Review by BoyLover X

"Great game, but it could have been more"

It's hard to believe that it's already been over 4 years since the last main game in the Resident Evil saga. Resident Evil 4 was groundbreaking, dramatically changed the franchise, and was (quite rightfully) hailed by critics and gamers as one of the finest and most polished games ever made. Shinji Mikami, the mastermind behind the series, has left Capcom since completing RE4. Could Resident Evil 5 possibly be as good as previous games? And does it manage to topple RE4 as the greatest action-adventure game of all time? Not quite, but it's an excellent game anyway.

Resident Evil 5 gets the RE story back on track. RE4 didn't have too much relevance with previous games, as the main point of the story was to introduce the new parasite threat Las Plagas, while reminding us that Albert Wesker is still wearing sunglasses and smirking while sitting on top of a stash of all the viruses from the series. Capcom also made us endure a couple of mediocre sidestories: The Umbrella Chronicles (Wii game) and Degeneration (CG movie) to fill in a few more trite plot details. But for many years, RE fans have been waiting to see the conclusion of the Chris Redfield and Albert Wesker rivalry. The story that began with the original Resident Evil all those years ago, and was rekindled in CODE: Veronica, has been put on hold until now.

Resident Evil 5 takes place a few years after RE4. Chris Redfield is dedicated to investigating and preventing biohazardous outbreaks, and helped form a new organization called B.S.A.A. He teams up with Sheva Alomar to investigate the African region Kijuju, following a tip that a black market deal will be occuring there. Once he arrives, things go badly. For starters, the Las Plagas parasite has been released. And on top of that, a new threat known as Uroboros has wiped out most of his backup team. From there, Chris and Sheva travel to a variety of locations to track down those responsible for the outbreak and stop Uroboros. Overall the main points of the story are satisfying and I like the fact that a lot of closure has been given on several plots that have been built up over the course of the franchise. My only gripe with the story telling is that there are a couple of minor villains (Irving and Excella) who didn't get much explanation during the cutscenes, no real idea of what they're goals were, and no real reason to dislike them. They just showed up and were a nuisance. In order to get any story about them, you have to read unlockable files from the game's menu.

Now, I don't usually like to talk about graphics before gameplay, but I have to because RE5 looks so unbelievably good. It runs on Capcom's proprietary MT Framework engine, the same one that powered Dead Rising, Lost Planet, and Devil May Cry 4. The engine has improved with each release of a new game that uses it, and RE5 raises the bar even further than the already stunning DMC4. The texture detail level is absolutely amazing, and there's that attention for atmospheric detail that the RE series is known for. The characters have high polygon counts and great face detail and animation. It's easy to mistake some of the game's cutscenes as pre-rendered video, but it's all real time. Load times are also quick. Unfortunately, the PS3 version of this game engine is not as well optimized as the Xbox 360 version. This means that while the 360 version will always maintain 30 frames per second, the PS3 version usually only does 25 frames per second, with some rare places in the game that drop down below 20. There are also certain lighting and bump-mapping effects that are not as prominent on the PS3 version, and the shadows are less detailed and more pixelated. Having said all that, the game still looks amazing, but it's a darn shame that Capcom couldn't get the PS3 version looking as good.

The best way to describe the gameplay would be "Resident Evil 4 mixed with Resident Evil Zero". At first glance, RE5 may appear to be just like RE4. This game is heavy on action, lets you purchase and customize weapons, has a behind the back camera and improved targeting, and features enemies that are smarter than the zombies that the first few games had. But add some RE Zero elements to it (two characters working together, a more limited inventory, a "leech man") and it becomes something more interesting. You'll have to take care of both Chris and Sheva at the same time, and they'll help each other stay alive.

One big addition to RE5 is real time inventory management. The RE Outbreak games implemented a real time inventory system, although it was an unsuccessful attempt due to a poor interface that led to many frustrations. Thankfully, RE5's inventory system is far better. In RE5, you can rearrange your inventory and combine items very quickly simply by highlighting them and pressing square to "grab" them, use the analog stick to select another inventory space, then hitting square again to "drop" it. Moving an item and putting it on top of another item will combine the two if possible. This is much faster than having to click on an item and then scroll down to a "combine" option like the Outbreak titles (although you CAN still do that, if you really want). And even better, you can also map weapons and items to the d-pad for instant access, so you won't usually have to fiddle around in the inventory screen while being attacked.

The other big addition also happens to come from the RE Outbreak games: co-op play. You can play online or offline with a buddy (or a stranger...). One of you will play as Chris, the other as Sheva. If you play with a skilled partner, the game will certainly be easier, and you can plan certain tactics that wouldn't be possible with an AI partner. The AI is not bad... as long as you're playing on normal difficulty level. The AI-controlled Sheva knows how to take down certain bosses, and serves as a nice guide for getting through the game. However, the partner system is actually a step down from RE Zero because you can't tell her what weapon to use. Unless she's out of ammo, she'll use the handgun all the time in "Cover" mode. You can choose to switch her to "Attack" mode, but then she'll switch to her most powerful weapon and waste good ammo, and even worse she will stand in harm's way and get herself killed. It would have been nice if there were a third AI setting that was more balanced. Instead, you'll have to micromanage her inventory in order to force her to use the weapon you want her to use, and take away her extra ammo so she doesn't keep wasting it. If you want to play the game on Veteran (hard) or Professional (hardest) difficulty levels, you'd better get a skilled player to help you.

As previously mentioned, you'll be fighting "zombies" (not technically zombies) known as "Majini". For those of you who never played RE4 (why haven't you???), the infected are strong, run, and carry an assortment of melee weapons, throwing weapons, occasionally crossbows, and late in the game some even have machine guns. The infected people don't want to eat you, but the parasites inside them sure want to! And those nasty parasites will pop out of Majini mouths and severed heads to attack you. The "cure" for the infection? Kill them with just about every weapon imaginable. There are also plenty of other experimental creatures that you'll face off against, including things from previous games. Sadly, there aren't any new types of enemies. Everything is based off of something from a previous game, with only little difference from their previous incarnations. The only new things are bosses. While some of the boss fights are great, most of them are not as exciting or well designed as the ones from RE4.

Another major complaint is that lack of puzzles. RE4 was a bit light on the puzzles as well, but RE5 only has one puzzle in the entire game, unless you count figuring out how to fight bosses as puzzles in which case RE5 would have maybe 3 puzzles. Also, the scare-factor is pretty much non-existant. The tagline for this game is "Fear you can't forget", but if there were any really scary parts then I guess I've already forgotten. There are only a handful of tense, creepy moments, but nothing on par with the scares delivered in the older games. Even RE4 was scarier than this!

QUICK REVIEW SCORES AND FINAL COMMENTS:

Story - 8 out of 10: Still no solid information about what has happened to several other RE characters since the Raccoon City outbreak (Billy, Rebecca, Barry, Sherry, Carlos) but at least this game manages to tie up the story arc of Jill, Chris, and Wesker. Only complaint is a bit of cheesy dialogue (not as much as RE4 though, thank goodness!) and poor story telling with regards to some of the minor villains.

Graphics - 9.5 out of 10: Great textures, great animation, realistic character models, awesome explosion effects and fire, quick load times. Only complaint is framerate drops and some dulled down lighting and bump-mapping (compared with the Xbox 360 version).

Audio - 9.0 out of 10: One of the best RE soundtracks, and the voice acting is great

Gameplay - 9.0 out of 10: Mix RE4 with RE Zero, then add a real time inventory and co-op play (offline and online). In single player mode, partner AI leaves a bit to be desired, but is not "broken" by any means. I also would have liked to see a few more puzzles, enemy types, and maybe some new gameplay features (early versions of the game talked about heat hallucinations, missing from the final version). It's an amazing action game but not as good as RE4, and is the least scary out of any RE game.

Value - HIGH: The main game is about 15 hours, and there are some great unlockables as expected for an RE game (The Mercenaries mode, new weapons, Professional difficulty). Just like RE4, you'll want to play this game again and again to try out different sets of weapons, different tactics, and find more treasures.

FINAL SCORE: 9.0 out of 10

Resident Evil 5 does a lot of things right. The action is intense, the graphics are beautiful, and co-op play is very fun. It may not be innovative, but it's certainly a highly refined game that puts just about every other action-adventure game to shame... besides RE4.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 03/20/09

Game Release: Resident Evil 5 (US, 03/13/09)


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