By: Kyle Grubb
Resident Evil 5, huh. I honestly can’t believe I got this far. Only 1 game left after this. God, I’m tired.
We’re almost through this, folks. I promise. We’re almost there.
Resident Evil 5 has the unique privilege of being the first game in the series I was eagerly awaiting. I read previews for it, watched trailers and videos, and set aside time to digest it all once it came out. I was extremely excited for the prospect of playing through the campaign in co-op (particularly couch co-op). Once RE5 came out, my friend Matt and I plopped down and powered through it in only a sitting or two. There was only one problem:
I was disappointed.
Coming after the atmospheric and engaging Resident Evil 4, 5 just felt like a completely different beast. While both Matt and I did enjoy the game, it was just missing so much of what made 4 special and unique. In its place was a fairly entertaining and action-packed co-op shooter. I ended up selling back RE5 within a month. I hadn’t played it since.
There is a single, finite moment when I realized that this game wasn’t truly a Resident Evil game at all: at a point in Chapter 5, I descended down some stairs to find a group of Majini, the main enemies, standing around. Once I got their attention, they turned towards me and lifted up their assault rifles. The green dot sight edged toward me, and so I sprinted forward to a knee-high wall and pressed a button to take cover behind it. After waiting for the enemies to reload, I popped up and blew up the head off of a Majini. Another enemy appeared through a nearby doorway, and so I switched to my grenades, tossed it forward, and created a shower of guts and gore.
That’s doesn’t sound anything like the original game I played a few weeks back.
Resident Evil 5 returns Chris Redfield to center stage. He’s been taking as many steroids as the series has since his last appearance in Code: Veronica, and is barely recognizable. He finds himself in Africa following the trail of a terrorist selling bio-organic weapons, or B.O.W.s, and is partnered up with local BSAA agent Sheva Alomar. Of course, Chris has other reasons, more personal reasons, to find himself on this mission: there’s reason to suggest that someone very close to Chris could be tied up in all of this. If the intel is actually true, all of this could be connected to Chris’s now-deceased ex-partner Jill Valentine.
When I first played RE5, I just found myself disappointed that it seemed to sacrifice the horror-inspired atmosphere of 4 in exchange for more explosive set pieces. Now, after experiencing the origins of the franchise, Resident Evil 5 is heartbreaking. When I was blasting round after round into a gatling-gun toting enemy’s head, desperately waiting for him to die, I honestly forgot that this was a Resident Evil game. A few weeks back I was playing a game that had me running through a mansion, evaluating whether or not I could slip past a zombie to save some bullets. Yesterday, I played a game where my main character punched a boulder repeatedly inside of an active volcano. You’d be forgiven in thinking these were games in two different series.
That’s not to say that RE5 isn’t a good game. It actually isn’t that bad. The gunplay is tight (even though you’re still dealing with the tank-like controls), the set pieces are cool, and the enemies are varied and decently challenging. The production values are also pretty high, with great graphics and the best voice acting in the series as of yet.
What Resident Evil 5 is not, though, is a good Resident Evil game. I’d argue that it’s a horrible Resident Evil game. So many faces return from the original game, and all that ended up doing was making me draw comparisons. This game has absolutely none of the soul of that original entry, none of its unique sensibilities. In seeking forward momentum, the series sacrificed it’s identity completely. Whereas Resident Evil: Revelations couldn’t decide whether or not it wanted to be an old-school or new-school entry in the series, this game doesn’t seem to want to be part of the series at all. Names and faces are the same, but nothing else really is.
I suppose I should really point the finger back at RE4 for this mess, considering so much of what 5 gets so wrong are natural evolutions of elements introduced there. Whereas 4 still managed to keep the atmosphere and spirit, though, 5, well, doesn’t.
This is getting me annoyed just writing about it.
The greatest flaw that Resident Evil 5 has, as just any old game, is its lack of identity and depth. It’s a bad Survival Horror game, with no horror at all to be found. It’s a bad third person shooter, with a sluggish control scheme and only select places where you can use cover. It’s just a weird amalgamation of both. Somehow that combination actually does make it better than the sum of its parts, but I really don’t know quite what to call it. In addition, it waters down the inventory system by giving each character 9 slots. Upgrading your guns also returns, though the ability to go back and replay levels to farm money ends up trivializing the system.
Beating the game unlocks The Mercenaries, which is essentially identical to its counterpart in 4. There are more characters and levels this time around, but its, at best, an interesting diversion. While I did have fun with it, it’s not worth throwing the game in again just to compete for a higher score. There is also an added-on Versus Mode, which, full disclosure, I didn’t end up playing. My internet is a complete mess at the house right now, and would thus have been unable to enjoy the mode anyway, if it did end up being fun.
Likely the hugest factor on whether you’ll really enjoy your playthrough of Resident Evil 5 is something you’ll have to track down for yourself: a partner. With a friend by your side, the campaign is a pretty enjoyable. Splitting your arsenal and loadouts to best suit each of your preferred play-styles works really well. The AI, on the other hand, is a complete idiot. If you’re stuck without a human to play with, Sheva burns through your ammo and constantly gets in your way. She becomes a liability, and if you have to babysit her throughout all of the other problems you’re dealing with, you’re not going to have that great of a time.
Also the sound design is still excellent. It feels pointless to even mention that by this point.
Like I said, Resident Evil 5 is not a horrible game. It has moments where it can actually be fun. For fans of the series, though, it’s a bit disgraceful. Seeing faces like Chris and Jill just reminded me of my adventures up in the Arklay Mountains in the original game. It reminded me of the brilliant atmosphere the first game. It reminded me of the enjoyable experience as I slowly uncovered the secrets of that mansion. It reminded me that Resident Evil 1 is a brilliant game that still feels unique even all these years. Resident Evil 5 is a bro-shooter with sub-par controls and a shifty cover mechanic. While the story has moments of being interesting, and the production values are much improved, it just doesn’t do anything well enough or unique enough to justify its abandonment of what made the franchise so interesting in the first place. There are no scares, a single decent puzzle, and hundreds of enemies that you’ll mow down. With a friend by your side you might enjoy the trip, but you won’t be thinking of this game too long after putting it down.
This game also concludes multiple plot-lines developed in the original game, and so fans will have to suffer through it to get some closure.
Gah. And this isn’t even as worse as things get.
Resident Evil 5
This game has 2 additional DLC “mini-campaigns” that you can pick up: Desperate Escape, and Lost in Nightmares. I’m going to mini-review both of these, but I do want to warn that there will be STORY SPOILERS for the main campaign for those who care. Okay? Good.
Players find themselves in control of Jill and Josh as we find out how exactly they came into possession of a helicopter just in time to save Chris and Sheva in the finale. All of your weapons you have in the main game are not carried over here, and instead players rebuild their arsenal and they shoot their way through horde after horde after horde after horde after… okay, you get the point. The fact is, this thing is non-stop action from start to finish. Players are just pushed from one big battle to the next, and have to use the resources they have to get through it. No weapon upgrades, no shops, just pure action. As I wrote up above, the action for the game isn’t awful, so this could be a lot of fun with a friend if you just want to mindlessly kill stuff.
Desperate Escape took me about an hour and a half to get through, but there is some replayability for those who are interesting in pursuing higher scores. It’s fairly challenging, and you’ll be putting all of your skills you built over the campaign to the ultimate test. It’s very light on story, only allowing the story to interfere whenever it absolutely had to to tie back in to the main campaign. Really, this is just a fairly unoffensive little adventure that doesn’t add too much to the game, but isn’t completely awful, either. It’s certainly not a must-play, though.
Lost in Nightmares
Lost in Nightmares has one serious fatal flaw. It has something about it that just takes away from it’s grand strive toward perfection. That thing?
I’m not going to beat around the bush here: Lost in Nightmares is fantastic. So fantastic, in fact, that it actually kinda pisses me off. It is, in many ways, everything the main campaign is not. It’s atmospheric. It’s creepy. It’s also completely unafraid to disempower the player. While it may be short, clocking in at less than an hour, it’s also probably the best designed work in the series that Capcom has put out since Resident Evil 4. Why couldn’t the entire main game have been like this?
You play as Chris and Jill, personally experiencing the flashback that explained Jill’s “death.” Lost in Nightmares is designed to harken back to the original Resident Evil, and it does so with gusto. When the episode opened, my face spread to a huge grin. From spiked ceilings to cranks to an easter egg that allows you to play through with the old camera angles and control scheme, this game is a love letter, a reminder to fans that Capcom hasn’t completely forgotten how to make more of what the fans love. Apparently they just choose not to do so, which kinda feels worse.
A standout moment in the episode finds you weaponless and using teamwork and your environment to defeat your enemies and progress. In fact, there are only a total of, I believe, 9 enemies in the entire episode, and you’re probably 15 minutes in before you run into the first one. This game startled me at multiple points, and gave me fond memories of my first time crawling through the Spencer Mansion. If only it was longer. If only it didn’t end.
If Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is half as atmospheric as this, it’ll be a big step in the right direction.