Review by BadFortuneAndre

Reviewed: 03/30/09

An overall excellent experience, just play with a friend

Review: Resident Evil 5 (PS3)
By BadFortuneAndre

The Resident Evil series has come a long way since the Spencer Mansion. Gone are the fixed camera angles and tank turning controls. Gone are the poor aiming mechanics and pre-rendered backgrounds. Resident Evil 4 was a huge step for the series in that it not only modernized the basic ideas of the franchise, but it also established a golden standard for 3rd person shooters. So, how does the latest iteration stand up? Read on.

Graphics and Presentation:
Resident Evil 5 looks amazing. The presentation is solid, offering a variety of different locales ranging from marshlands to African slums, caves and ancient ruins, and of course, industrial settings and secret research facilities. The level of detail in these environments is outstanding, and the graphics contribute to this enormously. The visuals are sharp and crisp, and the colors are strong. There is some screen tearing here and there, but honestly I didn’t notice it unless I was looking for it. The interface is minimal and if you played RE4, you’ve pretty much seen it before. I did like the fact that I could hide and show my minimap with the press of a button. One slight disappointment is the frequent loading times, especially near the beginning of the game.

To be honest, I was never a big fan of the soundtracks in the RE series. But seeing as how it was a horror series, the minimalist music was acceptable. Considering that RE5 is somewhat of an action movie, the music has been pumped up to fit this new vision. I particularly enjoyed the soundtrack during the final chapter of the game, leading up to the final boss. The voice acting is fine, there’s nothing unintentionally bad. There is a bit of campy dialog, especially from certain campy characters (more on this in a moment), but nowhere near as much as in RE4. I was actually kind of disappointed by this fact; I was definitely hoping for more one-liners. RE5’s sound really shines in the form of sound effects. All of the guns sound amazing, even the similar handguns all have a different sound when firing. Also, the creatures and monsters in the game sound great. You probably won’t even notice the soundtrack until the last chapter, you’ll be too blown away by the sound of your own guns and the creatures you’re shooting at.

Longtime fans of the series will definitely be more satisfied with RE5 than they were with RE4 when it comes to story. The game covers many elements and characters from the previous games, and it also wraps up many loose ends. I actually prefer Leon to Chris, but other than that the story stands up pretty well. You will learn a lot about the origins of Umbrella and how the T-virus came to be during the last half of the game, which is actually really interesting. Like I said earlier, even the fun campy moments return. Instead of Salazar, this time we get Irving. He’s just as entertaining, yet sadly he just isn’t in the game very much. I only wish the game spent as much time with him as RE4 did with Salazar. The cutscenes are excellent, and the Hollywood-esque production quality really shows. All the cutscenes were motion-capped and feature some of the best facial animation I’ve seen to date. The editing of the cutscenes really makes the game feel like a summer action/horror movie. Also, you don’t have to be a fan of the series to appreciate the story. It’s fairly self-contained, and you can enjoy it for what it is. Though most of the background files you can read rely upon heavy use of RE trivia.

Alright, how should I put this…have you played RE4? Yes? Well, you’ve played RE5. The game does virtually nothing new since its groundbreaking predecessor. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing! The basic mechanics of exploring, collecting treasure to upgrade weapons, and killing a lot (a –whole- lot) of crazy people are firmly in place. And seeing as it’s been a while since RE4 came out, the formula is still fun. It’s as tense as ever and there are many moments where you will hold your breath while surviving by a thin margin. Simply said, the game (like RE4) is just a blast to sit down and play.

But what of this new partner feature? Well, if you have a real life partner, it is amazing. Playing split screen with another buddy on your couch may very well be the best local coop experience in quite a long time. Managing items with your partner, picking roles (who will snipe, charge, etc), learning the encounters and boss fights, and searching for the proverbial higher ground is all extremely satisfying. Online coop is also present, though it is not as deep. When online, you are not allowed to trade actual weapons back and forth, likely to prevent cheating. However, it is still quite a bit of fun. But, what if you want to just play on your own? Here’s where things start to fall apart. Simply put, the single player partner AI is –awful-. Your partner (be it Sheva or Chris) will immediately use any healing items for the slightest wound, rather than save for dire situations. They will also fire off all ammo they own like it’s going out of style. This will often be done while standing behind you, meaning the bullets hit you and don’t make it to any possible target (though it won’t hurt you, at least). The AI cannot mix herbs efficiently. I mean, does anyone actually mix two green herbs? Because the AI does! What it comes down to is the AI partner becomes a sort of pack mule for extra ammunition. Is it annoying? Yes. Is it game-breaking? No. I did a speed run of Professional difficulty with the partner AI and managed to not throw my controller. So it’s bearable, but the game is a wildly different experience if you are playing with a real life partner. It’s not just wildly different, it’s ten-fold better.

Lasting Appeal:
This has to be one of RE5’s strongest elements. The game has a ton of replayability. Each competed chapter will earn you “exchange points” which are used to purchase alternate costumes for Chris and Sheva, action figures (similar to the bottle caps from RE4), various screen filters, and most importantly, infinite ammo for any gun that you have completely upgraded. Beating the game on Veteran difficulty will unlock Professional difficulty, a mode that pretty much kills you if you get hit once. Last, but certainly not least, is Mercenaries mode. You may remember this from previous RE titles. It is an extremely challenging battle for survival in a set map for a set amount of time. It’s incredibly fun, stressful, and rewarding.

Resident Evil 5 is just an all-around great package. You’ll get the story and cutscenes of a summer action flick, very impressive HD visuals and excellent sound (especially if you have a surround sound setup), some very intense and rewarding gameplay, the best coop experience in a long time, loads of unlockable features, one of the most stressful arcade modes in history, and if you’re a longtime RE fan, answers to many longtime questions about the story of the series. You’ll have to put up with a somewhat tedious inventory system and (if you play all alone) some often-irritating partner AI, but in the end Resident Evil 5 is well worth the price tag.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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

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