Resident Evil has been long awaited ever since the first trailer was first unveiled some two years ago. Finally, the wait is over. You can now get all the zombie killing action your little heart desires all from the comforts of your living room sofa. Plus, as an extremely welcome bonus Capcom has been generous enough to add a co-op mode, so that you and a friend can take on the story mode together. Factor in an online ranking system, tons of unlockable weapons and hidden items, plus achievements and trophies, and you’ve got yourself quite possibly the most replayable Resident Evil game yet.
For those not in the know about Resident Evil 5, it’s a heartwarming story about a boy and his dog, only the boy is a man armed to the teeth and the dog is a tribe of people who have become infected by yet another laboratory concocted virus and thus have become zombies, or at least something to that effect. For the sake of this review, we’ll just call them zombies. Okay, that first part was made up, but the second part wasn’t. You play the part of Chris Redfield a BSAA Agent sent to investigate some goings on in a small village in Africa. Your new partner, Sheva, is there to assist you in getting around as she is familiar with the local surroundings. You’ll soon discover that all is not as it seems in this village and things begin to go awry within minutes of starting up the game. In order to maintain this review spoiler free, I’ll keep the storyline to just some vague basics, as the story is the typical Resident Evil lore, but is also an okay starting point for anyone new to the survival horror series.
Resident Evil 5 is beyond a shadow of a doubt, a phenomenal looking game. I’ll put it right up there with Gears of War (1 or 2), Halo 3, and Assassin’s Creed or whatever game you think looks good. The detail is stunning and everything about it just screams “next-gen”. Since we last saw Chris Redfield he has apparently spent a lot of time in the weight room drinking Beefcake 3000 because he has put on the muscle mass. Sheva on the other hand is a new character to the Resident Evil universe and one that after you’ve seen her, you would welcome back in a heartbeat. The “zombies”, or infected enemies in the game all look really good, too. They look more realistic than ever as they come barreling towards you with weapon in hand ready to suck the lifeblood out of you, or eat your brains, or whatever it is that they do. Oh, and those bosses? Just wow. Those waiting for this game since the debut of the trailer will find that the entire game looks just as good as promised from the first time you watched it.
The thing about Resident Evil 5 that works for it and against it is the use of audio. One great use of sound is when you have a surround sound system and can tell where the enemies are on the screen just by the cues. Another is when enemies attack and the music slows and calms down, you’ll know that there won’t be a zombie popping up from behind to play grabby cakes. It’s mostly subtle, but it’s nice to know that I’m able to explore safely without the fear of zombie dogs jumping out of nowhere to maul my non-mail delivering self. Now, on the other hand the dialog is pure cardboard; stiff and lifeless. Sure, it’s better than most of that found in the series prior, but the writing and worse the delivery is pure B-movie. Now, for all I know that’s intentional and meant to be a staple of the Resident Evil franchise, in which case, the joke is on me, but if it’s not, it’s just as bad as it ever was. Then again, the story isn’t all that important anyway and while the cut-scenes are better looking than ever the acting is still the same. Don’t mistake the message, what’s here is great. The acting is about average, especially for a AAA title like RE5, but in the history of gaming there have been far worse offenders and for that Resident Evil 5 gets a passing grade.
Now, if the stuff mentioned above is the potatoes, then this is the meat. The heart of any game lies within the gameplay and Resident Evil 5 has it’s heart in the right place. The controls have come directly from Resident Evil 4, originally on the Nintendo GameCube (also on PlayStation 2 and Wii) and while they may be slightly dated they’re nowhere near as bad as they once were with the original PlayStation games. For fans of shooters it may take a little while getting used to the control scheme, but once in you’ll be fine. For the most part it’s a bit of a slower paced game with the exception of when the action gets really heavy at which point the game really shows it’s age. I don’t exactly know what the developers were shooting for with keeping the clunky mechanics intact, not being able to move and shoot at the same time may be more realistic than guns blazing at a full run, but zombies aren’t realistic even in the slightest. It’s a conundrum. Now, that being said, you’ll get used to it after a few minutes, it isn’t a horrible control scheme, it’s just not as fast or efficient as some other games. This renders some of the weapons useless in a way. It’s hard to get a clean head shot on a zombie with the rifle when they’re within spitting distance. But, hey, maybe that’s what makes the game more intense? It’s not about the sniping and picking off zombies from 100 yards off, it’s all about getting up close and personal with the ugly baddies who want to suck your brain out through your ear hole.
Freshly added to the experience of Resident Evil 5 is the new co-op mode. Now you can grab an online friend and shoot zombies until your thumbs hurt. One player will play the role of Sheva, while the other plays as Chris and together you will play the campaign mode or as much of it as you like. That’s the beauty of playing online. You get the option of playing only with friends or you can play with random strangers across the world. Of course, there is no accounting for people who just generally like to ruin the experience for everyone else, so you may get a bad apple here or there, (you may even get a bushel full if you have bad luck or if some user accounts are accurate) when you choose to play with anyone via Xbox LIVE or the PlayStation Network. That’s the risk you run for trusting in the kindness of strangers. Some people may enter your game use up your ammunition and exit out just to make your game a little more miserable like their own real life. Then again, you may get a great partner who knows the ins and outs of the game and can even show you where all the secret stuff is hidden. Either way, it’s probably better than having the computer controlled, Sheva just stand in your way while zombies are hot on your tail. The best thing to do with the computer controlled Sheva is have her hold all your excess ammunition and herbs so that she can heal you when she inevitably lets a zombie slip by to attack you from behind. She can and will help in other ways, but for the most part she’s only a couple of notches above useless.
So, with this all being said, I found the game to be thoroughly enjoyable. The mood was tense, the action was plentiful, and the game lived up to all my expectations and then some. Hardcore fans could probably breeze through this in under ten hours, but with tons of unlockable extras and trophies/achievements there’s a lot of game here. Plus, the co-op mode can keep the game fresh for a long time in case you need more of a reason to continue to play the game. Capcom also has the potential of adding downloadable content to keep the game going. A new versus mode has been announced and should allow for a continuously enjoyable experience for those who like multiplayer madness with a Resident Evil feel to it. They could also add further content if they feel the urge. This is the beauty of the hard drive and the online experience, the ability to expand the game like never before on a console. Load times can be a bit of a burden because they tend to be the bread surround a cut-scene sandwich, but they’re not tremendously long and they at least help get you caught up with the Resident Evil lore, even if they don’t always give you ample time to read through them or repeat often. Then again, you could probably shorten them if you load the game onto your hard drive, another great feature of this latest generation of hardware. Either way, the load times aren’t a deal breaker here because the game is really that great.
In summation, whether you are new to the series or a long time fan, Resident Evil 5 should be on your short list of games to grab. If you’re too scared, just play it with the sound turned down low because that’s where a lot of the “jump out of your seat” moments come from. Plenty of replay value and a really great looking (and sounding) game make this a great package and one of the best experiences on a console this year. The game may be a little short and the controls a little sluggish, but this is yet another stellar entry into the Resident Evil franchise and that can’t be overlooked. If you’re old enough to buy this game, you should. End of story…or is it?
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