Review: Resident Evil 5
Five < Four.
As far as gaming opinions go, there are few universal truths. You think Bioshock is good? Someone else (me actually) thinks it’s bollocks. You think Jumper is dogshit? Some kid out there loves it (although he’ll end up on some sort of register when he grows up). Think Shaun White Snowboarding is the spackiest piece of cock fodder ever? Someone out there will still pay forty quid and keep it forever. It’s all about opinions, see? Although if you don’t like Killzone 2 I’d consider keeping that under your hat or at least going in to hiding before they get you.
But there are some things that stand as absolute truisms and one is that Resident Evil 4 was fantastic. Sure, there were dissenters (‘mewl… there’s no strafing’… ‘bwah.. I don’t like the bosses’… ‘hurggghh.. it’s not like Resi 3’ – repeat until bored or savaged) but those people were wrong. Their opinions are out of whack with appropriate human response. Resi 4 was a masterpiece. Exciting and innovative but also had replayability in spades. Resi 4 was the shit.
It’s been four long years since Leon Kennedy’s Spanish adventure and if you, like me, expected Resi 4 to set the bar for the next four years you’d be wrong. Dead Space, Dark Sector, Alone In The Dark and many others came and went but nothing came close to that feeling that playing Resi 4 first gave you and so it’s up to Capcom to show everyone how it’s done with Resident Evil 5, a game so hotly anticipated that we at PEOWW had to give up wearing pants somewhere back in 2007.
Well it’s here now and it’s not as good as Resident Evil 4. Predictable I know. It would be more than a little crushing if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s still a very good game and, well, we’re used to disappointing sequels given the year we’ve had (Far Cry 2, Mercs 2 and GTA4 all failed to improve on their predecessors). From this point on the review is going to be series of reasons why Resi 5 falls short followed by a few reasons why you should still buy it anyway.
Cast your minds back to Resi 4. Try to pick out some of the key scenes in your head. Off the top of mine right now I remember running around that first village being chased through doors and windows and pushing ladders off of roof tops to buy precious seconds with which to arm myself for the next chainsaw onslaught. Then there was the stream that opened up into that lake with that boss. The big Ganado siege in the cabin (one of the best set-pieces from any game ever). The boss fight in the burning house. The castle (especially the sniper-tastic exterior). The maze garden with the Thing-esque dogs. It sort of all tailed off a little when you got to the military base but even that was still full of some phenomenal gameplay.
In three months time I’ll struggle to remember anything about Resi 5. It’s in Africa and, much like Far Cry 2’s African setting, it’s all a bit empty and nothingy. Some token cave scenes, a reasonably diverting boat section and a dull Tomb Raider-esque part are all I remember now. Even more disappointingly none of it scared me either. We’ve seen it all before now. The baddies have gone from ‘The Thing’ to ‘Blade II’ and the bosses, one of Resi 4’s strongest elements ,are now just non-descript bio-messes with the now-standard spikey bits coming out of fleshy bits type scares. Sigh.
Resi 4’s Tetris-tastic inventory system is now replaced by a fairly limiting nine-item box, although you can now store items in a space that can only be accessed between levels or, curiously, when you die. Eeking out that last unit of storage was oddly satisfying in Resi 4 and I can’t help missing it here. Also the treasures have been simplified now and can no longer be combined for added value. Still, that does allow you the freedom to sell up right away and add more ammo capacity and power to your weapons.
The weapons themselves lack the heft of the previous game and feel a little weak, particularly during the Majini-filled opening levels of the game. Headshots feel a little less ‘poppy’ and impacts generate less recoil. This also extends to the melee attacks that work in the same way as before but lack the brutal punchiness of Leon’s moves. It still makes for some decent combat but just isn’t as satisfying. That said, firefights are still enjoyably epic and because you have to stop walking when you aim and fire, if you hate run and gun shooters this is the game for you. Some will complain but the system works and standing your ground and picking off headshots against a gang of infected bastards when all you’ve got is a pistol and five bullets still feels exhilirating.
Much like Red Alert 3, Resi 5 forces you to play the whole game in co-op (AI, offline or online). AI co-op initially sounds like a nightmare and if you’re expecting her to just obey commands and play out like the excellent Freedom Fighters or GRAW then you’ll be disappointed. Instead think of her as an inventory mule who occasionally shoots things and often (in my case) saves your arse when you’re about to die and you’ll get on just fine. In fact, I’ve found Sheva’s presence quite comforting and am only reduced to frustration when she pisses about during a boss battle instead of following her own advice and flanking the enemy.
Ahh Resi 5 where to start this mammoth task I wonder? Okay let’s cover the bullet points: Is it as good as Resi 4? No, but then again what is, especially in this generation’s seemingly endless cycle of diminishing returns when it comes to long running franchises. Does the whole co-op system work? Mostly, yes Sheva’s AI will sometimes let you down in a boss fight or during the later stages where using cover (yes they’ve shoehorned in a basic cover system to appease those whiney Gears of War playing bitches) but playing with a friend on or offline will help these problems leaving you to lament the loss of the suitcase inventory system or all the other things Capcom have taken out like interesting characters, locations, bosses and music.
Is it scary? Not in the slightest, which given that even Resi 4 managed to gave us the regenerators is a real slap in the face. You can’t help but notice how the whole game is not only lacking frights but atmosphere in general making it feel lifeless (no pun intended) and stale when not only compared to Resi 4 but the whole of the survival horror genre it spawned to begin with. It’s not a lemon by any means nor is it a worthy successor to Resi 4. The whole game stinks of compromise whether it’s subtractions to streamline the co-op play or pointless additions to pad out the games length and need to grind the chapters for money to pay for weapon upgrades and other unlockables.
Almost every core aspect from the controls up have been changed and in doing so Capcom have spoiled what could have been another instant classic. I can’t help but think that if they had just focused on what really worked before rather than altering what was a perfect system they’d have not only a better game but a firm foundation for even more action-horror games rather than taking this detour up a co-op dead-end alley.
All the moaning aside it still plays well and is great fun in single and co-op play. Just don’t expect it to burn itself into your soul like Resi 4 did.
Secondary Score: 8/10
Sheva’s boots can also be filled by a human player either via split-screen (no!) or online co-op which works fantastically well even if the game doesn’t really feel that suited to co-operative play. I recommend soloing the game on ‘Normal’ difficulty and then teaming up for the higher difficulties if you want the full Resi 5 experience (save ‘Amateur’ difficulty for the sub-five hour speed run which will net you infinite rocket launcher ammo).
Your first playthrough should last less than twelve hours, disappointingly short compared to Resi 4, and Capcom are clearly encouraging a few playthroughs, especially if you are hunting all the achievements in the game. Unfortunately, one playthrough should be enough for you to unlock infinite magnum ammo which will make you more or less invincible. It’s a shame that Resi 5 gives you this much power that early on and it makes subsequent playthroughs something of a formality.
There are plenty of unlockables such as utterly tasteless costumes, camera filters to make the game less attractive and figurines of all the in-game characters. These actually look as good as anything I’ve seen on the Xbox 360 and need to be cooed at and appreciated in full high definition. The game as a whole looks magnificent of course with lavishly detailed in game graphics and some stunning cutscenes.
The ‘Mercenaries’ mode also makes a welcome return. This mode sees you scoring as many kills as possible within a tight time limit and represents Resi 5 at it’s action-packed best. It also has online co-op as well which is a nice touch. A ‘versus’ mode however is missing and will be winging it’s way to us via the accursed premium DLC route. 400M$P for an online mode? Why don’t you just sell us the fucking cutscenes whilst you’re at it you greedy cunts.
If it at this point the 8/10 I’m giving this game seems a little generous, my only answer is that I suppose the big positive that balances out many of the flaws in this game is that this still has that Resi 4 feel and despite the multitude of comprimises in the game it’s still a huge amount of fun and is as polished a title as you’ll see all year. Sure, it stings a little for all us Resi 4 fans but judged on its own merits (and against the competition) Resi 5 is a very good game. I mean, this is Capcom after all. Just don’t expect any Resi 4 style miracles.