Resident Evil 5 is an incredible game from beginning to end. It has an interesting story that answers many of the mysteries revolving around Capcom's long-running series. It has amazing graphics that are full of detail and constantly impress. It has solid controls that make it the easiest to play Resident Evil game in the series. It has enough extras to keep you coming back for more long after you've finished your first play through. Yes, Resident Evil 5 is an incredible game. There's just one problem - it never once feels like a Resident Evil game.
It's been three years since the last numbered sequel and to say that people are excited would be a huge understatement. Let's face it; Resident Evil 4 was one of the best games of last generation. It was an adventure game that took everything we loved about Capcom's survival horror series and added all of the things people had been asking for. But most importantly, the game featured a drastically improved control scheme that made all the difference. After seeing what Capcom could do with the GameCube and PlayStation 2, many gamers were excited to see what they could do with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
The good news is that Resident Evil 5 is an immensely fun action game. It's slightly longer than your average action game, offers two-player co-op gameplay and has a cool boss fight at the end of practically every level. Capcom is building on everything that was good about Resident Evil 4, while simultaneously attempting to close the book on Raccoon City, Umbrella, S.T.A.R.S. and the rest of the conspiracy. And, for the most part, Capcom has done an excellent job. You'll definitely come away from Resident Evil 5 feeling a sense of conclusion. This certainly isn't the best Resident Evil game ever made, but it does feel like it's a story that was necessary to tell.
The game takes us to the far reaches of Africa, where Chris Redfield (hero of the very first Resident Evil game) is sent to learn everything he can about an infectious drug known as Uroboros. Here he meets the co-star of this adventure, a nimble and attractive young woman named Sheva Alomar. Together they attempt to track down this new drug and stop it once and for all. Unfortunately that's easier said than done, and our heroes are forced to come face to face with horrific monsters and a number of familiar faces.
As our team fights through cities, sewers, swamps and factories, they'll learn the true nature of Uroboros and why it needs to be stopped. The story clocks in at around a dozen hours, which is significantly shorter than Resident Evil 4. What this sequel lacks in length, it more than makes up for in resolution. The problem with most Resident Evil games is that they always leave the story open, that way they can reel you into the next installment. But that's not the case with Resident Evil 5. In this game we kill off major characters, we resolve huge loose ends, we finally find out what everything means. I cannot think of a major mystery that is not resolved in the course of this adventure.
The story is understandably goofy. Despite people's overwhelming love for Resident Evil, I don't think anybody can argue with a straight face that this series is well written. It's certainly fun and has a mansion full of charm, but Resident Evil is not the game to turn to when you're looking for quality storytelling. That said, Resident Evil 5 continues the tradition of giving us over-the-top characters and preposterous situations. We get a bunch of regular sized people turning into enormous freaks of nature. We get a lot of laughably bad conversations between two-dimensional villains. We get all of the high-minded talk about pushing human evolution and tampering with nature. We get it all, and much, much more. By the end of the game I was exhausted by the game's narrative, but at the same time I loved every minute of it.
In past Resident Evil games all this would add up to a spooky time where you are trapped in some sort of large mansion avoiding giant spiders and zombies. But that's not the case in Resident Evil 5. In this game you take a linear path through six different worlds (each with two or three sub-sections). Each act takes place in a different area, each with their own look and puzzles. For example, early on you'll fight through "zombie" (used in only the loosest way possible) infested African cities. Soon after that you'll be wading knee-deep in swamps full of alligators and snakes. By the end of the game you will have played through underground ruins, caves, research facilities, oil fields and even on a giant boat. The game is constantly moving forward, so you'll never find yourself getting bored with the game's numerous backgrounds.
The problem is that none of these areas are necessarily spooky this time around. There are plenty of creepy-crawly creatures and zombie-like monsters, but there's nothing particularly scary about the happenings in Resident Evil 5. Part of the problem is that much of the game takes place in the middle of the day. I'm not saying that all horror games need to take place in the dead of night, but it certainly helps to set the mood. Here everything is geared a little too heavily towards being an action game. Instead of feeling like a Resident Evil game, this felt like a Gears of War sequel. If you're a fan action games, then you're going to love this new Resident Evil game, but everybody hoping for survival horror is going to be sorely disappointed.
Part of the problem is Sheva. The fact that you always have a friend nearby giving you cover and keeping you healthy allows you to have the upper hand on just about every enemy in the game. The sad truth is, it's scarier to be in a freaky situation all by yourself. When you have an equal there with you your task (no matter how hard) always seems more manageable. Sheva is a big reason why this game doesn't feel like a traditional Resident Evil game.
Yet I don't begrudge her for it. As much as she kills the game's tension, she also adds a new element to the series that I really like. Having Sheva around adds the opportunity for a second person to play with you. It allows you to strategize in ways never before seen in a Resident Evil game. And that I like. I also like the fact that you can use her to carry your overstocked items.
I'm not sure I like it at the expense of the game's creepiness, but I do appreciate that Capcom was trying something different this time around.
Obviously the best way to play the game is with a friend, but don't let that keep you from going through the game with a computer-controlled Sheva. For the most part the computer is smart and will pay close attention to what you do. There were times when I found the computer-controlled character using too many green health herbs or being a little too liberal with the bullets, but none of these problems got in the way of the experience. Thankfully the game gives you a few different options about how you want your character to react and who you want to play with online.
The game is a blast online, even though I ran into a few technical problems getting my game to sync with both friends and strangers. Even though the game itself is only a dozen hours long, I found myself wanting to go back through it again to find all of the secret medals, improve my time and see things from Sheva's left-handed point of view. On top of the game's story, you can also check out a fan-favorite, the Mercenaries mode found in Resident Evil 4. Here the object is to mow down as many zombie-like creatures as you can. Best of all, this mode can be played with a friend, giving this game just enough added content to warrant the game's asking price. There are other online modes (including a four-player deathmatch-style mode), however Capcom is offering this as optional paid downloadable content. It's a shame that they couldn't have built these modes into the retail disc, however there's more than enough content on the disc to keep most gamers happy.
For the most part this sequel's controls feel like a tightly refined version of 2005's Resident Evil 4. You still can't move and shoot at the same time, something that will no doubt be jarring to anybody coming off of Gears of War of Call of Duty. Still, the gameplay is leaps and bounds ahead of what we had to put up with in those old Resident Evil games. The gameplay is a little more forgiving this time around, especially when it comes to running away and dodging enemies. The game also keeps the quick time events found in Resident Evil 4, so be ready to have to push buttons even when you're watching the game's multiple cinemas.
While the gameplay may not live up to every gamer's expectations, I have a hunch they are going to keep going if for no other reason than to see the amazing visuals. Given how amazing the graphics were in Resident Evil 4, it should come as no surprise that this game looks so good. It is easily one of the best looking games on the Xbox 360, a real achievement given the stiff competition.
Resident Evil 5 really is a slick game. It's full of exciting moments, amazing graphics, action-packed levels and a story with a real conclusion. It's everything you could want from a Resident Evil game ... only without all of the scares. If you're looking for an exciting action game with an involving story, then Resident Evil 5 is the game for you. Longtime fans of the series may poo-poo the heavy emphasis on action, but stick with the game, I think they will find that the story more than makes up for the game's shortcomings.