Most gamers who are in at least their early 20’s will tell you that the most fun they had in 1996 was spent in the dark and under the covers. No, Leisure Suit Larry fans, not like that. I am talking, of course, about Capcom’s release of Resident Evil, and the late night dares from your friends to play it with all the lights off.
13 years, 11 new systems, and 6 games later, we have come a long way from 32-bit zombies and typewriter ribbons. Here we are with the latest installment, Resident Evil 5, and this survivor-horror staple is taking another step away from it’s renowned horror atmosphere and toward that of an action game. Many of us have been champing at the bit to get our hands on RE5 since the release of RE4 in 2005 to see where this series will take us next.
The long awaited game begins as the amazingly buff Chris Redfield, a veteran of the series, is joined by his new partner, Sheva Alomar. Both are members of the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance, or B.S.A.A., which is a global task force charged with trying to prevent the proliferation of “biological organic weapons.” This has brought them to the fictional region of Kijuju, Africa, to investigate a new strain of the Las Plagas parasite. The unwitting hosts are now faster, smarter, and adroit, as can be witnessed from the start.
Your partner Sheva is exactly that; a partner. She stays with you at all times. When playing alone, Sheva’s A.I. does a fair job of watching your back, though she can be a little trigger happy. This can be a problem since Resident Evil is known for restricting your ammo during game play. Luckily, when playing solo, you have access to both character’s inventories, so that problem can be somewhat monitored depending on how much ammo you choose to give her throughout the game. The gameplay is definitely enhanced when you have a friend there by your side and strategy can be discussed for inventorying weapons, attack strategies, and boss battles. RE5 sets up a few partner based scenarios like in other co-op heavy games. Chris uses his Schwarzenegger-like physique to toss Sheva over large gaps and boost her onto building rooftops. But unlike, say, Gears of War, there is not much responsibility laid upon the players when separated. Usually these moments just consist of Sheva pushing a button or giving a little cover fire.
The controls…*sigh*. Capcom had hinted at changing the control scheme to a run and gun, but unfortunately for us they apparently ditched the idea. Gamers still have to deal with standing stationary in order to wield any kind of attack. The same goes for reloading, so you are forced to monitor what’s left in your clip at all times, or else you could be in a heap of infected trouble. The stationary firing worked to add to the anxious and fearful atmosphere earlier in the series, but since Resident Evil is now more of an action game, it has become only a frustrating burden.
In between chapters -or when you die- you are allowed access to a large capacity inventory. In this screen you are also given a chance to upgrade your current weapons and buy items with the treasures you pick up along the way. You can then choose which 9 items you want to take with you into the chapter that you can only access in real-time. This can prove tricky to manage weapons and health in-game since once again you are stationary and the infected are not. The d-pad is tied to four items for quick select, but with the lack of ammunition, those slots become quickly filled with a necessary variety of weapons.
Combat in RE5 is satisfactory. Your most frequent adversary, called Majini, will basically come charging at you by any means possible. Most use a melee attack, but a few have long ranged attacks including flaming arrows, dynamite, and guns (yes, guns). At times you can have so many zombies thrown at you that it feels like the creators are trying to implement ‘scariness’ through quantity versus quality. It seems the only reason behind this is to keep your ammo down to critical level. The enemy A.I. is not incredibly intelligent or randomized, and they can be easily avoided as long as you aren’t reloading or working the inventory. If you happen to die at some point, you will know exactly how to get through that spot the second time through.
The main antagonist throughout is Wesker, a long time rival of Chris. He is accompanied by his associates Excella, Irving, and a masked character known as the Plague Doctor, or “Birdlady” as dubbed by fans. The story takes you through small towns, abandoned mine-shafts, ancient ruins, tribal villages, and cargo ships in order to follow the enemy’s every move. Unfortunately, some of these locales, though beautiful and complex, would be better suited in a Tomb Raider game.
All the scariness has practically been removed from the enemies. They don’t surprise you from around a corner or lie in wait in dark shadows. Granted the Majini, mini-bosses and big bosses are gory and horrific looking, but that is no replacement for the psychological scares that Resident Evil was once known for. Now your only fear is how much damage each adversary can deal you, and if you brought enough health-spray to last you through the next checkpoint.
Resident Evil 5 leaves you a little confused and hardcore fans a little disappointed. The expectation was for a Metal-Gear-Solid-4-esque conclusion to a 13 year story arc, but instead we get a generic, blatantly foreshadowed ending and dialog that is mundane and a little ridiculous.
On a good note though, the graphics are amazing and the music deserves a nod. The co-op play is solid, though the single player campaign feels tedious and leaves something to be desired. In general, this can be a fun but only slightly above average action game with a moderate replay value.
The story behind Resident Evil 5 revolves around the evolution of the virus, just as Capcom is evolving their direction for the series. In an attempt to reach a bigger audience, Capcom is leaving behind a devout one. For Resident Evil fans, the fun of peeking through your fingers while watching a friend play is long gone. Both dreading and loving to scare yourself silly by playing this series late at night is a thing of the past.
I give Resident Evil 5 3.5 “Not-So-Scary-Zombies” out of 5.
Reviewed By Rachael Edwards