RESIDENT EVIL 5 Review
The name “Resident Evil” seems to mean a different thing to each person I talk to. Genre purists will drift back and reminisce about the days of inventory management and backtracking across derelict mansions in the early PlayStation releases. Casual gamers will likely dismiss the series for its more recent (and less than stellar) action spinoffs. Ask my parents, and you’ll get an earful about Paul W.S. Anderson’s indulgent cinematic empire. And if the recent RESIDENT EVIL 7 demo is anything to go by, the developers at Capcom probably think it’s time to turn the series into TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.
As for myself, RESIDENT EVIL 5 defines my core understanding of the series. Despite having since played just about every title in the franchise, 5 was my gateway, partly because it wasn’t until the 2009 release that I was finally feeling spicy enough to tackle survival-horror, and partly because it came complimentary with my Xbox 360. The game was a blast and a half, and now with its re-release on modern consoles, I have an excuse to play it again.
“Got a light?”
The fifth numbered Resident Evil release takes the action to Africa, where longtime series veteran Chris Redfield and newcomer Sheva Alomar are tasked with stopping an arms dealer from spreading a virus across the continent. As the first Resident Evil to feature cooperative play, the partnership between Chris and Sheva is a featured mechanic. Weapons, bullets, and other key tools are shared between the two, and choosing who takes what in their limited inventory space becomes as critical an element as defeating the hordes of undead that get in their way.
The campaign takes about 12 hours to beat and will take you through an eclectic range of locales, including ancient temples, submerged villages, high tech laboratories, and an active volcano. Monster variety is just as diverse, ranging from simple zombies to mutated wildlife and lumbering giants. Each enemy requires a different strategy to defeat, usually utilizing the combined efforts of both characters. Coordinated teamwork is a necessity to survive, and overcoming each hurdle by the skin of your teeth provides an unrivaled feeling of satisfaction.
Don’t flim flam on the blam blam
That being said, RESIDENT EVIL 5 can only deliver these thrills if you are paired with another human player. Going solo will allow the game to control your partner, and that’s where things go downhill fast. Your AI buddy is as dumb as they are reckless. They’ll deplete your ammo pool by wasting bullets, squander health items over the tiniest of scratches, and constantly wander into danger. Teamwork is quickly replaced with babysitting, rendering the game practically unplayable.
If there is anywhere else RESIDENT EVIL 5 struggles, it’s the pacing of the campaign, specifically towards the end. Mind you, most of it is great, with its tense crawls through infested corridors punctuated with explosive chases and epic boss fights. The extravagant set pieces, impeccably hammy dialogue, and raucous violence combine to create a horror-action hybrid that is just Hollywood enough to work.
All of this is thrown out the window once RESIDENT EVIL 5 reaches its final act. Zombies are replaced with machine-gun toting soldiers that force the game to turn into a cover-based shooter, despite not controlling anything like one. And the last hour or so of gameplay is an endless boss crawl of baddies that abuse button quick time events, culminating in one stinker of a scene where you’re prompted to punch a boulder into a magma flow to clear a path.
I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried
It’s not enough to ruin the campaign, but these late-game snafus certainly do leave a foul taste in the player’s mouth by the time the credits roll. Fortunately, there’s a lot more to offer here than the story mode. RESIDENT EVIL 5 Remastered includes all of the bonus downloadable content that was released for the original, and is unlocked upon completing the main game.
Lost in Nightmares is a brief prequel episode that trades RESIDENT EVIL 5’s high octane action for a slower, scarier romp a la the earlier Resident Evil titles. On the flip side, Desperate Escape is an interlude that takes place midway through the campaign, and places you in control of two overpowered characters facing a horde of zombies. Additionally, the highly addictive Mercenaries survival mode is playable from the start with all stages and characters, DLC ones included, unlocked from the get go.
Bike friendly =/= friendly bikes
RESIDENT EVIL 5’s recent port also beefs the game’s performance up to match the current generation of consoles. The 60 frames per second offered here look great and make the nine-year-old game feel brand new, but they also assist greatly with gameplay. Running twice as fast, aiming is noticeably easier than the original, a big plus in a game where targeting specific body parts is crucial. Also, since contextual actions like rescuing grabbed partners and leaping away from threats are so commonplace, the added frames ensure more responsive inputs.
While PCs have been able to run RESIDENT EVIL 5 at 1080p, 60fps for a few years now, it’s good to be able to finally enjoy the same experience on consoles. The couch co-op experience is augmented by the addition of splitscreen, and the only thing more impressive than the inclusion of such a feature in 2016 is the ability for both screens to maintain consistent framerate in even the thickest action.
Though RESIDENT EVIL 5’s re-release implements very perfunctory features in its facelift of the original, they serve as a more effective upgrade than almost any other modern remaster. The game played as great as it looked back in 2009, and it’s even better in 2016. As long as you can wrangle up a friend to tag along with you, RESIDENT EVIL 5 is one of the most frenetic zombie games on the market.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4, also available on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC