Review by EgHeadFool
"A great game no matter how you slice it"
The hardest thing about writing this review is deciding how to begin. Resident Evil is a huge series which has gone through shifts, remakes, and spin-offs. Due to its long history, you are likely to come across people who favor different games along different points in its progression. So how do you review a game with so much background? My approach has always been to treat it primarily as a stand-alone game. Of course there are times where it makes sense to draw comparisons to previous games in the series, particularly to RE4 due to similarities, but the main concern should be how enjoyable Resident Evil 5 is to play, not whether or not it fits properly into the canon timeline of the franchise or other such quibbles. That being said, here's a breakdown of what I thought about the game.
Controls - 8/10
The controls in RE5 are overall just what you'd want. You can easily bring up the map, locate and command your partner, aim and shoot, all that good stuff. In this respect it's very similar to RE4, and they are controls that do their job. Something new is that you can also easily cycle through four of your items using the four D-pad buttons, meaning that although the inventory opens in real time now, instead of pausing the game, you can usually get by without actually opening up the inventory screen. You can also strafe in RE5, although not in all control schemes. In addition, you can fully adjust the camera to look up and down, and around the character, and the nice thing is when you start running, the camera auto-adjusts back to default so that you can see where you're going. On the subject of control schemes, there are four available in all. I personally think the default controls are pretty terrible, but scheme C works great for me. It's almost like RE4 controls and you can still strafe. Why the controls aren't fully mappable is beyond me, and part of why it gets an 8 in this category. Another minor problem I have is turning. Especially while running, your character turns rather oddly. It feels like there are preset arcs your character can move along, and while you can control the sharpness of the turn to a considerable extent, it sometimes seems like you can't go quite in the direction you want. It takes some getting used to when you want to make sharp turns. Of course if you want to do a 180, there's still a quick-turn command. The only other thing I can complain about in terms of controls is that with an AI partner, if they are holding a temporary item, for instance a flashlight, the "partner" button is used to instruct them to drop the item. Sometimes I'm just trying to call them over, and instead then drop what they're holding.
Story - 7/10
The story in RE5 isn't great, but it isn't complete trash either. If you don't follow the series, you might find it somewhat confusing or empty, and if you do follow the series, you might find it forced and gimmicky. In either case, it ends up boiling down more or less to "we need to find person x and get more information!" Despite everything, however, it keeps the game moving, and it does make sense, which is more than can be said for many story lines. There are still documents and files you can find and read to provide some more insight, tips, or fear, but it's much less a part of the game than in previous installments. Also, the cinematics are quite rewarding. They're always a pleasure to watch (not just because of how pretty they look), and the voice acting is pretty decent.
Graphics - 10/10
If one thing's for sure, the game is beautiful. All the environments are almost life-like, and as many people have commented, the lighting effects in particular are spectacular. The cinematics I mentioned earlier are also eye candy. There is some aliasing present, just to nitpick, making some surfaces (such as Chris' arm) look a bit "jaggy," but it's the kind of thing only people looking for something to complain about would bring up. Many people say graphics don't make a game, but in RE5 they certainly don't hurt it.
Gameplay - 8/10
For the action-oriented style of RE5, the gameplay is great. There are slow and fast paced levels, an abundance of weapons, varying degrees of exploration, and even a number of puzzles, although none of them are very challenging. You occasionally get a break from normal gameplay to participate in interactive action cut-scenes or on-rails segments. The game can be as strategic as you want it to be. Often times areas will contain special items or layouts that you can tactically take advantage of, but you can usually ignore them completely and simply brute-force the enemies with your weapons or explosives of choice. You might think twice about trying that on the harder difficulties, though. Sometimes you have the option of taking cover behind walls or crates, peeking out to shoot, and it usually means there's something worth hiding from. There is also a decent variety of enemies, ranging from your average grunt to twisted and dangerous creatures (not all of which are bosses). Enemies are more evasive than ever, sometimes dodging abruptly or bending in ways that shouldn't be possible when you aim at them. You can also manage your inventory and buy/upgrade weapons or items between levels, or from the game menu before starting a level. If you die, you can make adjustments to your equipment as you see fit before retrying.
My main issue with the gameplay is that it's too formulaic. They shake things up a little, but it can almost be reduced to "fight horde, fight another horde, fight horrendous boss creature." The bosses are probably the best part, because unless you have massive firepower you really do need to strategize and coordinate with your partner, but the "fight horde" part gets old. Not enough to make the game feel totally stale (and the game isn't terribly long anyways), but enough to be annoyed. After a few scenarios where enemies attack by the dozen, invariably supported by crossbow or dynamite wielding nuisances in the back or on platforms, I really do find myself wishing they came up with a more creative way to challenge me, not just "let's throw more guys at him than he can handle!" This partially comes from the complete shift to action. They really committed themselves to it this time around. There were many similar hordes in RE4, but here they've almost completely eliminated suspense, fear, and environment-based hazards. The majority of the game happens in blazing sunlight, and the scariest thing you can encounter is an enemy around the corner that doesn't trigger the "you're being ambushed" music. This actually gets better as the game goes along though. Things get darker and more exciting as things progress. All of these complaints have to be put in perspective, of course. In the overall scheme of things, the game plays very nicely and is very entertaining.
The cooperative nature of the game has to be addressed. Since the game involves two players for the duration of the game, one naturally wants to know how good the game is with or without a partner. Many people say the game is very frustrating with the AI partner, and that at best it makes for a diminished play experience. It is my opinion that there are significant trade-offs in both cases, and that you can have a blast even with a CPU assisting you. I've done well on levels on all difficulties in this manner, and all it takes is getting familiar with how the AI behaves. When something requires you to split up, there is often a choice to go yourself or send your partner, giving you flexibility, and when there is no choice, the partner usually does a decent job. I'd like to present some advantages and disadvantages for human and AI partners, just to give people an idea of what I mean about trade-offs.
Advantages of a CPU partner:
-Doesn't get lost
-You can always call it back and have it at your side whenever you want
-Will give you any item it picks up upon request.
-Won't commit stupid mistakes like running into trip wires
-Always does what it should in order to solve a puzzle
-Is usually an excellent shot
-Can often tip you off to the location of hidden or hard-to-see enemies by aiming towards them
-Sticks to your pace
Disadvantages of a CPU partner:
-Doesn't think independently
-Will not pick up on your advanced strategies much of the time
-May pick up ammo you want and use it to reload before you can request it
-If given herbs, may heal you excessively
-Tends to give certain weapons, such as the handgun, extreme priority even when stronger weaponry is called for
-As far as I can tell, never uses grenades or explosives of any kind
-Sometimes gives distant enemies priority when a nearby one is attacking
Advantages of a human partner:
-Thinks and reacts independently; better judge of priority
-Can plan out advanced strategies, as long as you're on split-screen or have headsets
-Better inventory management
-Can utilize a wider variety of weapons more effectively
Disadvantages of a human partner:
-May get lost
-May run into traps or have bad aim
-Does not necessarily listen to your requests for actions or items
-Makes the game less enthralling if on split screen, and much harder to communicate when playing online if both players don't have headsets
As you can see, there are different reasons for each being useful or frustrating. Especially when playing online, though, in general I don't think the experience is much improved if you can't verbally communicate. The AI has some bad habits, but they can usually be kept in check by constantly calling it and restricting its inventory. There are some instances in which the AI can be very frustrating, though. I've had it get stuck in the line of fire before, trying to take cover by going directly through me instead of around me. It often refuses to come to you when you call it when there is a clear objective that it's going for, such as its insistence on running away from a horde of enemies early in the game. This has even happened on a boss fight, making it very frustrating because if I drop into "dying" status it refuses to come back and revive me. I also had it get stuck on a conveyor belt once. However, these things I've just listed are few and far between, and many don't happen every time. Overall I think the gameplay experience is very rewarding regardless of whether or not your partner is a person or a computer.
Replayability - 9/10
RE5 has a great deal of bonus features once you beat the game. There are unlockable modes, unlockable weapons and useful rewards for the next run, silly things like outfits and camera filters, and collectible figurines. You can also keep your unlocked and upgraded weapons any time you start a new game or replay a stage (you're able to replay any chapter on any difficulty at any time). You can also join another person's game or have a person join your game at any time. All this makes for a lot of replay action. This is good, since the game is pretty short to begin with. My first run, in which I meticulously explored all areas and didn't know what I was doing, lasted about 10 hours. I've since cut that time by more than half. Either way, this game should keep you entertained for quite a while even after initial completion.
Resident Evil 5 is by no means a perfect game, but that doesn't mean it isn't still great. There are some things that could be better, but there are many more things that they got right. Combining the strong gameplay with tons of extra features, solid online play, amazing visuals, and all the rest, RE5 is not a game to pass up.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/30/09, Updated 04/01/09
Game Release: Resident Evil 5 (US, 03/13/09)
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