Review / Resident Evil 5 (PS3)

After much controversy over alleged racism and unsavory, stereotypical depiction of Africans Resident Evil 5 came out on Friday the 13 of last week. RE5 is meant to put a pretty bow on the story of Chris Redfield and ushers in a rebirth for the franchise. If revamping the RE series is what Capcom is planning to do I think RE5 is a great way to end the old era. RE5 takes elements from its survival horror past and incorporates Western third-person shooter mechanics and creates a new breed of action driven, survival horror. This reviewer is not going to come down on RE5 because it’s not survival horror or not worthy of being called an action game because it’s not trying confine itself into one specific genre. The question to answer is does Resident Evil 5 accomplish what Capcom set out to do — maintain a tense atmosphere while successfully incorporating standard practices of an action game. My answer is absolutely. RE5 is meant to be played cooperatively even though a single-player mode is available. My verdict to you is to buy this game.

Let’s start off with a little history lesson. Resident Evil 5 takes place ten years after the events of the first game. Chris Redfield is now a part of the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance (BSAA) who specializes in stopping the proliferation of bioweapons around the world. He receives a tip that a man is planning on selling a particular bio weapon in Africa and goes there to investigate. He also has a personal motivation that influences his objective. Chris meets Sheva Alomar, who is also with the BSAA, and together they must find out what is causing the infection of numerous persons throughout the region. That is the basic spoiler free synopsis of the plot, but believe me when I say there is so much more to this story.

Those who have followed the long and convoluted plot running behind the RE franchise will get answers to some burning questions that tie together pretty well. As with all RE games, there are documents laying around that uncover bits of the story from a single person’s point of view. They are well composed and usually ended with me thinking,”Well I’ll be damned.” The story progresses in a way that never feels bogged down or boring. Stages are divided into six main chapters with three sub-chapters in most levels. It’ll take roughly ten hours to complete on normal difficulty but it can be replayed again on higher difficulties using the same equipment you had in the previous run through. RE has always managed to make players want to play the games over and over even though the story never changes and the paths are always the same. This proves Capcom has tapped into a type of game design that a lot of linear games still haven’t figured out. Making RE5 a cooperative experience only adds another feather to Capcom’s already well adorned hat.

Whoever hosts the game online will be in control of Chris and their partner will be Sheva. They have similar abilities and can carry the same amount of items. Unlike Chris, Sheva can be tossed across large gaps and up broken ladders. Whenever this happens it’s usually because Sheva has to find a way to unlock a door or provide a passageway for Chris. They are never apart for too long and you really don’t want to them to be as teamwork is essential to being successful. One example of this is when Sheva is tossed to a building before a horde of enemies attack her. It was up to me to pick off distant threats while my partner dealt with immediate threats. This sense of strategy has never been used before in a RE game and will recur over and over again throughout the adventure. This is probably where the greatest differences between playing single player or cooperatively show themselves. When faced with more menacing enemies such as the Chainsaw Majini or the Executioner Majini, Sheva could be caught off guard and killed because it’s impossible to develop a strategy with the A.I. It’s frustrating to replay a battle because your partner died through no fault of your own.

Playing with a real person allowed us to literally run circles around the Chainsaw Manjini by letting Chris or Sheva be a decoy while the other shot explosive barrels along with a few headshots. Sheva’s A.I. isn’t totally useless because she is generous about giving Chris ammo and healing him before he gets too injured. However, it’s hard to shake the feeling that Sheva is not going along with the strategy players would have already set up in their heads. There may have been a green herb that you wanted Sheva to hold onto until you can find a green herb to combine the two, but she uses the green herb anyway. It’s something players have to get used to and it does create a yearning to just play as Chris. That would be impossible due to the level design that absolutely requires two people to complete. All of this is alleviated by playing cooperatively with a friend.

The game just flourishes with another human being. Though RE5 isn’t really scary it does have tense moments especially when your partner sees something you don’t or if you happen to get separated during an ambush. You learn to depend on each in order to stay alive. This is especially true when you consider the types of weapons to acquire. Chris and Sheva start off with handguns so sharing ammo is essential. Other weapons such as the shotguns, machine guns and sniper rifles are better used if one character chooses a specialty. Not only does this eliminate the need to share ammo, it also makes the duo well rounded. Playing with a real person even makes players take attacks on their partner more personally. When the yellow help circle lights up, you will stop whatever you’re doing to assist your teammate. RE5 isn’t heavy on the puzzles and they are all easy to figure out. Boss battles are also straight forward. They all require the old one, two punch which is another advantage the cooperative mode has over single player.

There are some basic things in RE5 that you simply cannot do that Capcom has no excuse for not including. The limited inventory space has always been a part of RE games and it succeeds in getting players to contemplate the future before picking anything up. I can’t figure out why Capcom won’t allow items in the world to be used on the fly without picking them up first. If your handgun is out of ammo and you run across bullets, you can’t choose to load them into your gun automatically if your inventory is full. You’re forced to discard an item first in order to get those bullets. Seeing how this wasn’t the case in past RE games it’s a mystery as to why it’s here now. You’re never given an ungodly amount of ammunition to begin with — just enough to get by. Fifty handgun bullets can easily be cut in half in a matter of minutes. Headshots and limb specific shots followed by a melee attack are very important for conserving ammo.

The controls in RE5 are mostly unchanged from RE4. Yes, the characters control like tanks but at least you can run at an angle now. It’s not just up, down, left and right. Walking is done slowly and running feels more like a steady jog but it works. Players won’t want to sprint from place to place for three reasons: the scenery is beautiful, items can be constantly found and it’s easy to get blindsided by enemies. If we were in this situation in real life, I don’t think we’ll want to run around either. Shooting is responsive and relies on your own sense of aim to get quick kills. One thing to remember is that Sheva is left-handed so you’ll be looking over her left shoulder when shooting. This may throw off some players and this option can’t be changed. At no point did I blame death on the controls. It was either because the quicktime events tripped me up or I didn’t pay enough attention to my environment.

Graphics and sound are another of RE5‘s strong points. The lighting and facial animations from the Majini the first time players control Chris is amazing. Sheva has some of the best subtle face twitches I’ve seen in any game. You can see every emotion from her from slight smiles to uncertainty. Growls and speaking in the Majini tongue can sometimes be heard in the background and that keeps players alert constantly.

The Mercenaries is unlocked after beating the game. This mode can be played alone, online or through split-screen co-op. The objective is to kill as many enemies as possible within a certain time frame. You get points for stringing together kill combos and can extend time by finding orbs and hourglasses. Each character has a specific inventory and cannot be altered. There are also unlockable characters and costumes to acquire. Your exploits are then uploaded to leaderboards for the whole world to see. Players are rewarded with points that can be used to purchase action figures and weapon bonuses. The campaign can be played again with the same weapons players had previously and can unlock different weapons and unlimited ammo.

If there’s one thing RE5 doesn’t do particularly well it’s the the single player campaign. Though the game can still be beaten that way, it’s very clear Capcom wanted players to experience this together as a team. The story will confuse anyone not already familiar with the franchise but by that same token will please veterans. Don’t let tank controls cloud your judgment on this game. It’s very fun and has enough unlockable content to justify the price.

+ One of the best co-op experiences of any game
+ Great attention to visual details — from faces to environments
+ Plenty of replay value

– Sheva A.I. not very good
– Can’t use items automatically
– Player can sometimes get shot whilst behind cover