|Posted on April 27, 2011 at 10:55 AM|
Resident Evil 5 is tricky game to critique. On its own, it's a perfectly enjoyable and engaging action horror game. The visuals look superb, and the level of detail in the environments really helps immerse you in the storyline. The enemies are creepy and suitably threatening (as zombies should be), and the soundtrack creates a real sense of nervous tension. However, the game is part of a series, and the fact that it borrows so liberally from the previous installment really hurts the experience, and the game suffers by comparison. The fact that the entire village starts attacking you in the first level lacks any impact because that's exactly what they did in Resident Evil 4. So, right from the get go, the game is sticking to a previously established formula, and is failing to execute it as well as its predecessor.
The game is much shorter than RE4, the bosses are much less imaginative, and the storyline is even more contrived. The Resident Evil series has always skimped on decent voice actors, but this is just absurd. With the exception of Chris, every character ranges from camp to hysterical. RE4 managed to embrace the theatricality of the series, but still maintain a core element of horror. This game fails miserably, jumping from tension filled gameplay, to an almost Austin Powers level of campiness. RE4 certainly delved into the action genre, but it always routed the gameplay in survival horror. Health was low, enemies were violent, and ammo was scarce. This game feels more like John McClane being air-dropped into Dawn of the Dead. You never feel the same sense of danger and desperation you should in a horror game. The developers have got the tone and gameplay mechanics all wrong.
Which brings us to one of the few new elements introduced to the series – the co-op mode. For the entire game you play alongside a character named Sheva (who can be operated by a second player). Overall I found her to be more useful than a hindrance. She can hold onto items when your cache is full and will run over to heal you if you’re low on health. However, this sort of removed that sense of desperation I was talking about, (1) because someone else has you’re back; (2) because you’re never alone throughout the game; and (3) you don’t have to worry about low health, because she’ll always be there to heal you. While I certainly appreciated her in-game, in hindsight it took out the “survival” element of survival horror. Another gripe I have is the inventory cache. In RE4 items took up room according to their size. For example, a herb would take up 1 square, while a rifle would take up about 20. And you could upgrade the size of your cache as the game progressed. In this game, however, every item takes up 1 square, but you have decidedly less squares of inventory and no option to upgrade. So according to this game, a herb and a rifle each take up the same space, and while some items will stack, like ammo, other won’t. There’s no rhythm or reason to any of it. It does force you to manage your inventory much more with Sheva, which I liked, and there was a larger inventory cache, but it could only be accessed in-between levels. I liked how the game wouldn’t pause when accessing the cache though. That made sense and added to the tension of gameplay.
So in summary, Resident Evil 5 pales in comparison to the previous installment in the series. And it compounds that failure by copying so much from it. However, it is still a fun little action-horror romp. And it’s short enough and has enough fun, exciting moments for me to at least recommend it as a rental. Fans of the series will be disappointed, but your average gamer will get plenty of fun out of mowing down zombies in the Sahara.