Plot: With Umbrella gone, Chris Redfield is sent to Africa to investigate a possible new bio-weapon, teaming up with the resourceful Sheva.
Resident Evil 5 could be seen as the first game where the franchise let go of the survival horror genre and decided to take a firm step in the direction of action. While the game still does try to be vaguely scary with sequences where you are outmatched against crazed chainsaw-wielding zombies, it puts most of its faith in its action. This is the main flaw with the game, the fifth entry into the main strand of the franchise coming across as a pale imitation of what came before.
However, in time, the game will grow on you. Mainly because the action is quite good. This is the first Resident Evil to make use of the co-op feature. This does rob a lot of the fear from the game, it being hard to muster up the same chills, when you have a friend sharing the experience with you. However, it does create an interesting gaming experience, as you and your friend learn to work as an unit to complete the game. Puzzles in the game require two pairs of hands and preferably two minds working together to cross a room. The game is constantly highlighting the need for teamwork. It is impossible to get too far in the game without the level allowing your partner to catch up. You are encouraged to keep close to each other, so when the numbers are against you, you always have each other’s back. If you are grabbed by a lurking enemy, your partner’s screen flashes a warning to help you ASAP. When you clear a room, it does feel like a task accomplished together. On the other hand, that pesky score-sheet at the end of each level, laying out who brought the most kills to the team, can affect your play-through. Too often do you or your partner abandon teamwork to get a few more kills extra. However, whether you are playing with a friend or an AI companion, the action is still rewarding. In true Resident Evil style, there are mechanics in the fighting purposefully made difficult. The best thing about the original game was how the game controls were just tricky enough to install panic. There is no walking and shooting, meaning that you have to plant your feet, aim and shoot. There is no expert strafing here, which adds a sense of realism to the game. There is no rushing into a room and clearing it: you need to plan your assault accordingly. The game is at its best, when you totally outmatched and forced to fight tooth and nail to complete a section. At the same time, it cannot be too tricky, as to frustrate the gamer. Resident Evil 5 manages this surprisingly often, creating a fulfilling gaming experience, even if it isn’t quite the Resident Evil game you want to play.
And a review of this game always comes back to that. Yes, it is great fun, playing this game, the difficulty in just the right sweet spot and there being several interesting sections in the game that makes each fight more than just killing zombie after zombie (certain baddies erupt into a mini-boss when killed, a crocodile circles a level’s map, the zombies gain a concentrated beam of sun to fire at you). But no matter how fun it gets, you just wish that this was thought up by someone that wasn’t Capcom, writing up the next Resident Evil game. Only a few appearances from familiar faces make this game feel particularly Resident Evil, namely the always welcome Lickers and also the surprise final act bad guy. However, there are other moments where the game has veered too far into third person shooter action. The zombies get weapons for example, starting just about believable with tribal axes and the odd chainsaw… but by the end, they are equipped with a wide range of guns. By the end of the game, you are in any old third person shooter, dodging behind cover and clearing room after room of shooters. The change is done just slowly enough that there isn’t quite a moment where the game shifts into nonsense, but more of a sad slow realisation that the good old days are never going to come back.
Final Verdict: Resident Evil 5 is good, honest fun, but so much of the original’s charm is lost that it is hard to not miss the first Resident Evil.