"Capcom, please stop ruining all of your good series. We're begging you."

We get it. You're good at running things into the ground. Stop reminding us. Street Fighter 4 has become an abomination, your oversaturation of Mega Man means he hasn't had a relevant game in over a decade, you tried your damndest to ruin the Devil May Cry series by firing the original director over nothing (literally, nothing), Marvel vs Capcom 3 is nothing more than a cash grab and now you're repeating the entire pattern with Resident Evil 5. 4 was a masterpiece, so Capcom not getting out of its own way and rendering the sequel a gimmicky pile was the lock of the forever. Gamers should be used to this given most of them are good at pattern recognition, yet somehow Capcom themselves haven't learned anything. One last verse is still the same old song.

RE5 takes place in Africa. Chris Redfield of the BSAA is sent in to investigate the latest area bio-organic weapons -- a euphemistic way of saying "Viruses that turn people into zombies and kill whatever moves" -- have surfaced, a staple of any Resident Evil storyline. Upon arrival, you're introduced to the biggest reason RE5 is bad: Sheva Alomar. She's your partner for the entire game whether you want her to be or not, but more on this later. Chris and Sheva's mission in a nutshell is helping infiltrate the location and rid it of the viruses plaguing the populace. And by standard issue, most of their help gets killed, a few plot twists pop up, and an old RE villain makes his most important appearance yet. It's an acceptable enough story, existing only to get you to where and how to play the game next, and to tell you who needs some shotgun blasts in the face. It's not the deepest story out there, but action games are never made for storylines anyway.

The issue RE5's story faces, and this is a theme that repeats itself all over the game, is that it's lost its fun compared to games of the past. We're used to heroes and characters and quotes in action games so over-the-top ridiculous that we can't help but laugh along with them. RE5 has lost this. Oh it has its moments, like Chris Redfield being built like a refrigerator with biceps that would make Hulk Hogan jealous, but overall it just feels like the game takes itself too seriously. There aren't enough "Your right hand comes off?" and "Jill sandwich" moments, outside of a few characters yelling a name at the top of their lungs. Gone is the merchant, and instead we get an in-game store that exists just to exist. No rhyme or reason to it.

But this is all chump change compared to how bad RE5's gameplay is. The game throws a partner at you and she's there for the entire game, no matter what. This of course leads to the entire game being based around co-op gameplay, which means there isn't really a single player option and RE5 suffers badly from this design. The idea is that you don't have to face fear alone -- quite the contradictory message given RE is a survival horror series selling itself on the fear of being alone and not knowing what's next, mind -- and you can play with either a friend in person, a friend online or even a computer-controlled ally. The obvious problem here is that two people playing means each player can only have half the potential fun a game can offer. Co-op in any game boils down to three things: You watch someone else do most of the work, you do most of the work and drag along some slug until they themselves can lead a team, or you get two people of even skill level playing the game somewhat evenly. The latter works in theory, but in practice it's nearly impossible. Even if you get the hypothetical perfect duo that plays the exact same way with the exact same skill level, you run into the problem of each player having different pacing, divvying up weapons and work load depending on what enemies show up and so on. Even the best possible co-op will never be better than basic single player, and multiplayer is best left to versus modes. Sizing up an enemy only to watch someone else kill it is not fun and never will be. Having to communicate who does what so both players have equal fun will never be as easy as just doing everything yourself. This has been a near-indisputable fact in gaming for years and years, but companies continue banging their head on a brick wall hoping it'll one day break. The recent focus on co-op gameplay in games is a huge reason for most recent games being ass. It's not a coincidence.

And this is just if you play with another human being. Resident Evil 5 has the unique distinction of playing horribly no matter how you go through. If you do decide to try it solo with an AI Sheva, good luck. She's scarier than any enemy in the entire game, which should be legitimately impossible given how freaky some of the enemies are. But regardless, your AI partner should not be a bigger threat than the enemies in a survival horror game. Get ready for her to steal all the fun, use all the healing items, and in several ways be way too good. Maybe this was Capcom's goal all along: replacing the need for humans to actually play games. If this was their endgame, they did an ingenius job of it. You can bet your ass Sheva will waste ammo, waste healing items, grab most any item on the field she can, hand you items you don't need or want, never use the correct weapon, make as many dumb choices as possible regarding which enemies to avoid or not, and more. Not to mention dying a LOT.

She will also manage to trap you against walls at the most inopportune times, leading to much damage at the hands of powerful enemies. She will follow you around like a puppy when you least want her to, and you can bet this will lead her to stand right in the way when you try to use the scope on a sniper rifle or rocket launcher. You can't actually shoot her with these items, but you'll wish you could. And worst of all, because of her being in the game with you the whole way through you can bet Capcom could not resist putting in one dumb co-op gimmick after another. Co-op puzzles and doors and broken ladders are one thing, but nearly the entire game is superfluous co-op nonsense. You can count on one finger the number of bosses that don't have a stupid co-op gimmick in it, which is to say there is one boss that's a basic "kill me before I kill you" affair. One.

Oh and for the bosses and tough enemies that require you and your "partner" (she's actually the MVP of the enemy through this entire game, but we'll assume she's a partner for the sake of argument) to flank the enemy and attack from two sides, you can bet your bottom dollar she'll pull the lost puppy act and follow you around and never actually flank the enemy. Good luck having a partner distract the enemy from behind when she's busy distracting you from behind.

Anyone with common sense would of course ask, "Well if your partner sucks so much, why let her do anything at all? Hog all the weapons for yourself, do everything yourself and just ask for help on puzzles and doors". A good inquiry to be sure, and that would be nice. This is where the god-awful new inventory system comes into play. You aren't given the space to do anything yourself, which is one more way to throw the bad co-op upon us. Unlike the perfect attache case system in Resident Evil 4, in RE5 you get 9 squares and all items take up equal space; that is, one square. So somehow, a rocket launcher takes up equal space to a pistol. Makes sense. Worse yet is this space dwindles down really fast. It's 8 squares if you bother with the Melee Vest or the Bulletproof Vest, 7 if you equip both at once. Yes, these are separate items even though the in-game description says you can equip both at once.

Between you and your partner, that's 18 total squares to manage all weapons, ammo, explosives, healing items and so on. It's a complete insult that makes the game as least fun as possible, and there are even oversights thrown in for good measure. Let's assume you have a full inventory, with a gun equipped that's out of ammo. You then find ammo for it. Guess what? You're not picking that ammo up, even though your character could easily load the gun and drop on the ground any leftover bullets to comply with this awful new inventory system. Have fun finding something to discard, and if said discard item is on your partner, have fun exchanging items first. And make sure not to temporarily trade any ammo for a weapon you currently have equipped, because she will of course hand it back before you can pick up the item off the ground.

With how annoying the new inventory system is, one last kick in the nuts comes your way from Capcom's bright idea to have the inventory screen done in real-time. Enemies can and will hit you while you fiddle around in the inventory, so most players will wait until the enemies are gone to bother gathering items. And because of the limited space, you'll have to decide what to leave behind. Make sure you do it quickly, of course, since items not disappearing off the ground while you dabble in the inventory would make sense -- something Capcom has proven they do not have.

The inventory system and Sheva render the entire game very clunky and gimmicky, and in the end it causes RE5 to fail in the most important category of all: Fun. The game is not fun to play, even with a few RE4 elements still thrown in. Hell even if you suffer through it all and unlock Mercenaries and random trophies, it' still not fun, even with the ability to go at Mercs solo. The limited inventory prevents most any fun this game could offer. So in the end, you're left with yet another next-gen game that's all style and no substance. It almost feels like the people designing games these days aren't gamers.

For example, take a wild guess where RE5 actually manages to succeed. Yep, the graphics and music. RE5 actually deserves a lot of credit for its graphics, because for the most part it avoids the recent trend of having all colors be a different shade of brown. But graphics are the least important factor in what makes any game good. How many bad games have to be made, in which the only positives are graphics and music, before people realize that most such games are awful? Most modern games are built around graphics, and most of them are awful. Most older games were built around gameplay, and for the most part those games were fun to play. This is common sense stuff that modern game developers have yet to figure out for whatever reason, and RE5 gets to be another high-end, low-fun game in the fast-growing pile.


Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 09/21/11, Updated 09/22/11

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


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