Here is a review I did for a gaming website when Resident Evil 5 was first released a few years ago. It’s not really retro, so I didn’t think it fit the theme of my other game reviews – hence it is being shoehorned into the Blog section. Hope you enjoy it!
The trailer for Resident Evil 5 earned the game a little notoriety (the basic premise was a white guy walking into an African village and proceeding to kill all the villagers...) long before the release date. Viewers also picked up on the increased action and seemingly insurmountable swarms of fast-moving enemies. It definitely seemed like this addition to the franchise would be a different beast to earlier entries.
By now there is probably little need to explain the Resident Evil back story. In a nutshell, the Umbrella Corporation created a virus which turned the residents of Raccoon City into zombies. The first game was set in a mansion, and as such, is pretty much the only game in the series for which the title “Resident Evil” is actually appropriate. But that's beside the point. Throughout the series, various cops/special forces teams/random people in berets have been sent in to sort out the zombies, with varying success. Basically, at the end of each game you'll have to blow something up with a rocket launcher and it would seem that the zombie problem has been fixed... until a sequel is released a year or so later and the undead are shuffling around somewhere else! If I didn't know that zombie uprisings are notoriously difficult to suppress, I'd think Capcom were just in this for the money, and that the Resident Evil story may never reach a satisfying conclusion!
Regardless, the Resident Evil franchise has been going since 1996 and has undergone various changes over the years. The first few games were famous for their fixed camera angles which framed each scene like a movie, creating a tense atmosphere where zombies, mutant dogs or even crows could appear out of nowhere and make the player jump. These games were also notable for presenting the player with puzzles to solve in between bouts of zombie slaying. Simon Pegg summed it up best in an episode of Spaced: “It's a subtle blend of lateral thinking and extreme violence”.
In 2004 the Resident Evil series dramatically changed. Part 4 was released for the Playstation 2 and GameCube (and later ported to the Wii); with game play focusing more on action than scares. The camera was now changed to a third-person view behind the hero, giving the player a more practical view of the action, but limiting the potential for scares. The story veered away from traditional zombie fare too, giving us more active enemies with strange parasites inside them that provided more of a challenge to dispatch. This new direction was for the best: the game was a critical success, with the new view and ease of control being praised.
Four years after Leon Kennedy was sent to Europe to hand out zombie beat downs in Resident Evil 4, Chris Redfield (from the original Resident Evil) is sent to Africa as part of the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance (BSAA). Here he meets his new partner, Sheva, who will help him on his way. Sheva is a typical videogame heroine: beautiful and tough, with an accent that doesn't relate to her origin. Both characters have their own reasons for joining the BSAA – Sheva gives a long explanation about wanting to help her homeland, while Chris just says he has “unfinished business”. Chris doesn't really seem to like Sheva for some reason. His expression never strays far from super-serious, and he never says please when barking orders at her. In fact, sometimes when he shouts her name, he makes it sound like “Shabba”, which - although amusing - is actually a subtle form of bullying.
Resident Evil 5 has a brand new setting, and familiar – yet tweaked – features. The African background, regardless of the controversial trailer, was always going to attract attention, for the basic reason that Resident Evil games have traditionally been set in claustrophobic, dark locations, not vast expanses of bright desert scenery. The visuals in this game are stunning. The blazing sun lights up every detail of the exterior surroundings, while the makers have included many tunnels and caves to bring back those old feelings of fear of the dark. Experienced players will also appreciate the familiar factory and laboratory environments that will be explored as the game progresses. The main characters are visually very detailed and realistic, and the bosses are also more than impressive in this aspect. One of the first bosses will bring back memories (or is that nightmares?) for players of Resident Evil 4 – Chainsaw-Wielding Zombie (complete with sack over head) is back! That old nervous feeling you got when the buzz of the saw starts up in the distance is back too, and will crop up at various points in the game, at moments when you really don't want to be chased by zombies with power tools!
The most talked-about aspect of this latest instalment in the series is the new co-op mode. This game is entirely two-player, and it's up to you whether you play with a friend or with the CPU controlling your partner. A different co-op mode was introduced in Resident Evil Zero (GameCube, 2002), but the concept hasn't been touched on since. RE5's co-op game has been tweaked, but while it should provide the player with some reassurance that someone has his/her back, it often ends up getting annoying when Sheva gets in your way or just doesn’t seem to be doing much damage with her weapons.
The AI of your computer-controlled partner is respectable, if a little frustrating at times. Sheva has a habit of standing in front of you when you're trying to walk past her, and will often insist on using all her handgun ammo before using more effective weapons like the shotgun or machine gun. However, it is a good idea to let her hold health items as she will use them on you both when you need it, meaning you don't have to try and navigate the item menu when you're in bad shape and surrounded by angry zombies. Like a good partner, she will also share ammo with you, as well as watch your back when things get hairy. But you have to watch hers too! Players will soon learn that it isn't wise to stray too far from each other as it is easy to get quickly overwhelmed by the sheer number of enemies at some points in the game. If your partner gets in trouble you can help her out by smacking her attacker, or if she's in a really bad way you will need to resuscitate her quickly (this basically involves getting close to her and pressing a button, which will cause Chris to touch her chest with his hand, which apparently is also a defibrillator).
Multiplayer mode is especially fun, as you work with a friend, or online with an American, to achieve the objectives of each chapter. At times this can involve one player covering the other from a distance while they go to retrieve a key, unlock a door etc. Very slight slowdown can occur when masses of enemies are on screen at the same time, but it is barely noticeable. Luckily you cannot harm or be harmed by your co-op partner, which is a good thing considering the shooting skills of my friends, and the angry outbursts you’re going to direct at Sheva.
All these new features make the game very accessible, especially to series newcomers. A noticeable update is that weapons can now be selected in-game using the D-Pad – so there is no more need to pause the game, select a weapon, and then equip it. Also noticeable by its absence is the typewriter save-game method. Resident Evil 5 finally drags the franchise into line with current games, and uses an auto-save feature. There are many checkpoints in each chapter, and the game will save after most significant advances in the story.
Fans of the original games may be a little disappointed to find that the classic-style zombies are a thing of the past. The zombies of Resident Evil 5 are more similar to the running, angry zombies seen in the movie 28 Days Later than the shuffling, clumsy zombies from the films of George A. Romero. In fact RE5 zombies probably shouldn't be classed as zombies really, as they seem to possess some intelligence. Not only can they run, jump and climb, but they can operate weapons and vehicles! The series has definitely come a long way since the lumbering corpses that couldn't even open doors.
It has been said that recent sci-fi/horror survival game Dead Space owed a lot to Resident Evil 4, mainly because of the view perspective and similar game play styles. RE5 is like a combination of both games. The controls are excellent, and the over-shoulder view is very useful in combat. In terms of scares – which used to be the selling point of the Resident Evil games – this latest offering is simply deficient. Dead Space had claustrophobic corridors and rooms, creepy sound effects, and the constant feeling that something horrible will burst into view from out of nowhere and attempt to kill you. The enemy attacks in RE5 are largely predictable, and only invoke a sense of panic as the player sees swarms of angry zombies advancing at an alarming rate.
The story and script of the game remain highly entertaining. There are numerous twists and turns, and series fans will be pleased to see a couple of familiar faces pop up later in the game. Both characters were prominent in the original Resident Evil - one fought with Chris, the other turned out to be far less trustworthy... Fans should also be relieved to hear that the voice acting is still laughable. An amusing example occurs early on in the game when our heroes witness a softball-sized parasite being forced into a villager's mouth by someone. After standing there silent for about two minutes watching this poor man writhe in agony on the floor, Chris walks up to him and – totally deadpan – asks, “Are you okay?”
Resident Evil 5 doesn't need any help to succeed. As well as the built-in fan base, the hype, trailers and demos have ensured that the game will do well. It is a very playable survival horror/shooter that has successfully updated the game play style and brought it into line with contemporary shooters. The co-op aspect is a fairly unique selling point that adds to the overall enjoyment. While the lack of genuine scares is a shame, it could just be a reflection of the audience's high expectations, and it certainly doesn't make this a bad game by any stretch of the imagination. The visuals are great (if a little grey), and the game play is very satisfying. If, like me, you have been preparing for the inevitable zombie virus outbreak ever since you first watched Night of The Living Dead, you would be hard pressed to find a more entertaining training simulation than Resident Evil 5.
My name is Iain and my addiction is making pixel bead art. My main inspirations are comics, video games and movies.