Resident Evil 5 is easily one of the most anticipated games in recent years. The proper follow-up to the blockbuster and masterfully done Resident Evil 4, RE5 has a lot to live up to. Also promising to close up the storyline that began way back with the original Resident Evil, the game also has a lot to live up to in storyline. Does the game succeed?
Story-wise? Not exactly. This is no Guns of the Patriots. Resident Evil 5 isn’t the capstone to a decade-long storyline that dots all the i’s and crosses all the t’s that just makes you go whoah. Playing through it, you wouldn’t think it had any sort of legacy to live up to as the game doesn’t make too many references to prior titles. It mentions the Progenitor Virus, the T-Virus, the G-Virus, the T-Veronica Virus, and Las Plagas in one of the very few documents you find but the storyline goes pretty much the same way regardless.
Even outside the context of being the final chapter of the storyline, Resident Evil 5’s story is fairly weak. There are maybe seven important characters in the story, and that’s including Chris, Sheva, and a couple of barely there supporting cast. You start off hunting a bioterrorist you aren’t told much about for half the game. After that its lets stop Wesker’s evil plot the rest of the way. There aren’t any real twists or turns, its very straight forward.
Gameplay-wise, the game fares better as its basically just RE4 2.0. The default control scheme is something more akin to Gears of War, where you hold the left trigger to raise your weapon and use the right trigger to fire. I personally stuck with the control scheme that mirrored Resident Evil 4’s.
The rest of the game feels like Resident Evil 4 with all the non-action cut out. While Resident Evil 4 was basically a high-action, kinda survivory-horrory game, RE5 is straight action. Unlike in most Resident Evil games, you don’t collect dozens of notes and files that shed light on the story or tell the tales of the disaster’s tragic lives. Instead you’ll run across several documents lying around and are allowed to read them then forget them. There are very few puzzles in the game and what few there are are almost rediculously easy.
What gameplay is here feels more like a constant repetition of the now-classic opening village battle from RE4. The main enemy is the Majini, basically a renaming of RE4’s Ganados. Storyline-wise, the Majini are infected with an updgraded form of the plagas parasite and so exhibit a few differences from the Ganados, including new parasite forms. Also returning are J.J., the chaingun wielding enemies from RE4, and El Gigante, though now under a different name and quite a bit larger.
To battle these enemies you are given a large stockpile of weapons, although I’m not sure they’re all really necessary. I got through most of the game using the basic (not very upgraded) pistol, the first shotgun (which I had fully upgraded by the end of the game), the knife, and falling back on the first magnum and grenade launcher on very rare occassions. There are at least three weapons in the categories of pistol, shotgun, machine gun, and rifle, as well as special weapons like the rocket launcher and grenade launcher. That’s quite a few weapons, but I don’t feel its all really necessary. Most boss fights arm you with a sepecial weapon just for that fight, such as a flamethrower and a Hammer of Dawn-like satellite weapon.
Accompanying you through everything is Sheva Alomar, Chris’ partner for this mission. While the whole game can be played enjoyed in co-op, the game can also be played single with the AI controlling Sheva. Those that hated having to guard Ashley in RE4 will find little respite here. Sheva is a mixed bag of an AI. In combat, she’s actually fairly competent and you’ll appreciate having the second gun at your side. That said, she is an AI so she has her quirks. While Sheva can be fairly capable, she isn’t terribly efficient. She will eat through your ammo fairly quickly and sometimes makes incredibly stupid pathfinding decisions.
Taking the game’s focus on co-op further, the game now employs a Gears of War-like Dying status where if your character’s health falls below a certain amount, the character will become incapacitated, only able to walk around slowly as their health slowly falls the rest of the way, until your partner comes up to you and revives or heals you. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t use the feature as intelligently as Gears. The system is still in place when your characters split up, meaning if one of you hit dying status, then you have to wait as you slowly bleed to death or are finished off by an enemy as opposed to Gears where you automatically die when you’re seperated from your partner.
Supporting both characters is an inventory system more akin to the classic Resident Evil games than to its immediate predecessor. Chris and Sheva are both given nine inventory slots that can be used for weapons, ammo, and health items as well as a stockpile of weapons similar to the chests in the old Resident Evil.. The system can be a bit limiting made all the more frustrating by the fact that you can’t access your stockpile mid-level unless you die and your inventory menu does not pause the game meaning that if you have to arrange ammo between your partner and yourself or mix herbs in the middle of a fight, you’ll need to find yourself a safe spot while you do what you have to do. Another little annoyance is that protective gear like the bulletproof vest and the melee vest take up inventory slots.
While this review sounds mostly negative, the game is not. The game uses the same outstanding gameplay that was introduced in Resident Evil 4, it just doesn’t do it as well, and that’s probably the best way to describe this game. It attempts to incorporate ideas from recent games in an attempt to advance in gameplay but the results are hit and miss and at the same time, the game is stripped down to a run and gun action game.
For a game that’s supposed to tie up the series starting from the first game, the storyline in this game is as thin as it is in most action movies and doesn’t do much to bring everything together, it even completely ignores what I consider to be the largest loose end in the series, Sherry Birkin, whom we’ve known nothing of since the end of the RE2, save for a mention in Wesker’s Report letting us know that she’s been captured and leaving us with There’s something about this little girl. I guess they had to leave something for the sequel.