going to be like when fully upgraded. So now you don’t spend a huge amount of money on a gun trying to get, say, ammo capacity, only to find out that’s not where its strengths lie. None of the weapons feel useless, though sniper rifles bounce between vital and highly impractical depending on the area. As the one definite positive statement I’ll make for the AI, it’s hard to justify spending 2 inventory slots on the rifle and ammo when Sheva can pick off people with her pistol at distances I can barely see. And I will say the streamlining has some definite upsides, like being able to play your favorite (or most lucrative) areas over easily. Lastly, while the shrunken inventory system feels lacking compared to RE4’s attache case, the ability to select things in real time and the resulting tension that adds is a reasonable trade-off, in my opinion.
I’ve been waffling a bit on the general quality of this game, so let me me clear: RE5 is a reasonably good co-op game. It’s just not the strongest Resident Evil game, though I’d say it’s better than Operation Raccoon City and the newly released Umbrella Corps. Resident Evil 5 is $20 on steam, $30 if you go for the version with the DLC bits. It’s a decent deal for that price.