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Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar team up to fight against a new threat in the return of Resident Evil...
- Stunning visuals and presentation.
- Sophisticated co-op gameplay.
- Engaging boss fights.
- Monotonous action.
- Clunky control systems.
- Plot fails to deliver.
Capcom's seminal horror series makes its hugely anticipated next-generation debut with the release of Resident Evil 5 on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation3. Most famously known for Onimusha and Lost Planet, Jun Takeuchi assumes the daunting task of taking the helm on the first Resident Evil not to feature series creator, Shinji Mikami, attached to the project in some shape or form.
Instead of taking this opportunity (along with the extra horsepower) to reinvent the series once again, Takeuchi-san has stuck close to the format established by Resident Evil 4 in 2005. What was a survival/horror has undoubtedly continued the metamorphosis into action/horror, putting the emphasis squarely on the zombie kill count. There's little doubt Resident Evil 5 is easily one of the most action-packed shooters around, and features the presentation and direction we've come to expect from Capcom on this generation. Stunningly directed cut-scenes and explosive set-pieces ensure Resident Evil 5 is a veritable blockbuster that provides plenty of instant gratification, but at the same time there's an overwhelming desire for something a little bit more.
Taking control of the series' original protagonist, Chris Redfield, along with his new BSAA partner, Sheva Alomar, Resident Evil 5 depicts a new setting for the series along with a sinister new organisation to seemingly replace the ever dependable threat of Umbrella Corp. Africa is an intriguing location to stage a series mostly known for the dark. The sun-drenched slums of Kijuju are a fascinating sight to behold, but unfortunately it doesn't last for long and soon the sunset brings more traditional settings into play. Although the new location is welcome it's a shame that the promised gameplay changes fail to really materialise. Beyond a striking visual effect whenever Redfield comes out of the dark into the blinding light, we were hoping Takeuchi-san's early promises would lead to a stronger impact on the gameplay and can only imagine what such scenarios could have offered.
Immediately the gameplay similarities to Resident Evil 4 are a little too close for comfort. Switch Los Ganados for Resident Evil 5's Majini and you're pretty close. For reasons undeniably about ensuring balance and a sense of familiarity, Resident Evil 5's clunky interface system, tired controls, and atrocious covering system highlight a setup that feels tired compared to recent shooters. The clunky item interface is a relic of the series and easy to look past as an attempt to retain some inkling of its past, but whereas character movement feels distinctly Resident Evil and can again be excused, the character's continued inability to shoot and move at the same time is an unforgivable legacy of its four year old predecessor.
Balanced between the waves of Majini and various BOWs (one or two looking closer at home in Lost Planet) the occasional QTE action spices up the action and continues to wantonly demonstrate just how good RE5 looks. Contextual actions such as ducking, close-quarter techniques, kicking down ladders, and on a solitary occasion pushing objects to form barricades, continue to bring variation to the gameplay. Unfortunately, while Resident Evil 4's shooter gameplay still manages to keep up (just about), the decision to include a covering system seems at best ill-advised. Little more than a desperate attempt to include the feature 'du-jour', the dire implementation feels primitive and causes plenty of frustrations with impossible camera views to wrestle with. Takeuchi-san may have felt the need to stick close to Resident Evil 4's switch in gameplay, but hopefully there's no need for it to become Gears of War.
Although intensely slow in a classic Resident Evil manner, the plot largely fails to offer the intrigue and twists that we were hoping and fails to really go anywhere, which is particularly problematic for a series that relies on a twisting narrative to drive the experience. Whereas Resident Evil 4 stylishly shifted the series storyline with a defining new chapter, Resident Evil 5 distinctly fails to have the same impact. The promise of Chris Redfield's return largely surrounds the seemingly endless battle with Wesker, and while his flashbacks provide the main source of interest they fail to cause any Lost like revelations.
We're forbidden from talking about a particular plot device, but the fact remains that the bombshell was let out of the bag along time ago and fails to have the surprise that it should. As a result Resident Evil 5 quickly degenerates into stage after stage of killing wave after wave of increasingly obese Majini armed with better weapons. It can all get a little monotonous and without the plot to push things forward we'd also suggest that Resident Evil 5 is never particularly scary or sufficiently builds up the tension because of the emphasis on action. There's little denying Resident Evil 5 is an out-and-out shooter, which brings unfortunate comparisons to the likes of Gears of War. Puzzles, previously a stalwart of the series, are virtually non-existent and leave us hoping that the series next reinvention will take this into consideration to ensure Resident Evil doesn't become just another shooter.
Resident Evil 5's sole addition is the inclusion of two-player co-op action online, system link or via splitscreen. Marking the first appearance in the series 13 year history, Takeuchi-san and his team deserve credit for developing the concept fully. The idea of co-op initially seems like too much of a departure from the series origins, when dogs jumping through windows made solitary players jump out of their skins. But Resident Evil 5 undoubtedly takes co-op design at its core throughout the entire experience. Sections that split the characters up are suitably paced, whilst there's a constant need for co-operation in everything, whether it's sharing ammo, dispatching bosses, or wolf whistling at one another.
Consequently the game never degenerates into two players essentially playing a single-player game, there's a genuine need for each other and whilst we'd like to have seen more made of the puzzle element using this dynamic, the addition of co-op play is largely Resident Evil 5's saving grace. The feature is further reinforced by the exceptional AI on display should you decide to play the game in single-player. Sheva will smash crates looking for ammo, bring Majini to their knees, and generally come to your aid whenever needed, all without any prompting. At times it's hard to believe you're not playing with another person.
Considering the sheer amount of gameplay in its predecessor, Resident Evil 5's six chapters can be completed in a surprisingly short amount of time - somewhere between 6-8 hours. Without any major advances to the plot and a concerning dip as the game progresses, we're not entirely sure whether we'd have welcomed any more but there's a considerable sense of disappointment once the end credits roll. Worryingly co-op play makes the vast majority of situations pretty achievable, so our advice is to opt for the hardest difficulty if you're playing with a friend. Of course the appearance of unlockables and the customary Mercenaries mode is welcome after the game's completion, the latter arguably providing more entertainment as it's able to focus entirely on the action without the need to worry about a largely non-existent plot.