Resident Evil 5
Formats: PS3, Xbox360
Formated Reviewed: Xbox360
Come on, say it with me in your most sinister gravel voice; Resident Evil… 5! So it’s here and we’ve all had a chance, well most of us, to play it, taste it and a bit of time to mull over it to see if it satisfied our needs. So has it?
Frankly yes it has.
Resident Evil 5 is a great game, yet the only thing that makes it a resident evil game is the, now very dated, control system and the plot. The game play elements are gone; it’s no longer dark and creepy and feels more like a slowly paced action game at times. The plot is pretty basic and typical Resident Evil, though it is the first game to directly return to RE roots and has Chris Redfield return to try and discover the secrets behind Umbrella. Yet what made Resident Evil, well, Resident Evil, was the tension, suspension and the drama created in your head from the pre rendered environments you explore and the ambient music and drones. When you did come across a Zombie it was almost a relief to finally let loose and fight or run away to regroup.
Now, however, there is a constant stream of zombies and other monsters, which make the game, feel more like an action game with slow controls. In a bizarre 360 turn of events, it’s now a relief when there are no zombies so you can get a rest bite (no pun intended). Gone too is the near silent background music and ambient soundscaping, which has been replaced by action music and gentler music during quiet times. This too adds to the deflation of a once great horror suspense game as Resident Evil.
Another element changed from the original Resident Evil experience, similar to how the Zombie numbers have increased, is that there’s always ammo and health available. Granted I only played on normal, so it’s possible that an increased difficulty level will decrease the amount of drops, however the majority of ‘Zombies’ killed would drop ammo, gold or health (in the form of herbs or sprays). If they didn’t, then there was enough destroyable scenery around the levels to smash open and search; which again would contain ammo, Gold or Health. Fair enough it never leaves you without ammo, and sometimes it slowly suggest you’re going to run out of ammo during intense zombie clearing fight fights, but it will always provide you with ammo when its needed. Comparing this to the days of having to decide if you take the ammo or the health and store them away for later, it almost seems like a bonanza of ammo and health at your finger tips whenever you need them. Changing the difficulty of the game does decrease the amount of world and enemy drops for health and ammo.
The gold you acquire throughout the game can be used to buy new equipment at the end of each sub chapter. This equipment ranges from new weapons, to health and survival jackets. As well as gold you can find and sell on rare treasures, all of which appear on an inventory screen that allows you to mange your treasures and items found. A valuable addition that allows for the swapping and trading of weapons between both characters and the 'store' itself - handy if you think a shotgun would be more effective in small corridors and you've previously had a sniper rifle.
Another change in game play that moves away from the tension filled experiences of the past is the introduction to a constant by your side partner. Partners are not something new in the Resident Evil world, with Resident Evil 1 and 2 having split games between them, but it’s the first time one has been at your side from start to finish.
The thing is you’ll either love her or hate her. She’ll either be smart as hell when to use the health sprays, or decide to unload a clip of ammo into the back of your head as she tries to kill a zombie in front of you. The AI is pretty basic and seems to consist of follow, shoot and pick up things. It won’t think outside of these walls, it won’t think to offer covering fire, to out flank the enemies. It will follow you at a set distance like a dog on a short leash. One plus though, she won’t let you die. Like David Hasslehof she’ll be ready, weather that’s with healing you with health collected throughout the game, or by breaking a Zombie’s hold on you.
All of the above AI annoyances with your new partner can be avoided if you go Co-op and play with a friend or even a random person over Xbox live. Hearing screams for help from your friends as Zombie’s maul them is something that everyone should experience at least once with this game.
So once you can wrap your head around the almost action orientated feel the game has, and the sometimes sadly dire AI, you’ll soon start to enjoy this game. It looks amazing, and with a few screen tear issues aside during cut scenes (a technical issue with the Xbox’s lack of V-Sync) you’ll soon appreciate how spotless and detailed the graphics and skins are. Backgrounds and environments look as detailed as the original RE pre-rendered backdrops, if not more so.
The animations have slightly improved over the years, however there are still times when it looks a little 'floating on ice' when you see the AI partner running around. However, it must be said that the creation of bosses seems a little lackluster and uninspiring, especially considering there are some pretty big boss battles in this game. The game does feel to suffer from a little 'laziness' as it progresses through the chapters with the earlier levels being more of a showcase then the later ones, which are pretty generic looking and at times just lazy copy and paste art work (lift level). This has been balanced out though with a fantastically designed and created underground Ancient Aztec-esque temple, which wouldn't be out of place from a Tomb Raider or Indiana Jones game.
There are still Resident Evil elements to the game and the majority of them are in the plot and the characters based around the game. There's still the rather cliché and somewhat predictable twists, and also the strangely poor (by today's standards) voice acting and 'acted animation', which for me are traits of the franchise and should never be changed. Despite all these negatives the game is fun, as there's little more satisfying the blow the heads off of zombies. Once you realize that this isn't going to be a tip toe horror based game, and at best it will be an action game, then you'll start to appreciate what it has to offer.
With several different weapons - all upgradeable - to choose from there are plenty of methods for you Zombie massacre mayhem. Pistols, shotguns, flame throwers, rocket launchers, sniper rifles and several different grenades are at your disposal. In later levels the 'Zombies' themselves are armed to the teeth with a wide range of weapons, leading to some intense cross firing battles.
The pacing of the chapters is very effective too, with it throwing you straight into the thick of things after a brief tutorial, what better way to learn then being thrown into the water and learning how to swim. Its not an easy introduction by any means as you're up against a horde of the potential undead and a huge guy swinging a huge axe. The action levels peak and ebb effectively so you don't feel like you're always under constant threat and pressure, and sections of the game are broken up with quick time events and vechial riding moments. The aforementioned boss battles are also slightly different and are based around a theme. Some require fire to die, others giant space lasers, but all follow a central theme based on reports you find littered throughout the game.
There's plenty on offer within the game, which even includes a 'new game+' option once completed, as well as unlocking mercenary mode (waves of zombies that need to be killed within a time limit) and collectibles in the game to unlock. All of which will drag you back for further play time. On top of that there is the promise of online multiplayer deathmatch modes in the form of DLC in the works - no news on a release date yet.
Graphics: 7 - It ranges from visually stunning to laziness, most noticeably in the level design and artwork. Main Character models are near flawless and some of the best I've seen in a game, yet the later levels don't inspire you and feel very dated or borrowed from other games with almost a very strong nod to Metal Gear Solid 4 during the last chapter. Explosions, blood splatters and exploding heads are all satisfyingly gory.
Gameplay: 9 - There's nothing game breaking within the game and the layout of unlockables will keep you coming back for more. Once completed a new game mode is available that is pretty addictive and fun to play with a friend. Its loosely based around the same idea as Gears of War's 'Horde' mode, only this time its wave of Zombies on levels you've played coming to get you and have to kill as many as you can to extend the time limit so you can be rescued. Emblems are also scattered throughout levels, with the more you find the more you can unlock in the shop. The only thing that could have improved would have been to ditch the old school Resident Evil control system, but this might have made the game far too easy - it will also be very interesting to see how the DLC multiplayer works considering this.
Sound: 6 - A let down. One of the key elements to past RE games is the soundtrack and ambiance, while this game has a soundtrack doesn't have the ambiance of past Resident Evil games which fails to build an atmosphere scary or otherwise. Voice acting is your typical Resident Evil style, with strange emotions being put across verbally that don't quiet match the facial expressions or animation. The prolonged gap between lines is still present too.
Achievements: 8 - Basic Chapter and difficulty Achievements are present, but so too are a whole host of silly ones that make games worth playing again. Find all 4 egg types, kill an enemy with a rotten egg and deflect an arrow with your knife will either have you ripping your hair out or basking in glory once achieved.
Overall: 9 - Its too early to tell if this will be one of the best games of 2009 but its a very strong contender. It might be a bit 'Out of the Loop' to people who have never played Resident Evil before, but it does enough back story filling, and has its own story arch, to make it engaging for those dipping into the franchise for the first time. Likewise, it might feel a bit odd and constraining to anyone who has never played Resident Evil before that you can't run and shoot at the same time. However, once those issues have been put to one side you have a very fun 'action orientated' game. This isn't your Zombie Survival Horror thriller that grabbed people's imaginations 10 years ago - its its own game and personality. If you can get a friend on board, either over xbox live or sharing the same screen, it will be one of the game you play together the most.