March 24, 2009 Capcom released the first Resident Evil game on the PSone back in 1996, and coined the term "survival horror" to describe it. The game was a critical and commercial hit, and spawned countless sequels (which sold over 34 million units) and a trilogy of live action movies starring Milla Jovovich. Resident Evil 5 is the first game of the series released for this generation of consoles, and the first game to be designed for co-operative play. Read on for our full review.
Resident Evil 5 takes place directly after the conclusion of Resident Evil 4. Players take the role of Chris Redfield, protagonist of the original game, now working for the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance. Bio weapons developed by the collapsed Umbrella Corporation have fallen into the hands of terrorists, and you arrive in Kijuju, Africa to investigate a tip about an arms deal set to go down in the area.
Updated control scheme
For the first time in a Resident Evil game, I actually felt like I was in control of the protagonist. Capcom have changed the controversial control scheme of Resident Evil past to be half Gears of War/half Resident Evil, so anyone who has played a first/third-person shooter in the last few years is going to feel a lot more at home. Aim and shoot are assigned to the left and right triggers, and you can (finally) move sideways - but Capcom have stopped short of turning the game into a run-and-gun shooter - namely with the survival horror convention of being unable to fire a weapon while moving.
It's still Resident Evil
While there's new controls, a partner at your side, and zombies with machine guns, the game still feels like Resident Evil. The "fight or flight" gameplay that your inability to simultaneously run and shoot provides is still there, and unlike most current generation games where running away for a few seconds gets you back to full health, you still need healing items to heal yourself. And for the first time in a Resident Evil game, the game doesn't pause while you go through your inventory.
It's still scary
I was 13 when Resident Evil came out, and I can still vividly remember it scaring me half to death. While I've since become a horror/zombie fan of immense proportions, and won't be scared of the dark any time soon, Resident Evil 5 provides some truly intense situations with brutal enemies and plenty of jump-out-of-your-skin moments.
Resident Evil 4 was one of the best looking games of last generation, so it's really not that much of a surprise that Resident Evil 5 is one of the best looking games of this generation. The cutscenes are particularly impressive, with some of the best facial animation I've seen leading to some incredibly human characters.
Your partner Sheva is one of the more helpful friendly AIs you're likely to encounter. You can load her up with all the healing items and ammunition, and she'll heal you both as necessary and throw you ammunition for the right gun when you need it.
While I got through the campaign in three sessions totalling 8-10 hours, this is the first game in a long, long time that I've beaten, then immediately started a new game for another play through rather than grabbing my laptop to start my review. There's new and awesome weapons to unlock, the ability to unlock unlimited ammo for each gun, and plenty of other things that will keep you going back.
It's definitely a different experience, and much less stressful when you're fighting with a competant ally at your side, but it's entirely awesome nonetheless. Sales of the game are so high that every time I pull up a list of people hosting co-op games, there's a screenfull of options, and Capcom is smart enough to realize that you're going to want to play with people from your own country for a lag-free experience.
Amateur mode is actually pretty easy
You shouldn't have too much trouble getting through Resident Evil 5 if you've ever played a first/third-person shooter with a dual-analog controller in the last 10 years. You won't coast through each level without dying once, as there's more than a few enemies that can kill you in one hit, but there's ammunition and healing items everywhere, and there's checkpoints every five or so minutes, so when you do die, you're not playing too much of a level again.
What didn't work
No "drop in" co-operative
Unlike other games of this generation, online co-operative is not "drop in", meaning when someone tries to join a game, the host has to either reach a checkpoint, or restart the game from the last checkpoint for them to join. This can lead to wait times of over five minutes, and people will often drop out just as you're about to reach a checkpoint.
Undesirable co-op partners
The game is difficult enough in the later levels that the wrong partner can make things incredibly frustrating. There needs to be more advanced filtering options - like whether or not they have a microphone and whether or not they've played up to the level you're currently playing at - to ensure you end up with a partner that is capable of holding their own.
Quick time events
For the uninitiated, Quick Time Events (QTEs) are cinematic sequences that briefly flash commands on the screen that the player has to execute. Whether you love them or hate them, some of the QTEs in Resident Evil 5, particularly one in the last mission, give you a painfully small window to execute them.
Lack of explanation on how to beat certain bosses
I really don't like hitting brick walls that send me off to read a walkthrough to overcome, and Capcom is a shocker for them. I'm all for mixing up the game play, but you have to drip feed the player useful hints when they've tried, and failed, to do something more than a few times.
Screen tearing issues
There are major screen tearing issues when running the game at 1080p over a VGA cable. Apparently those of you with HDMI-equipped 360s won't run into the problem, and setting my Xbox 360 to 720p and letting my TV upscale the signal solved the issue, but it's a pain.
Rent or buy?
Resident Evil 5 is in an elite category of games, along with Gears of War, Gears of War 2 and Street Fighter IV, that I intend on spending a lot more time with once I'm done writing the review. Capcom have created something that should appeal to fans of the series and newcomers alike, so I'm going to go with buy.
Check out our guide to unlocking unlimited ammo for every gun in Resident Evil 5 over at The Gamer Gene.