Review: Resident Evil 5

I figured Jesse would’ve had a review up for this game by now, especially since I took my sweet time to finish it, but I guess I have to carry him yet again on my Atlas-like shoulders.

Resident Evil 5 was one of the main reasons I picked to get an XBOX 360 when I was looking to buy my first console system since the Sega Genesis. I started playing Resident Evil 4 on the Gamecube, but (and some of you might remember this) I ended up getting to the part where you enter the castle for the first time, equipped with nothing but a handgun. I had nothing to snipe the catapult handlers with, so it made the initial catapult gauntlet that I had to run through fairly difficult for me. I remember dying once, and calling it a day for the time being, with every intention of going back and playing it again in the near future.

Well, that never happened. It wasn’t until years later, when I rented Resident Evil 4 on the Wii, did I play and finish the game. I loved it, and was able to cross it off my list of games I started and needed to finish. When I was deciding between the consoles, the fact that RE5 was shown releasing exclusively on the 360 (at the time) sealed the deal for me. So one could technically say, I spent $250 just to play Resident Evil 5. No pressure.

Hit the jump to see if the $250 was worth it.

First off, a disclaimer: My review is based purely off a SOLO playthrough on VETERAN difficulty. Veteran is the highest difficulty you can play on when you first start the game. I did not play any co-op during my first playthrough the game. It is important to keep this in mind as you read the review, as some of the information may not apply if you’re playing co-op or on a normal diffculty level. As of the time of this review, I have played maybe an hour worth of co-op with Jesse, and that’s it, so I’m not really qualified to comment too much about it.

GAMEPLAY
The main thing to know about RE5 is that its gameplay is very similar to RE4, with some additions. The most touted of these additions is your co-op partner, Sheva. Since she is sort of the big highlight feature of RE5 that’s suppose to make it stand apart from the other games in the series, I’ll dedicate an entire section of the review for her, and will leave my comments about her for then. For now, general gameplay. If you liked the gameplay in Resident Evil 4, you’re going to like the gameplay in Resident Evil 5 even more. RE5 has added small changes that result in not-so-small impacts on how the game handles. For example, the fact that Chris Redfield knows how to strafe makes the movement feel like a whole different game than RE4. I think this is why people critisized the “new” controls in RE5, even though they weren’t really new. I caught myself feeling the controls were different as well, and I think the culprit is the strafe mechanic. For some reason, now that I could strafe, I also expected to be able to strafe while aiming. Took me awhile to get out of the “Mass Effect” third-person shooter world, and back into the “Resident Evil” third-person shooter world.

I must mention that your idea of what you’re getting into with RE5 will affect how much you like it. If you come in thinking it’s going to be a pure action shooter, and that’ll you’ll be able to Halo your way through an Africa filled with zombie “n00bs,” you’re going to end up hating the game. One thing that RE5 brought back into the series was an emphasis on ammo conservation. Never did I feel like I had a “safe” amount of ammo. In RE4, the only time I pulled out a knife was when I needed to break boxes. In RE5, every opportunity I got to knife someone or hit them with a stun rod, I did. Often times, I had no other choice. I entered the final boss fight with about 50 handgun bullets, and 3 magnum bullets. Not exactly an ideal situation. While it may have caused a lot of headaches playing the game, the lack of ammo really adds a layer to the action that was missing since the original Resident Evil. It forces the player to expand their arsenal with melee weapons, and melee attacks that can even be used in combos with your partner. I found the action to be very fun in RE5, and even though many enemies were very similar to the ones fought in RE4, it still felt brand new. Along with that, you still have your Quick Time Events. The QTEs in this game are often times trial and errors. At least they were for me. They often appear with no notice, and when doing QTE sequences, there is often no pattern from when a QTE changes to a new QTE. Once you get into the QTE mindset, then they’re fine, but expect to die once or twice for each QTE sequence because you most likely will be blindsided with them the first go around.

Pure badass. Fight scenes with this guy are fun to watch.

Fight scenes with this guy are fun to watch. He would kick your ass IRL.

Boss fights are the highlights of the game’s combat spectrum. I thoroughly enjoyed each boss fight, whether they were easy or hard. The 2v2 battle between Chris/Sheva and Wesker/____ was intense and creative, and the following fight against just ____ was probably my favorite boss fight of the game.

One notable difference with RE5 is the “horror” in “survival horror” has pretty much been removed. There are some true high-tension moments in the game, but for the most part, this installment is an action game. It even has Wesker pulling out pages from the Matrix.

STORY
The story in Resident Evil 5 is mediocre really. It took a long time for it to ramp up during my first playthrough, and by the time it did, I forgot half the plot that was introduced in the first half of the game. For example, Chris Redfield is in Africa investigating something regarding a “Uroboros” project. By the time Uroboros starts coming into the picture, I forgot that they had even mentioned it at the beginning of the game. Either way, the story in RE5 is the most recent of the series, and I’d imagine it’s going to be used as a setup for future installments. In essence, all you really need to know about the plot is how it ends. I personally found the short side-plot regarding Chris Redfield and a certain someone else (not Sheva) to be more interesting than the main plot involving Wesker. It did seem the game tried to keep the player in the dark a bit regarding everything that was going on, but maybe Capcom ended up doing too good a job on that?

GRAPHICS AND SOUND
I’m not really an “artistic” person. Don’t expect much insight or anything profound from me regarding graphics and audio in my reviews. The graphics in the game are amazing to say the least. There is no change in graphics quality between a full-motion cutscene, and actual gameplay. In fact, the only difference between the two is the finite amount of animations you’ll see during standard gameplay. The environment is rendered to as far as the eye can see. If you see a chicken off in the far, far distance. You most likely can take out a sniper rifle and (try to) hit it.

The audio is good in RE5, although it does not really live up to the audio from previous installments. I didn’t feel the mood-setting audio from the original installments were present here. It may be on purposes since this installment wasn’t really meant to be a scary one. The audio in this game does similar things as RE4, where the music ramps up while fighting enemies, and then returns to normal when the enemies have been killed and you’re in a “safe” state. It is effective as a tool, but it got kind of old to me. The voice acting, however, was well done. Some lines were cheesy, but that’s to be expected in a Resident Evil game. As a tangent, I was disappointed to see that the file they have for Jill Valentine describes her as a “master of lock picking” as opposed to her true title of “master of unlocking.”

SHEVA
This is going to be a long section, because quite frankly, I’ve got a lot to say about Sheva. I’m going to be harsh here and proclaim that I don’t like Sheva at all. Again, I’ll qualify that statement by emphasizing I have not played online co-op with a HUMAN player controlling her, and have only played single player with the AI controlling her. I’m sure Sheva is great when she is being controlled by a human player. In fact, the main reason I didn’t wait to get RE5, was so I could play co-op with some of my friends in Mercenaries, and get prepped for Versus mode when that comes out on DLC. However, with the computer controlling her, Sheva’s AI is very far from being flawless, or even fluid for that matter. To put it bluntly, she is a pain in the ass to work with, and she was the direct or indirect cause of probably 80% of my “Game Over” screens.

The problem is that if you’re going to put in an autonomous AI co-op partner that MUST stay alive, then the AI for that partner MUST be perfect. If you can’t perfect that AI, then give the player options to control her by giving commands or hell, maybe even by controlling her directly. If that’s not an option, then don’t put the AI into the game. Because if you do, the AI will become baggage that the player has to carry around, which is exactly what AI Sheva is.

Contrary to what many would lead you to believe, the concept of having a co-op partner is NOT new in the RE series, so it kind of bothered me when people kept saying it was. I think it may have first been implemented in Resident Evil 0 with Rebecca Chambers teaming up with Billy “Bad Motherfucker” Cohen (My favorite character in Resident Evil lore, because he was apparently born from a womb of pure badassness). In RE0, the player could actually flip back and forth between controlling each character at any given time. It was cumbersome at times, since you had to do everything. But if anything went wrong, you hand no one to blame but yourself. Capcom had also already nailed down the concept of having a character follow you around in Resident Evil 4 with Ashley. Combine Ashley with the Cohen/Chambers concept, and you get Sheva.

I read a lot of reviews talking about Sheva’s superior AI, but when I played RE5, there was a whole laundry list of problems with it. And for the most part, this list was similar to any other list you could generate from most other games that use AI to try to control co-op partner(s). For me, this list was quite extensive. Now on Veteran mode, some of these AI faults may simply be more apparent when playing on a higher difficulty where there is less room for error. To list a few of the problems I faced while dealing with her:

1. Her pathing gets out of whack occasionally, and in some areas, very consistently. She sucks at climbing certain ladders (as in, she can’t), she does stupid zig-zag paths a lot of the times in place of just going straight like normal people, and she sometimes lags behind in wide open spaces for no apparent reason (i.e. the first wide open “lake” in Chapter 3-1 with the crocodiles).
2. She is not as good as Ashley at moving out of your way if you’re trying to shoot something behind her. I turned partner reaction off to allow me to fire through her. If I hadn’t done that, I’d be hitting her 50% of the time instead of the enemy.
3. Her cover AI tries too hard, and as a result, is flawed. I remember the first time I encountered a gatling gun, I started out in a building, and the Majinis start using the gatling gun against you. You could either stand behind a wall, or take cover under a window sill, occasionally popping up to take pot shots at the Majini. Well, I chose wall. However, Sheva kept trying to take cover under the window sill, even though she was already behind the wall with me, and NOT getting shot at. Once under the window sill, she would, without fail, poke her head up to take shots BEFORE people stopped firing at her. Every time. Because of this, I kept calling her back to me (behind the wall), but her AI would just make her go back to taking cover under the window sill. It was like she was a fucking yo-yo.
4. “Conservation” does not exist in her vocabulary. If you’re going to give her a weapon with ammunition, make it the machine gun, because that’s the only one her AI knows how to use properly. If you give her anything else, she will be out of ammo in 2 minutes flat, if that. Never give her any type of health-restoring items, because it will be used up faster than a Bangkok hooker the night the navy is in town. To add onto that, loot herbs before she does. There have been a couple of times where there was a green and red herb next to each other, and she grabs the green herb and uses it before I even have a chance to combine the two herbs.
5. There is no way to tell her where to go or where to stand. I think this is important when dealing with AI co-op. You can call her over to you, but most of the time, it does nothing. There are certain points in the game where she is programmed to go to a spot, a lot of times to show you where to go next. Problem is, some of these spots puts her in harms way. Calling her back is a temporary fix, as her AI just overrides it the moment she gets to you. Let me tell you, there is nothing worse than seeing her run into a slew of grenades and then seeing the Game Over screen.
6. Speaking of grenades, she doesn’t use them. Ever. Left 4 Dead AI anyone?
7. Yet, she will pick up a proximity mine that you placed down for a reason in a strategic location. Sigh…

Uh... yeah. Exactly.

Uh... yeah. Exactly.

That’s just to name a few. The list goes on and on. Keep in mind that none of this applies if you’re playing with a friend (which is likely what you’re meant to do), provided your friend is competent. The only thing that AI Sheva probably does better than a human are the QTE prompts since she gets them 100% of the time.

This is not to say that she is dead weight, as the game would be exponentially harder (impossible actually) if she was not there. If you’re being assaulted from two directions, you can usually trust her to hold her own against one side for a short while, as you deal with the other side. And if she gets caught up, you can always help her out. However, that’s really nothing spectacular, and for a co-op partner, looking out for the player’s back is sort of the bare minimum. She actually makes for a great inventory drop. If you run out of room, just make her pick it up. She usually has room in her inventory since I never give her anything of real value except the machine gun and ammo. I also want to say that most of Sheva’s AI faults are simply annoying. They are in no way game breaking. Worst case scenario, her presence causes you to die, and then you have to restart from the last checkpoint. Again, annoying but manageable.

Looking back, I would not have played the game on Veteran mode. I think I may have enjoyed te game less simply because of the annoyances I dealt with while playing Veteran. Things are harder to kill, they damage you more, and some enemies have different mechanics in Veteran than they do in Normal or Amateur (LOL Chainsaw Majini resurrects himself after you kill him and cannot be dazed from then on). I think a lot of the AI problems I had with Sheva may not have been as big a deal in Normal, where you can take more hits and being hit once was not such a big deal.

REPLAYABILITY
You wouldn’t think it, but I’ve found RE5 to have a lot of replay value. First off, the first playthrough took me 17 hours and 20 minutes. Way more than even I expected. I did die a decent amount, so a good portion of that are Continues. Right now, I’m playing through on the lower difficulties to earn Grade points to buy stuff like infinite ammunition. Running through the game with an infinite ammo magnum is a lot of fun. There are leaderboards for fastest clears of each Chapter. I’ve done speed runs on Normal for Chapters 1 and 2 for now. To give you an idea of the disparity between playthroughs, Chapter 2 took me 3 hours and 10 minutes to clear on my very first run. Then I ran in again on Amateur with an infinite ammo handgun, and clocked in at 1 hour and 2 minutes. I then did a speed run on Normal, and finish the whole chapter in 19 minutes and 15 seconds (ranked 960 of 591,983). In all these subsequent playthroughs, Sheva has never really been a problem (except during speed runs, when she often lags behind). This is what lead me to believe that the main reason I have such a low opinion of her is because I started out on too high a difficulty.

How about these unlockables, eh? High five!

How about these unlockables, eh? High five!

Beyond speed runs, and all the unlockables (new weapons, infinite ammo, new costumes), there is also Mercenaries mode, which I haven’t gotten into yet. It’s basically an arcade mode where you try to get as many points as you can by killing enemies. Points are given based on how many enemies you kill and how frequently you kill. You start out with a set amount of time, but get time bonuses from stuff like headshots and certain items. This can be played solo or co-op. Capcom has also announced a Versus mode that will be released in the near future via paid DLC.

FINAL VERDICT
At the end of my first playthrough, I probably would not have given RE5 more than a 7/10. The gameplay, while similar to the groundbreaking RE4, was no longer groundbreaking. Action was what drove RE5, not the plot. I didn’t really feel like I was having anymore fun playing RE5 than I was playing other action-driven games such as Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, or Dark Sector (By the way, highly recommend this one if you want a short, brainlessly fun action game). And it’s no secret that the annoyances I had with Sheva played a role in my opinion for RE5.

However, after subsequent playthroughs, I’d be willing to give the game a 8/10. I figure most people will not start out playing the game on Veteran, and Normal mode makes the faulty Sheva AI much more manageable. While mainly action driven, the action is pretty intense, no matter what difficulty level. I also played online co-op with Jesse, and aside from being able to chat and there being no faulty AI, it was not too much different than playing solo. I’d imagine certain boss fights would be much easier with a human player, though.

I also liked the fact that your combat arsenal is so varied. And the variation goes beyond the number of types of weapons you have, too. Shooting an opponent in the knee and then swinging around to his back to do a neck breaker is hugely satisfying.

So was it worth $250? Well, I’m probably 25 hours into the game now. I have Fallout 3 and Dead Space laying on my desk, all waiting to be played, and I currently still feel like playing RE5. If it can beat out two of the best games ever released so far for the 360, I’d say “Yes.”

P.S. And like RE4, I played through RE5 with the handgun as my main weapon. Probably did not make things better…

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