Video Game Review - Resident Evil 5
Resident Evil has been a franchise slow to change over the years. It adhered to fixed camera angles and ungainly gunplay a little too long until it was finally revamped with the stellar Resident Evil 4--a game that forever changed the genre. We're now four years on from its release, and finally, Resident Evil 5 is here with big guns, big monsters, and even bigger expectations.
Resident Evil 4 took us through the dank forests and villages of Spain as Leon Kennedy attempted to find the President's daughter, but the fifth installment only loosely relates to it. This time Chris Redfield heads to Kijuju in West Africa after reports surface of the same virus that Leon tackled in Spain breaking out among the villagers. While the first four games in the series really left the militaristic motivations of Umbrella and other organizations meddling with the T and G viruses as an undertone, it's the driving force here. It's all about terrorism using biological weapons, and the macabre is really an afterthought.
One thing the story does well is wrapping everything up. If you don't know Las Plagas from the T-Veronica virus, you'll find yourself lost at times, but just about every conceivable loose end left dangling throughout the series is tied up. The cast is comprised of just a handful of characters, so it's easy to follow the immediate plot, but the story's big secret twist is way too obvious. Yet, the people involved are interesting, and the mysteries behind Wesker and Jill Valentine will keep series vets plugged in. It's more an action movie with big monsters, questionable writing, and plenty of plot holes than a horror flick, but it's enjoyable and satisfying if you turn your mind off.
To describe Resident Evil 5's design in a nutshell, think Resident Evil 4 with coop. While there were sections where you fought alongside comrades in RE4, this time a friend can jump in at any time either locally or online and play as new sidekick, Sheva [not sheeva] Alomar. No matter which character you play as, you have the ability to upgrade weapons using money that you collect from crates and dead enemies. Each armament can be upgraded a number of times in several categories, and a big part of the strategy is how you share the upgrades between the two.
Guns and other offensive instruments are plentiful. There are multiple types of pistols, machine guns, sniper rifles, grenades, and shotguns, in addition to rocket launchers, grenade launchers, mines, and a stun rod. There's nothing especially inventive about any of the weapons, and a lot of the more interesting guns are used specifically for some encounters and never used again. One weapon has been shamelessly lifted from Gears of War-ironically, a series that borrowed a ton of elements from Resident Evil 4.
While storage boxes are not a part of the game, this is remedied by swapping weapons and items between the inventory of Chris and Sheva. While playing with a friend it's not a big deal, but the computer AI lacks the intelligence to manage inventory, which means you'll spend a lot of time combining items in both inventories trying to clear space for new additions.
The majority of the levels are linear with multiple checkpoints and save points fairly spread throughout. You can break off the beaten path to score hidden items and herbs, and there are a few cases where you can tackle a set of objectives in whatever order you choose before moving on. Otherwise, your goal and the way to go are always clearly defined thanks to a minimap. The rest of the experience is rounded out by puzzles that are insultingly simple, context sensitive moments, and plenty of epic boss fights with some seriously nasty creatures.
The campaign will take most players around a dozen hours to complete, making it much shorter than the last game in the series. Once finished, a mercenaries option becomes unlocked that challenges you to kill as many enemies as possible within a time limit. You also have the ability to play the campaign by yourself as Sheva, though it doesn't change things much. You're not going to get as much value out of Resident Evil 5 as you would from a game with competitive multiplayer, but you'll want to experience the campaign more than once if only to play it by yourself and with a friend, and mercenaries can be surprisingly addictive.