STAFF REVIEW of Resident Evil 5 (Xbox 360)

Monday, March 30, 2009.
by Adam Dileva

Resident Evil 5 Box art In 1996 Capcom released a game called Resident Evil and single handedly created a new popular genre along with it; entitled ?Survival Horror?. Over the years there have been numerous sequels and spinoffs and even appearing on all different platforms as well. The series was built on building tension for the player and forcing them to conserve ammo and items against a zombie outbreak instead of a traditional shooter game that gives you enough ammunition to take on an everlasting army. In most of the titles you had a fixed camera per room and had to navigate awkwardly based on the characters relation to the camera angle.

When Resident Evil 4 was released a few years ago, Capcom completely changed the basic formula of the series and made it a third person view behind the character along with other transformations to all the other aspects of the game as well. Fans of the series previously seemed to either welcome to change or found it deviating too far from what they?ve previously come to know and enjoy from the series. Resident Evil 5 (noted as RE5 from here on) uses the same formula and style that Resident Evil 4 gave us, but with more refinement and slight modifications. While RE5 is easily the most impressive title in the series so far, it has now also changed from being a Survival Horror game and more of an Action Adventure title; not that this is a bad thing, but it?s not the same Resident Evil from a decade ago.

RE5 has a very different feeling to it from the previous titles, as it won?t scare you or have you scavenging for every last bullet you can find. There is now a very slow and meticulous gameplay as opposed to the frantic running away survival that we?ve come to learn to instinctively react with. Simply put, it now feels like a new game and not so much a conventional Resident Evil.

Chris Redfield, who is best known for being the main protagonist in the original Resident Evil which resulted in the destruction of Raccoon City, is now back with a new partner and looking for answers from his past. Chris is now a member of the B.S.A.A., who is responsible for attempting to stop the Umbrella Corporation?s creations all over the world. Chris is informed about an extremely deadly weapon deal that is going to take place in Africa and meets with Sheva Alomar who is also a B.S.A.A. agent from the area and become partners in an unraveling plot that eventually leads them through hoards of tainted local villagers and many other surprises along the way.

Things get very interesting once the plot opens up and you learn about something called Uroboros, that Albert Wesker (the antagonist from the original Resident Evil and Umbrella employee) is involved somehow, and a clue that Chris? old partner Jill Valentine who may not be dead which is what was believed.

Even though Jill won?t be at Chris? side this time around, Sheva can handle her own and turns out to be a very useful asset. Not only will Sheva help you while playing alone, but now in the series, you are able to play alongside a friend splitscreen or online. In typical Capcom fashion, once you complete the game for the first time, you unlock many features and even the ability to play as Sheva during the single player campaign.

I never felt like I had to watch over Sheva (while playing single player) and she is more than capable of watching over herself, but she tends to use healing items and ammo as if it was free and easily accessible. She?s very good about not getting in the way of your shots generally and given a powerful gun, she is a very capable partner. If you want to be the hero though, you can simply use her to carry your items and pack everything around.

The basic gameplay is very similar to that of RE4 but with slight changes and refinements such as now being able to strafe finally. You still are unable to move while aiming and shooting, but this is intentional and makes you take notice of your surroundings before stopping somewhere to shoot infected villagers and animals. Context sensitive inputs still are included with some quick time events between cutscenes that are successful at keeping the player involved instead of simply watching events unfold.

If you shoot an infected that causes them to stagger, you are now able to use a melee strike that is devastating and saves ammunition. When surrounded by a large number this ?can? work quite well when it does work as they can bowl over other enemies in the path for you as well when knocked down. I do say ?can? because there are quite a few times that I should have been able to melee but it doesn?t recognize them as being stunned which made me lose time and ammo having to shoot them again.

Cooperative play is absolutely the most important change in the series and even though the gameplay has the same mechanics as RE4, the inclusion of having a partner with you at all times changes how you play quite drastically. Knowing that someone is always watching your back is definitely welcome and two sets of eyes are much more efficient than one. You end up relying on your partner much throughout the game to save and cover you which isn?t common for the series.

Co-op play wasn?t just an addition to the title, much of the mechanics are built around it. Many times Chris and Sheva will be split up to reach high areas or to pull levers simultaneously for example. It?s a simple equation that worked and made you feel isolated from your partner at times, but it was still simple.

Another notable change is how your inventory is kept and taken care of. Previously when accessing your inventory, the game would pause, you could take your time choosing your weapons and doing what you need to do since the game halts and waits for you until you were ready. Now your inventory will appear on screen and you have to make sure you are in a safe area before doing so, as the game will not wait for you. You are also confined to 9 items slots permanently and this cannot be increased as in previous titles.

While playing single player, you are able to access both Chris and Sheva?s inventory and freely swap items in-between whenever you like. While playing with a friend online though, you are unable to exchange guns at all which makes sense balance wise but not logically.

Overall pacing of gameplay is very well done with a mix of frantic action, boss battles, quick time events, and cutscenes. You always feel apprehensive when going to a new area, not ever knowing what to expect. Boss encounters vary with strategy and some are quite large in scale. Cutscenes flesh out the story quite well and keep things moving at a steady pace that makes you want to keep going to figure out what is next. These visuals are quite impressive and all the animation is some of the best I?ve seen. Every action and motion is so natural and fluid that it was hard to not take notice of it. Coupled with the series? somewhat cheesy lines and respectable voice acting, brings everything together in a package that makes the characters believable.

Of course not everything is without its flaws; a few times I?ve had monsters trying to claw me from the other side of a wall with parts clipping right through. The same goes for some infected villagers arms going through objects trying to reach me as well, but other than the odd time of this happening, it wasn?t distracting all too much or taking away from the immersion.

Music is another high note of the whole experience. The musical score does its responsibility of setting the overall tone and tension musically. Something I found distracting was that there is set music for when you are engaged with enemies. While this is great at setting a mood, you aren?t generally surprised of a sneak attack as the music will start playing before hand, and you also know when you are clear of anything else nearby when the music ends. It simply felt too easy to know when to have your guard up and when you are relatively ?safe?.

Throughout the levels are many collectables and treasures to collect. Some are just worth money when sold, and others are hidden emblems that can be used to unlock extras from the main menu. You are also able to unlock and purchase unlimited ammo for your second play through if you?ve completely upgraded the weapon itself. This gives great replay value and gone is having to wait for the wandering merchant in RE4 since now all selling and upgrades are done before chapters.

While co-op is one of the biggest components of RE5, Capcom seemed to have made some odd choices when doing so. When playing split screen, the second player can take control over Sheva at any time by just pressing start on the second controller. The screen split is not done in your normal fashion, so instead of your normal exactly split screen in half, each player is given their own offset rectangle to play in that is slightly smaller than half the screen itself. It?s an odd effect that definitely takes some getting used to but it still worked.

Online co-op takes a few more steps to join a game and isn?t instant by any means. Firstly, the player wanting to join will have to wait until the host either restarts from the past checkpoint or gets to the next one. The other problem with this, as mentioned before, is how players cannot swap guns, but all other inventory items are allowed.

A great feature almost always included in every Resident Evil title is how much there is to do once you complete the main story for replayability. The first play through on Normal difficulty should last around 10 to 15 hours, depending on how vigilant one is at finding all the collectables. Once completed, a new minigame is unlocked called Mercenaries which pits you against waves of infected villagers while you wait for aid escaping. It?s much more frantic and you are given a set inventory that cannot be changed. Even this entertaining change of pace is playable cooperatively and is a great distraction from just trying to beat your best times on certain chapters.

You may have noticed that I?ve not once mentioned zombies, but infected instead. This is completely intentional and I am avoiding giving away anything that may spoil the plot in that regard as I quite enjoyed the plot after a few hours in once it started getting interesting. Having Chris Redfield playable again was more exciting than if it was a brand new character. Sheva seems to be a good fit as a counterpart and I hope she is not completely written off from this point on just because she was a local partner in Africa.

If you played RE4, you will have an idea of what to expect from RE5, just with more enhancements. If you?ve played the older games in the series and didn?t get to play RE4, it is quite a dramatic change from what you?ve known to expect from Resident Evil. It?s a shame that I no longer get that intense fear of what possibly may be lurking around the corner knowing a horde of zombies is ready to indulge on my flesh. Now with Resident Evil I?m learning to expect a different type of intensity while playing, that of action instead of fear and suspense.

While the series may be a different entity now than it was over a decade ago, it has evolved and changed, yet still does superb at delivering an interesting and deep story with exceptional production value. This change is sure to frustrate some, but on the other hand it is also sure to bring in new players which are always welcomed to any title or genre.

Moving while aiming has been a request since RE4, and I understand it is a design decision, but can't there be a middle ground somewhere?

Overall: 8.9 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 9.4 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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