Resident Evil 5 (Xbox 360) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, March 12, 2009
The Return of the Living Dead
Taking place in the fictional African city of Kijuju, Resident Evil brings us the harrowing adventures of one of the original Resident Evil protagonists Chris Redfield (Now with the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance or B.S.A.A). Picking up the lead from games it inspired and influenced such as Gears of War, the current incarnation brings in a wonderfully implemented co-op system in the form of the lovely Sheva Alomar, a native African and also a B.S.A.A. agent). The all evil Umbrella Corporation (the company that started this zombie mess to begin with) had maintained research facilities in Kijuju but has shut down operations since declaring bankruptcy. In its place is Tricell’s pharmaceutical division. Experiments on the people of Kijuju have gone horribly wrong which brings us to our current bleak situation. It’s now up to Chris and Sheva to contain this “problem” and make sure that humanity is kept safe.
Resident Evil 5 almost a great game. Featuring fantastic graphics, cut-scenes, bosses, co-op with online play; it can be an engrossing and, at times truly frightening depiction of zombie horror / sci-fi. But two primary elements hold this back from being great, movement and controls but I’ll get to those in a minute.
Essentially, Resident Evil 5 is the exact opposite of the Valve’s recent high flying zombie co-op shooter Left 4 Dead. While L4D boasted old school graphics, sublimely simple control, typically mindless zombies and no story whatsoever (all of the aforementioned are pluses; L4D is perhaps the greatest zombie game ever made) RE5 rolls out a complex history, superior state of the art graphics, eerily intelligent, weapon wielding zombies and a control system that makes Street Fighter: IV seem like Duck Hunt.
For the single player game your friend indeed is Sheva, a stunningly hot partner who’s not only easy on the eyes but a great help as well. Her voice acting also rises above the rest of the mostly mediocre performances in the game. Where Sheva really shines though is in her A.I. She’s always working with you, never against you. And Hooray, she never got in the way of zombie dispatching. In fact, she saved my ass more times than I’d like to admit.
The offline 2 player co-op is particularly well done. All someone has to do to join is hit a second controller’s start button and viola! They’re in! A really welcome innovation is that split screen is presented horizontally and the screens are staggered which is much more of a help than you’d think. It really works to keep your focus on your screen without distraction from you’re partners. As is true for co-op games, team work is an absolute requirement to staying alive as zombies come at you from all angles. My friend and I had many moments of laughter and high-anxiety trying to work out the best tactics for overcoming zombie hordes and area bosses (which are staggeringly cool but I’ll get to that later). Boss battles are immensely enhanced by the teamwork that’s afforded by having a real player sitting along side you.
Flesh Eating Controls
While many long time fans of the game might be thrilled that not much has changed with the current combat system, I for one, am not. I was really hoping to see the series first foray onto next gen consoles become a more streamlined experience. Rest assured the purists will be happy.
Utilizing an over the shoulder 3rd person perspective, the general character movement feels a little too slow; almost like walking with weighted boots on.
Two buttons must be pressed in order to load a weapon or fire a weapon or do other simple tasks. Health packs must be accessed through the inventory screen. Though you can assign a health pack to a position on your D-Pad you’ll have to reassign it again once you’ve used the initial health pack. I’ve been recently playing F.E.A.R. 2 where health packs get automatically stored when walked over and you need only hit “down” on the directional pad in order to use them. This is infinitely better than having to open an inventory screen, select the health pack then select “use” from a drop down menu (all while the battle is continuing!). This chosen method is absolutely arcane. I think Dungeon Master in 1989 for the Amiga had a more elegant inventory system.
My biggest gripe, though it stays true to the series, has to be not being able to use a weapon and move at the same time. I found myself extremely frustrated by this glaring omission, particularly when using the machete which at times became more of a hindrance than a help and often felt unnatural. It takes away from the immersive experience if I can’t do something as simple as step forward while striking with my weapon.
I did get used to the control system but I never really felt I was controlling the game more than it was controlling me. The feeling was akin to being told what I could or couldn’t do as opposed to doing what felt natural. I was always aware of the controller in my hand.
The Boss of Me
Resident Evil 5 boasts some of the most jaw dropping bosses I’ve ever seen in a video game. These denizens of death are detailed, imaginative and quite the stuff of nightmares. There are also several set pieces that raise the next-gen bar for sheer “wow” factor. Without giving too much away, one of them involves shooting weapons from the back of a moving vehicle while speeding through the African outback. It’s been done well in other games like Call of Duty 4 but its implementation here is simply phenomenal.
A Worthwhile Experience
While there are some strong flaws, RE5 is still a worthwhile experience. Its online play and offline co-op add extra depth and the single player co-op A.I. sets new standards. The graphics are as good as Call of Duty’s last two entries and never cease to impress. The locations are gorgeous; you’ll swear you can feel the heat and dust on your skin. Special mention must be given to this new style of zombie. Not only do these bad boys wield weapons, they pull off some pretty spectacular stunts (I don’t want to spoil the surprises) and possess an intelligence and ability that has only been hinted at in movies like George Romero’s Land of the Dead.
It’s frustrating when a game is so close to hitting the bulls-eye but misses because of a couple of major missteps. Long time fans of the franchise might fiercely disagree with me but I think it’s time to rethink the combat system. All in all, while the combat, and control system might really turn off those more familiar with modern shooters, you owe yourself a look at what, often times, is a very strong achievement.
Is RE5 Racist? My Mini-Editorial
I agree that it probably isn’t appropriate to bring this up in a game review but I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t.
Much brew-ha-ha was made on the internet last year when NGai Croal, Newsweek’s gaming / tech guru said that the imagery in the first RE5 trailer “dovetailed with classic racist imagery”. (read an enlightening interview with Croal about this here. I agree with him. Like Croal, I believe there was no racist intent on the part of Capcom or the development team but I agree that “This imagery has a history.” I’ll just ask you to look at it this way – imagine a German protagonist killing Jews in a zombie infested Israel. Does it really matter if the game was created with racist intentions or not?
Intolerance is the one thing I can’t tolerate (go wrap your mind around that) and I believe that we, as a world, have a duty to stand up to the horrifically ignorant people of the planet who practice and believe in prejudice. Personally I really enjoyed the setting of the game as it’s a nice change of pace from the typical zombie locale (shopping malls, big city streets, etc); it adds a nice grittiness to the scenario. Again, I firmly believe that Capcom and all involved had no racist intentions whatsoever when creating RE5 but it pisses me off to no end knowing that there are going to be some low life fuck-brick racists getting off on the scenario of this game! That just pisses me off! So while I think Capcom’s intentions are ultimately good, I’m ultimately unsure about how some people will perceive the imagery and situations. I’d love to know what any of you out there think.
Mania Grade: B
Game: Resident Evil 5
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
Reviewed Platform: Xbox 360 (Also available on the Playstation 3)
Replay Value: B-