Resident Evil 5 Review
While few games have been amassing as much hysteria and controversy recently as Killzone 2, there is one game that's got a fair amount of its own controversy, and that is, of course, Resident Evil 5. Now, for those reading this and shocked by the score, know where this review is coming from. I will make no secrets about my feelings about Resident Evil 4, so I'll be blunt and up front about it: I'm one of the few who thought that Resident Evil 4 was one of the most overrated experiences of the past generation.
Aside from the gorgeous visuals, I've always hated the controls and not having the ability to move and shoot. Having to constantly run away, stop, turn around, shoot a few bullets, and then repeat the same tactic became extremely annoying. The extremely conservative number of ammo you're given also felt unsatisfying, and it's one thing if Leon's hand-to-hand techniques were powerful, it'd have made playing without a gun better, but they weren't. Sure, you could take a few swipes at an enemy, run away and repeat the process, but that made the game extremely repetitive and monotonous. In short, along with GTA: San Andreas, RE4 was personally the most overrated experience of the past generation. So I've been part of the whole 'fix the controls movement' many years before it was brought up with RE5.
So if you've kept tabs on the status of Resident Evil 5 and it's controversy, you can probably predict that I'm not too happy with it, thanks to Capcom's decision to maintain RE4's control scheme, albeit with one tiny enhancement: the ability to strafe. I've been playing Resident Evil 5 for over a month now, and unfortunately, I couldn't shake my gripe with the controls. My first hands-on take featured impressions from my playthrough at E3, and there I regarded that the controls still required you to stop-and-shoot, but that Capcom was looking into working on the aspect for the final release. Clearly, this never happened, and the final release has largely the same control mechanics. And that means...
...shooting off a few bullets, running away, turning around, shooting some more, running away, rinse and repeat. I thought, 'okay, maybe I'll get used to this.' But as the chapters went on, I found myself more and more frustrated with every death and restart. Moreover, I begin to hate the fact that the camera in the game is completely locked on, so you don't even have the option to switch shoulder views or pull it up just a tad. Why is this a problem? Because, as chapter two is evidence, often times you will find yourself in very confined areas where peripheral visibility is important, but alas you are limited to barely seeing what's to the right of the screen. This means, you'll find yourself to be the victim of being blindsided, which can sometimes lead to an unexpected death.
Furthermore, the whole first chapter will prove just how monotonous the constant running around will get. But worst of all, the end of the chapter (the portion gamers played in the demo) is completely pointless, because you didn't even need to kill anyone, the helicopter will appear after a certain amount of time has passed. And I felt as if Resident Evil 5 had a number of these pointless segments. But perhaps the most pointless aspect of the game is the force-fed A.I. assisted co-op.
Now, as much as I love co-op, I equally hate having to care for a partner. Resident Evil 5 commits one major flaw that is extremely common among co-op titles, and that's having to constantly save your partner, in this case being Sheva. Caring for your partner becomes a large burden eventually, as Sheva constantly asks you to save her, to heal her, or to spare her ammo. This becomes extremely tedious when you're fighting off a barrage of enemies and you need to keep moving around to reposition yourself so that your opponents can't attack you. You'd imagine, 'well, it's not that big of a deal, since the game should pause when you've entered the inventory screen'. It doesn't. So if Sheva's been knocked down with enemies swarming, if you try to revive her, be prepared to take a few hits, or possibly even die. And of course, you're forced to save Sheva, because it's game over if she dies.
Like I said, I love co-op, but Resident Evil 5 is precisely how co-op should not be implemented; I say if there is no player to control the second character, there should only be one character on-screen. Either that, or make your A.I. ally not as vulnerable. So if you're going to play through the game, I highly urge you to have a buddy handy, because playing with a friend changes the experience of a computer controlled partner from being a frustrating one, to actually being quite enjoyable.
The co-op will also help you forget about the controls a bit, seeing as how you'll be able to work strategies out, allowing one partner to shoot from a distance, with the other closer-up, and then alternating as you see fit. I will admit that co-op gameplay is certainly the biggest draw of the game, but I wouldn't go as far as to say that it's anywhere near as exciting and engaging as Gears of War 2, and that's largely due to the game's speed and controls.
Those who loved Resident Evil 4 will love Resident Evi 5, but if you don't enjoy caring for a partner frequently, you may find yourself frustrated in some bits. Furthermore, the story is also pretty enjoyable, so if you're a devout fan of the franchise, there's a solid reason to engage into RE5. And again, this is simply coming from someone who did not enjoy Resident Evil 4 either, so I am not saying that Resident Evil 5 is a bad game. The bottom line is that if you absolutely loved RE4's gameplay, I am certain you'll love RE5, as well.
Now, to me, certainly the best part of Resident Evil 5 is the amazing graphics engine. Resident Evil 5 is a proper next-generation game. Immediately, you'll notice how absurdly stunning the lighting is, showing us a sun so hot that you can almost feel its burn emanate through the screen. Character detail is laden with attention to detail, complete with superb looking physiques on all characters, including the possessed, as well as incredible facial detail and nice animation. On top of all that, the high quality texture detail and the silky smooth image clarity really makes Resident Evil 5 one of the best looking games this generation has seen. The only flaw I could mention is the occasional framerate hiccup during very tense moments, but it isn't that common.
The audio work isn't far back from the audio, either, with a haunting presentation that'll make good use of a 5.1 setup. You'll hear sounds and noises from all around, from growls to taunts, in addition to other miscellaneous sound effects. Cut-scene sounded particularly good, and the voice acting isn't terrible, either, although some of the voice actors with accents can be a little hard on the ears. Cut-scenes are unraveled accompanied by a tense little background number to set the mood, with the ambiance reverbing all of the sounds accurately. I will say that I would have liked for the guns to have sounded punchier.
Resident Evil 5 is not a bad game. And despite the score, which I usually equate to a rental, I'd still recommend a purchase for those who loved Resident Evil 4. Ultimately, if you're looking for a shooter similar to Gears of War, you'll find yourself sorely disappointed with Resident Evil 5. Despite people claiming that the control scheme makes for a more tense and frightening experience, I find that it only made for a more frustrating, limited, and redundant experience. I dislike gameplay mechanics being forced onto the gamer, and so I found myself disagreeing with Resident Evil 5's gameplay. Capcom would've been better off giving us the option of classic or new controls. If Capcom issues a patch for the game with new controls, we will gladly retract and revise this review to reflect that.
3/12/2009 Arnold Katayev