Review by JMack46

"A letdown following RE4 and Dead Space"

The endless creativity and impeccable design of RE4 made it one of the greatest games ever. In contrast, RE5 provides forgettable characters, insipid dialogue, little originality, and a poorly-implemented buddy system. It's still a fun game and a good purchase, but it's far from what it should have been.

You probably know the game's entire plot by now. An impossibly well-muscled Chris Redfield shows up in a fictual African country looking for bioweapons. He meets up with another agent, Sheva Alomar, who is just as blandly heroic as Chris. Five minutes later, the entire population of that country starts trying to kill them. Chris and Sheva fight for their lives while exchanging lines like "Don't be reckless!" and "I'm not ... gonna ... make it!" They also encounter two of the least interesting throw-away villains in video game history before facing down an ultimate bad guy who recites his plan for world domination to you about a dozen times.

The game has terrific production values but little soul. RE4's plot didn't make much sense, but it was full of memorable, can-you-top-that moments that were actually scary and exciting. It also had brilliant little rewards for players who tried unusual things ("Forgot your makeup?"). RE5 just has waves of enemies rushing you. You kill them, pick up the treasure they drop, break some barrels and pick up their contents, and move on to the next area. Since most of the enemies are transplanted from RE4, the repetitious nature of gameplay can get dangerously close to tedious. On the whole, though, it's a fun ride - you're still blasting shotgun shells into ungodly creatures and upgrading your weapons into unstoppable killing machines. The enjoyable action elements of RE4 are still there.

When RE5 does try something new, the results are mixed. Crocodiles leaping from the water lead to a very silly button-pressing minigame. Enemies with guns do not reposition themselves when you take cover and shoot mindlessly into walls instead. The game often sends the message that it has pushed the envelope of the RE4 design as far as it can go.

The game looks great. The enemies and environments are suitably menacing. There's enough variation in the enemy types so you're not shooting the same maniac in the head ten times over. The African setting is fresh and provides plenty of original locations, although a "lost city" environment feels like it was plucked from Tomb Raider.

The sound is well-executed but there are no surprises. You won't hear anything that puts you on edge, like the unsettling ambient sounds of Dead Space. Just gunfire, the screams of your enemies, and barrels breaking.

It's commonly said that RE5 isn't scary. This is true, but I don't think Capcom tried to make RE5 scary (which makes the "fear you can't forget" tagline misleading). What Capcom should have done, but failed to do, was make RE5 engaging. There's nothing more to the game except the action.

While RE5 gets compared to Dead Space mostly due to RE5's (bad) decision not to allow you to move while shooting or accessing inventory, a bigger difference between the two games is the latter's emphasis on plot and atmosphere. Dead Space is crammed with intelligently-written dialogue and documents. It instills interest in its characters, surprise at plot developments, and a real feeling of suspense and dread. RE5 does none of those things. Which, considering its potential and the greatness of RE4, is just a shame.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 03/25/09

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

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