Review by Exodist

"Stick with the old gameplay of RE4, add in a few arguably 'broken' mechanics and we have Resi 5."

Although I haven't reviewed it, Resident Evil 4 is quite simply one of the best games ever made. For its time, its incredible graphics and exciting, tense combat marked a change in the action genre. Mainly complained it wasn't Resident Evil, however this didn't bother me. Resident Evil was getting old; it needed a change, RE4 provided that change and it was an excellent game. Fast forward to Resident Evil 5. It sticks with what RE4 established, but I can't help but now feel this is to the games disadvantage.

Let's start with the story. Whilst RE4 was considered more of a 'spin-off' in terms of story, Resident Evil 5 picks up from Code Veronica... sort of. Our main character here is Chris Redfield, star of Resident Evil and later Code Veronica, packing some disgusting new arms and a rather fetching partner, Sheva Alomar, created just for this game. Apparently Capcom have tapped into the whole terrorism theme, and suddenly we're fighting terrorists in Africa. At any rate, Chris and Sheva, part of the BSAA (some organisation I dunno, seems like they fight terrorist B.O.W.s and the like) are after a man named Irving, a rather silly antagonist who unfortunately can't match Salazar, an antagonist of Resident Evil 4. Let's not mince words though, we all know who the real bad guy of Resident Evil 5 is, and whilst I won't say it here, its one of the more painfully obvious plot twists, or maybe they were shown in a trailer, I don't remember. At any rate, we're in Africa, we're after terrorists, the Las Plagas from Resi 4 is here (stolen by Ada under command of Wesker... whoops), Umbrella has been shut down and we have a new shady company called Tricell. Resi 5 actually adds a lot of new elements to the story, providing a rather detailed back-story to characters and Umbrella, also giving us a lot of old characters to reminisce with. That said, Resi 5 doesn't really have a great story. Its plot twists are brutally obvious from the get go, nothing surprises you about it or the events during the game, and the dialogue is just cheesy. And when the hell did Chris' arms expand like that?

Now, the gameplay. Well, if you've played Resi 4, it's the same. You play as Chris using an over-the-shoulder camera view; you run around, see an enemy, aim your weapon assisted with a red-laser sight, get rooted on the spot and shoot some enemies. Collect some items, advance through areas, solve puzzles every once in a while. Actually, scratch that, Resi 5 has, from memory, one puzzle in it. And it was easy. Turning a few pillars to direct a light beam? Give me a break, and I definitely don't consider collecting items to open a door a puzzle. Resi 5 isn't even vaguely a survival horror game, and whilst I don't fault it for that personally, I should warn you for those expecting something more. Typewriters are gone, the merchant, whilst not a staple of the Resi series, is gone, and there is a gun turret section. Yep, the moment I got to the level where I was riding on the back of Jeep, firing a turret into hoards of Motorbike assailants was when I finally decided Resident Evil 5 is an all out action game. It could have been done though, look at Dead Space. That had action akin to Resi 5, and whilst it wasn't scary, it had a great tense atmosphere and it felt like what Resi 5 should have felt like. Resident Evil 5 should have had something in common with its family, Resi 4 has a few elements so that's more like a step brother. Resi 5? An outcast. It copies Resi 4, rather successfully, plays basically the same, and simply faults for it, choosing its own path, that of the senseless action genre. There's no need to go into much depth on how it works, play Resi 4 and you'll see how.

First, let's detail what's new to Resident Evil 5. Granted, there isn't much, but its a rather interesting addition. Sheva Alomar. We had a coop partner in Resident Evil 0, although I don't remember that much about it, Resident Evil 5 has also adopted this idea, to tap into the current market of co-operative play which is rather popular these days. No matter whether you're playing solo, or with a friend, Sheva is always with you, fighting with you, healing, hogging up your ammo and, well, just being a bit dumb. I have absolutely no qualms with the inclusion of such a character, Resi 5 is now an all-out action game so the atmosphere of being alone and isolated doesn't apply here. The main problems stem from Sheva herself. At times, Sheva has perfectly functional AI, she can fight, she can heal you, and she'll collect items, all based upon two, yes, two, command choices: Attack and Cover. I found myself just using Cover for the whole game, whenever I put her into attack mode she just ran around picking up all the items in the vicinity rather than actually fighting. And Cover? Well, she just does the same thing, minus the item hoarding. Sheva however is, under your control for the majority of aspects.

You can completely decide what she has in her inventory, and boy if you want an item off her, you better believe she'll hand it over straight away. She just doesn't use the items sensibly. Give her a hand gun, and she will use that gun until its out of ammo, only then switching to the better weapons. Give her a herb and she'll always irresponsibly use it, especially when all you needed was for her to store it whilst you freed up some space and found a another green/red herb. I also found that Sheva's AI apparently varies on what difficulty you're playing on. My first playthrough on Veteran wasn't too bad, she got in my way a lot and wasted a lot of ammo, so I adopted the strategy of hogging everything my self; she ran around with a stun rod for most of the game. Play with her on Pro difficulty and its suicide. She never heals you on time (and with 1 shot before you're in dying mode this is a big problem) and she just stands there rarely fighting. It's almost as if Capcom have purposely made her AI worse just for the harder difficulties. That said, with Sheva you can also play co-op with a friend, split screen or on Xbox Live. It's nothing special, it is fun and its a better experience than solo play, but there are plenty of better games suited for co-op play. To summarise Sheva, she isn't a bad idea, just poorly implemented. The game itself does use her wisely, however her AI, on harder difficulties can really get in the way, especially when it feels like you're getting game over unfairly, however play with a mate on co-op and it works like a charm.

The only new thing I can think about is the new inventory system. Its sort of clever, but it also brings a lot of exploits. You see, it works both in game and out. What I mean is, you can access your inventory and like whilst not actually in the game. You can only have one save per gamertag now, but its all one big save, start a chapter and it just saves from there (yeah, you can select what chapter you want to play on and the like). This system also means you have one big inventory. When you select "Play Game" from the menu, you can access your inventory system. Here, your previously saved inventory is shown on both of your characters, here you can prepare it by removing or adding items, combing them, selling stuff and upgrading your weapons (to upgrade is to merely buy into a few different categories, they're the usual suspects). All other items, any removed and the like, is stored in a big box, along with any treasures you find, which can only be sold now, not combined. It works sort of well actually, I like being able to prepare myself before heading into the fray, and its rather easy to use.

That is, until you get into the game. Here, inventory is real time, and you carry just nine items. The four main 'directions', i.e., up down left and right are all assigned to the D-Pad as shortcuts; this is where you'll want to play your weapons. Ammo also takes up a slot, and can be held in stacks, for example, 50 handgun bullets take up one slot, anymore will require a further slot. Herbs also take up one slot each, yet grenades can be stacked in groups of 5, and considering herbs are now little vials, it seems rather illogical (I'm not criticising the game for being illogical, just that it would have helped clear space up if I could carry 5 herbs in one). You can forget storing items on Sheva too, she'll just end up using them herself (that said, you have nothing to worry on a harder difficulty, she does nothing). The inventory in game being real-time isn't much a problem fortunately, the shortcuts are sufficient enough but healing yourself is a major problem. Probably my biggest complaint with the inventory system is something that was actually in Resi 4 and seems to have gotten lost along the way. When your inventory is full, that's it. You can tell Sheva to pick up the item, but what if she is full? Okay, so imagine this: you have a green herb and you're desperate for health, you find a red herb. Disaster strikes though, both of you are full on inventory, and its all complete stacks of ammo and weapons. What do you do? Well, in Resi 4 you merely temporarily picked the red herb to combine with the green, no need for an extra inventory slot. You can't do that though, instead the game expects you to either miss out, or drop an item, and from the looks of it, a black hole that only sucks up dropped items is underneath your feet since it'll be gone forever when you drop it. The system is also highly exploitable with the option to save and not save your inventory, you can easily replay through a checkpoint where plenty of supplies are given, then restart and collect the items a second time, keeping the ones you collected previously, and we of course have the 'Egg Glitch'. I guess it depends on the type of gamer you are, they can easily be avoided but personally I used both, it made one achievement bearable and certainly helped me beat Veteran that first time round.

So there we have possibly the two main new features of the game from memory, both with their pros and cons. So what, Resi 4 is an excellent game, and Resi 5 is essentially the same, yet only gets a 7? This is the problem though, times have changed. Back when it was released, Resi 4 raised the bar, but since then better shooters have came out, Gears of War being a prime example. Resident Evil 5 just feels too old. No move and shoot? Well, that's debateable, a few parts of the game would have been easier to play with move and shoot, but it didn't bother me too much. Don't use the "it's like old Resi" argument either; nothing else is so it doesn't work that way. Personally I don't seem why you couldn't move whilst aiming, but have to stand still whilst actually shooting, it would have made manoeuvring around enemies easier, and doesn't look so stupid when you have to run a mile, turn around, shoot, run past the enemy a mile and repeat. That aside, it just feels old and like we've done it before. A lot of set-pieces, and even bosses, are ripped from Resi 4 and even other games, who else noticed a striking resemblance between a certain weapon in GoW and a boss weapon in Resi 5? Whilst the game feels old and has controls to reflect this - Chris may have big, fat disgusting muscles now and for this he has to move like a lumbering brute - design is also another problem. Explosive barrels? Check. Vehicle sections complete with turrets? Check. Some scenarios either copied or repeated through the game? Check.

Probably one of the main things I remember from Resi 4 was its impressive boss fights. Here they're not so impressive. Sure, the creatures are sometimes grand on scale, but everything here seems to be suffering from Lost Planet syndrome: the bosses can't help but display their weak spots. Each boss is fairly simple; all can either be defeated through basic step-by-step procedures, mostly involving, as just said, big fat red spots to denote a weak spot, or with a simple shot from a Rocket Launcher, the quicker and more fun method. The boss fights are by no means rubbish, but they don't seem as impressive as they were in Resi 4, and recycled bosses don't help either. Come to think of it, Resi 5 also lacks a lot of those killer set-pieces Resi 4 had so many of. The house attack, the tiny lift in the castle, oven man (sorry, that's not really a 'set-piece' but I'll always remember it), where are these in Resi 5? Nothing is new, heck; even the start of the game is basically the same. To be honest though, it's never crap, it simply lacks originality, and if you've played Resi 4 before, you'll certainly see the connections. Before I write off every boss fight being rubbish, the boss for chapter 5-3 was fairly original, but not great either. The final fights are interesting to say the least, but it doesn't make up for the rest of the game.

Resi 5 is roughly half the length of Resi 4. It took me 12 hours to beat Resi 5 on veteran for my first playthrough, however on subsequent playthroughs it took me just a few hours. It's unfair to say from my own experience, but I know that the average length for normal difficulty is around 8-10 hours; where as Resi 4 boasted a 20 hour single player experience. That said, there is plenty to come back to, right? Well, that depends. I'm a bit of an achievement whore, so I came back to the game for extra playthroughs since the game isn't exactly dire, but subsequent playthroughs were a chore. The single player is heavily scripted and I knew everything that was going to happen, there were no shock moments, and I actually dreaded to do bits again since they were just un-enjoyable the first time round. Resi 5 also sees the return of Mercenaries mode, something I got a little addicted to in Resi 4. This time? I've played it around 3 times, and I just couldn't be bothered. I can't say why since it's basically the same thing, but this time Mercs just didn't appeal to me, so that has been thrown out the window. There is a versus mode also available for a 400MP, I have got this but I've barely played it, so I won't be reviewing it.

Now for something genuinely impressive: the graphics. I played this game in both Standard and High definition, and it was a treat for the eyes in both. HD is much better, but I had no problems with text and the like playing in SD. That said, playing split-screen co-op on my HDTV did cause a few problems, but nothing major. Environments are varied and detailed fairly well, and characters look great, but there is one thing I can't get over. Chris' arms, they're just ugly and disproportionate, they're not a favourite of mine. Voice acting was alright, it was hampered a little by the dialogue but it was fine, and the music, as with Resi 4, provided a fairly frantic and tense soundtrack fitting with the game.

After playing Resi 5, I can't help but feel a little disappointed. A lot of features promised and seen in early trailers are missing. Where are my 20 plus enemies? What about the heat? It seems that half-way through development they scrapped it all and just decided to make an all-out action game, and ultimately that's what it is. It simply can't compete against the likes of Gears of War, whilst hated by a lot; provide some great set-pieces and great online modes to boot. It's all down to preference and how you look at it. If Resi 5 was released in place of Resi 5, then I would give it a review. However after all these years, to get Resi 5 with its disappointing set-pieces, its so-so additions and the cuts from what we saw, it all feels a little underwhelming. It's a good game and its worth playing, just don't expect it to be anywhere near the level of Resident Evil 4.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 05/04/09

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

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