Review by imaybe

"Great For All The Wrong Reasons"

Introduction

If you don't want to read my personal account of all the build-up to this game, feel free to skip ahead to the actual main review portion. However, everything I state here will tie in directly to the review itself.

Ah, Resident Evil.

The mention of the series alone will bring quite a bit of memories—pleasantly nostalgic for some, not-so-pleasant for others—flooding back. It's the kind of series that has built an incredibly solid and loyal fanbase through the years; especially last-gen with the terrific Resident Evil 4, welcoming many newcomers, and delighting the more open-minded Resident Evil devouts like myself.

Resident Evil 4 was a huge step from the rest of the series. Not only did it feature a story that refreshingly strayed away from the main focus of the Resident Evil plot, but it completely revitalized the gameplay. The classic Survival Horror fixed camera angles were scrapped and replaced with a third person, over-the-shoulder, tank control scheme. Gone were the days of a “hope-you-hit-the-target” style auto-aim. Gone were the “classic” controls. Gone was Resident Evil as we knew it.

After playing RE4 to the point where I knew where every enemy would pop out from, what most of the dialogue was, and to where I could breeze through the game with my fully-upgraded guns a-blazing, I was completely ecstatic when a fifth installment was announced. Certainly they would make this one a true horror game again, right? After all, good horror games are a dying breed. RE4 was a horror game, when it came down to it, after all; so it would make sense that Capcom's own Devil May Cry would take care of the over-the-top action, and leave the scares to RE5. Right? I could only hope.

Fast-forward a couple years. RE4 was released in a definitive version for the Wii. The first RE was released on the DS. RE: Umbrella Chronicles was released for the Wii as well. But, yet, no sign of RE5 being released soon. We knew it would take place in Africa. We knew the protagonist was none other than Chris Redfield from RE1. All of this was met with excitement from most RE fans.

Now, Umbrella Chronicles was a game that was a bit eccentric: The first 3 Resident Evil games adapted to a rails shooter, focusing on the main backstory of reoccurring villain Albert Wesker. It was a alright game; what was worrisome was how the game altered the storyline of Resident Evil to emphasize Wesker's involvement with everything; and his “power,” which was always implied, but never really demonstrated. It (as well as RE1:DS) also gave us the option of Co-op gameplay. Sadly, this was to pave way for the development of RE5. All the ideas from UC seem like a prototype for the layout, story, and action direction RE5 would continue to take.

The first trailers featuring new ally Sheva Alomar and Co-op gameplay were met with mixed reactions. Resident Evil fans felt as if it was too much of a step into the action genre. Many thought it would be great; but they were the same people who prefer typical shooters to horror, or even less mainstream shooters. I, for one, was pretty turned off by Co-op gameplay; but I figured that if I could play it with my friends, it wouldn't be so bad. I was horrified that the AI would be God-awful, like many other testosterone-heavy squad-based shooter games. I was horrified that one of my favorite series was committing a slow and painful suicide; starting with a horrible lash out against their own fans.

RE5 continued to release trailers that continually challenged my hopes for the game. I wanted to be optimistic, but Co-op Resident Evil? No zombies again? It was getting ridiculous. The game was touted as racist because of taking place in Africa (something that I thought was stupid—of course you're going to be fighting infected Africans when you're IN AFRICA). The trailers gave away most of the bosses to the point where if you've seen any more than two of the trailers, you will actually know what boss you're going to face just because of the location. Wesker was back: A terrific “surprise” spoiled months prematurely by the trailers.

The Demo came out, and I downloaded it on the first day. I played it a few times…and hated it. I hated the co-op; how my partner would idiotically run into the biggest enemy in sight and get brutally crushed by a giant axe. I hated how it felt as if they forced it to be like Resident Evil — giving you absurdly low ammo in a Demo that absolutely required you to have it. I wasn't bad at it, by any means, but playing it felt clunky and frustrating after playing it right after the gaming Nirvana that was Metal Gear Solid 4. Needless to say, my hopes for the game plummeted. March 13th came, and I didn't get it on release like I vowed I would years earlier.

But, being the RE fan I am, I eventually gave in, and decided to buy it out of pure loyalty to the series. NOW. Onto the review. Keep in mind that this is the review of someone who was very reluctant to like this game. But needless to say, I was pleasantly blown away. Now, onto the review.

Graphics – 10/10

The graphics in RE5 are incredible. Despite the fairly boring Main Menu screen that is a carbon copy of the Demo, everything else is tremendously better than most games. The detail in all the characters goes down to them all having noticeably different characteristics down to their teeth. That's right…you can look closely and see the detail in their teeth. Environments are stellar. RE4 had great graphics, pushing that little purple Gamecube-that-could to its max potential and nearly destroying a few PS3s, but this looks far better than even that. Not to mention there is no framerate issues or anything at all.

The game uses a lot of the same motions as RE4 does…Well actually, that's a lie. Nearly all the gameplay animations are the exact same as in RE4. From knife-swinging to the enemy death animations; they're exactly the same. I didn't really mind, because I loved RE4, but it might kind of seem like lazy development…

The main characters look incredible. Chris looks great, albeit a little exaggerated. Wesker looks awesome. Sheva is actually quite the eye-candy. The new characters are both designed particularly good: One is supposed to be a comic relief of sorts, and has just enough gawkiness to pull it off, but just enough menace to keep you wary of him. The other is…well…yet another scantily-clad RE vixen. And in no way am I complaining.

The enemies are pretty much a handful that you see over and over again. Again, I'm not complaining—they all look great. Something that does kinda irk me though is that the Bosses are mostly—without spoiling anything—results of a new virus. However, you'll find most of the bosses looking near-identical to eachother; just bigger and more grotesque as the game progresses.

My main gripe with character design actually goes to quite an important storyline character: You'll know when you see them. For some reason, they look COMPLETELY different from any other RE game, and for some reason, look about 10 times worse. I'm not going to say who it is, due to spoilers, but they look alarmingly bad in an otherwise great-looking game.

Needless to say, this is one of the best-looking titles out there. Period.

Story – 4/10

Resident Evil has never been known for its riveting and profound storyline: It was always a series that let the gameplay do the talking, and let the characters do the corny one-liners. But never in an RE game did I feel robbed of the experience by that. RE4 had a story that was barebones, but it worked. There was a certain minimalist atmosphere to RE4 that a somewhat downplayed story didn't seem to stand out.

The thing is, in RE5, we're introduced to Chris Redfield as he is pondering his “philosophical” questions like “Sometimes I find myself wondering if it's still worth fighting for…” The game tries to make the RE storyline seem as if it was all intertwined so perfectly; ignoring any plotholes, and instead just plowing forward, completely out-of-control. There are so many times in the story, where if you've played the other games, you will find yourself going “What the hell, when did so-and-so ever get like this?” or “Why is so-and-so doing this? They don't even have a motive at ALL.”

Also the whole Partner theme is downright sloppy. It's like they made it a point in EVERY conversation to include “You're my partner…we have to do this,” or “Now that we're partners, we have a lifelong bond forever and ever.”

Please. The story ends up feeling so forced, so cliche, and so genuinely dishonest to the rest of the series that you will find yourself laughing at how bad it is.

Gameplay – 9/10

I hated the idea of Co-op, I really did. I hated how they turned my “RE5” into “Gears of War Goes to Africa! Featuring Chris and Pals!” I really, truly did. But, somewhere during playing it, I found I was fantastically compelled by how good the game was. It certainly wasn't the horrendous storyline that made me want to go further: It was the gameplay.

Co-op, as much as I hate to admit it, is a blast. You can tactically adjust your partner simply by giving them different items. I didn't want Sheva slowing me down in my RE game, so I gave her a whole bunch of herbs and played it like a Single Player game, and she was smart enough to not only follow me, while staying out of trouble, but heal ME as well. A couple times, I thought I was dead, and Sheva came right along and healed me up, leaving me pretty impressed.

The only thing that kind of seemed like it was TRYING to be just another shooter was that near the end of the game, they start giving the infected enemies guns. While this shouldn't be such a problem; it actually kind of is. It forces you to have to use cover, and ends up feeling like every other TPS out there rather than a Resident Evil.

The game is pretty short. As a veteran RE player, it took me 8 hours to beat. The general time for a first playthough seems to be about 8-15 hours. Not only is that shorter than RE4; but I also found it a lot easier. Maybe (this very well could be the case) it's because I played 4 so much, but I found this game to be a cakewalk. My first playthrough I had no deaths at all at the Normal (second of three) difficulties. The game keeps a handy Records section to check pretty much EVERYTHING you've done in the game. The game also doesn't include your partner's deaths as your own , so that in itself is a pretty smart move.

In an odd contrast to RE4, RE5 has plenty of ammo around (unlike 4, where it was completely scarce your first playthrough) and no gold. In RE5, your inventory is restricted to 9 slots. This feels like a homage to old RE which is greatly appreciated. It also keeps things going in real time; so you'll have to heal, and organize everything between you and your partner, with the risk of being attacked while you're doing it. When you start a session, the menu takes you to an inventory screen which is (Hmm! Surprise, surprise!) an updated version of the Umbrella Chronicles inventory screen. Whereas in RE4 you could sell your treasures for upwards of 50k sometimes, in RE5, expect the most prestigious of loot to be worth about 5000 gold. Oh and the upgrades cost about the same amount—around higher levels, starting to be more expensive than most of your treasure's sell values.

All in all, the gameplay is terrifically fun. People have been complaining about the whole having to stop moving to shoot or reload. I—expecting nothing RE-like from this game—was actually very happy that one of my beloved RE aspects made it in. Although, not everyone's like me; and even I'll admit, that in a game that they're trying to make into an action game, why they would take some of the worst action elements from the old REs is beyond me.

Replayablity - 10/10

Oh my God. That is all I have to say.

Not only are there leaderboards for speed-runners, but Mercenaries also makes a return with leaderboards as well. All the weapons have heavy customization; and can be fully upgraded to unlock Infinite Ammo for said weapon. Yup, you heard it right. You can get Infinite Ammo for potentially everything in the game. You also get the option to play as Sheva, you get 3 costume selections, filters that change the screen (for example, Classic Horror Filter turns the screen to a choppy black and white. Very cool effects), as well as a plethora of collectables.

They also added a chapter select (much like the Chapter select in Umbrella Chronicles, or the Mission Select from Devil May Cry 4) where you can instantly play any Chapter on any difficulty, and save your progress. This makes the game more instantly playable than RE4; but also lessens the impact of the powerful, moving story. Oh wait...But, anyways, in a way, with RE5 released, it seems that Devil May Cry 4 and Umbrella Chronicles were both just testing ground for what would become RE5. They both have the budding elements that make up what RE5 eventually came to be.

This game could take you a while. For real. Once you play less for the story and more for the things you still have to do, the game becomes quite daunting. In a great way. I'm about 30% complete with 2 playthroughs and some random chapters done. Definitely a while...

Final Verdict – 8.5/10

I would definitely, and begrudgingly, recommend this game to any PS3 or 360 owner. While it isn't as masterful or atmospheric as RE4, as “scary” as RE2, as suspensefully intense as RE3 or as Resident Evil as Resident Evil games are supposed to be, it's inarguably a great game. Especially once you beat it once, and can skip anything to do with the story. Yes, it's a good game. It's just not a Resident Evil game.

A worthy sequel? No. As of the end of RE5, the story of Resident Evil is in shambles, and leaves room only to tread on the same dull clichés all over again. It's funny, and painful, how the more RE alienates its original fanbase, the more popular it's becoming. I still consider it a disappointment in my eyes. But, that being said, RE5 is the greatest disappointment you'll ever play. And knock it all I want, I'm still playing it.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 04/14/09

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


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