So we all know how great Resident Evil 4 was. Some people may have not liked it, but there's no denying that it pretty much revived the dying franchise. I highly enjoyed 4 due to the fact that it was just FUN and it actually scared the hell out me from time to time.
I didn't want to spoil myself with Resident Evil 5. So I decided not to read almost anything that would set some sort of expectation since I might be disappointed with the game if I emotionally invest on it far too much. Ok, I did watch a trailer or two out of sheer impulse...but it didn't really give out anything other than some cinematic sequences.
Anyways, let's get on with the review.
Mind you, I've only played halfway through Resident Evil 3 and finished 4. So the main protagonist of this game, Chris Redfield, is quite foreign to me and the only thing I know about him is that he was the protagonist of the original Resident Evil (which I haven't played completely). Anyway, the game's setting takes place in Africa and starts with a mysterious hooded figure giving one of the residents a special virus called the Uroboros. By the way, the mysterious hooded figure is pretty much the plot twist of the game and is related to Chris Redfield (that's as far as I'll go with spoiling the storyline). The whole town basically becomes infected. Luckily, a new character in the game, Sheva, comes and 'tries to save your ass (emphasis on the try). The storyline isn't really anything profound or original and the main focal point of this game is no doubt its gameplay.
Let me tell you straight off the bat: Resident Evil 5 looks beautiful. I've only played the 360 version so I don't know how it exactly compares to the PS3 (but I would imagine it's pretty close). But viewing it on a Sony Bravia with HDMI cable with surround Bose speakers all help to really give you a nice feeling of how far games have evolved compared to its ATARI days. Each model is incredibly detailed and you might even mistake the cutscenes as actual FMV footage. What can I say? Nice detailed stages (though still linear in terms of its form), great character models, excellent lighting make this one beautiful looking game.
The game feels very sparse of actual memorable music, but does evoke very powerful and emotional 'Hollywood'-like music. So that basically means that you'll get the general idea of what the music is trying to express but you probably won't be humming the music like a Final Fantasy tune. Although I found the music for the Uroboros fight scenes really intense and enjoyable. But the other than that, I felt most of the music just did its job to express the emotion that the player should feel and nothing else (which isn't necessarily bad, but I prefer more memorable music).
So here's the main focal point of the whole game (and this review). After finishing the game approximately 2-3 times, my thoughts are that Resident Evil 5 feels more like 'Resident Evil 4+' for a few reasons. Also, after finishing Dead Space and other Resident Evil 4-inspired games, I felt the game's system has really taken a toll in terms of age (I mean you still can't side strafe in the game) and I believe there's no way this system will work for Resident Evil 6. However, if you've played Resident Evil 4 already then you'll pretty much feel at home with 5 (or as I like to call it RE4+).
The biggest addition to gameplay is you've got a new female partner named Sheva. Basically she's going to be your second set of eyes and firepower throughout the game. She can either be controlled by the AI or you can go online or go co-op split screen or system link with a friend. I refuse to pay for Xbox Live, so I'm pretty much stuck with the AI experience. A lot of reviews that I've read for this game have given the AI's programming a lot of flak and I'm not about to defend those criticisms because most of them seem to be true.
Let's start with the good features first. I definitely think that having an AI partner was a good move by Capcom, otherwise this game may have flopped big time (although the game was a mega hit). Having an AI is definitely helpful since she can sometimes help you in tough situations (however she can be terrible at backing you up as well which I'll talk more about later in detail).
I also thought that she wasn't too bad in healing you in tough situations and although some people may think she tends to waste too many healing items. I felt that it was just right, plus herbs are quite common in the game and buying full health spray cans is actually quite cheap. So, even if she does use in excess, I didn't find it too much of a bother.
In terms of weapon usage, I find that the AI works best with certain weapons and I really like giving her a rifle (and once you have the infinite ammo cheat, the AI can be a pretty deadly partner). Although I've realized that she tends to waste a lot of ammo since she shoots in very ineffective spots, so I sometimes just give her stun baton to save ammo (which you get somewhere halfway in the game).
The main problem I found with the AI is her reaction time is terrible. For example, an enemy would grab me for whatever reason, and the AI would take about 5-10 seconds (or that's what I at least felt) because she will usually turn very slowly and then run towards you, which gets incredibly frustrating, especially as you progress towards the end of the game and enemies naturally get more difficult.
Not only that, the AI is absolutely terrible at giving you support. Basically the AI has two modes in helping you: attack mode and cover mode. I'll cut through all the crap; cover mode is terrible because even though the AI is mostly next to you. She will usually just stand there as the enemy attacks and if she does attack, it takes her like 30 seconds just to start initiating. In Attack Mode, she is much more versatile in my opinion, because she actually attacks more frequently. However, the problem is she tends to stray too far away from you and this can be problematic in certain sections of the game. It would have been nice if the AI performed somewhere between the two settings.
It's also quite frustrating that the AI cannot keep up with you at times and you have to babysit her in certain sections. Although I wouldn't say the AI is the most terrible thing in the world. There's no doubt that it could have been further refined. For example, there are times where the AI will keep running in the wall even though the next pathway is only a few steps away. When you also need to go to the next station say via lift, the AI tends to move away for some damn reason. Other than the things I've mentioned, in my experience, I've found the AI to be bearable.
Next issue: what the hell is up with Capcom taking out the classic suitcase inventory system and the type writer saving system? Although this is a minor setback, it still felt very disappointing for these two traditional systems to be removed. Now realize that I don't mind the Checkpoint system. I think it would have been a better if they have added that on top of the normal saving system instead.
But first I have to ask Capcom...why did you downgrade the inventory system?! It's incredibly frustrating that you have to drop items consistently just to make some room, although you can check your storage system after every checkpoint (by pressing start and clicking on restart checkpoint). I believe that it was a big mistake for Capcom to take out the Attache Case inventory system. I mean even a chicken egg takes a whole single slot!!! Other than getting the 'egg hunt' achievement for the eggs or if you're cheaters like me like to use the rotten eggs glitch for money. You might as well just buy a few spray cans since they'll heal you in full anyway. Again Capcom...why nine slots? Not only that, but you can't pause to heal yourself. Instead, everything is in real time. If you want to heal, you'll have to do it in the middle of battle which leads to simple frustration. Why would Capcom do this? They stated in an interview that it was to add tension in the battle. But maybe next time they need to get their brains fixed, because all it did for me was add frustration.
Moving on, I noticed something peculiar and realized the enemies in RE5 are highly similar to RE4, right down to the voices?! It's disappointing to me that I'm basically fighting the same enemies from Resident Evil 4 and the only difference is I'm fighting Africans instead of Europeans (although I noticed there was an added Asian probably due to the racism incident sparked by early E3 footage).
The Boss fights in this game for the most part were quite fun (even though there aren't a lot of bosses) and found the Uroboros fights the most entertaining. Although towards the end, it started to feel tedious and the last boss felt slightly cheap to me and the battle felt more like a trial and error approach than an actual boss fight.
Speaking of cheap, the game feels very gears of war and you'll have to do some cover fights halfway towards the game. There's even certain sections in the game where you'll fight enemies and bosses via 'Resident Evil dead aim' style and found those certain sections quite entertaining.
The biggest gripe that I have with this game is that it totally doesn't feel like the Resident Evil I know at all. Even in a section where you have to the mines and everything feels dark, the game still feels daft in suspense. RE5 feels more of a horror action zombie game with a suspense factor of almost zero. I know that RE4 was kind of more action orientated than Resident Evil 3 and probably also the past Resident Evil games. But it never completely lost the horror factor and there are certain sections in the where you can't help but shriek like a little girl. In RE5, I felt like I was in the 'been there done that' sort of phase.
Final Verdict: Rent or Buy?
I would say Rent this game mainly because you can probably finish this game in less than 5-8 hours depending on your skills and of course the difficulty level. Don't get me wrong, the game is still FUN. There's no doubt about that, even if it doesn't bring anything new in the table.
If Capcom wants to keep this franchise going, they're going to need to take the formula to a new level in Resident evil 6. Otherwise this franchise will most likely flop, especially due to the fact that competition is getting more sophisticated with other zombie shooter games becoming very popular such as Left 4 Dead and Dead Space being two key examples. Luckily, it seems like Capcom is already aware of this.... in an interview they have stated that Resident Evil 6 will be reinvented although it may take 4-8 years?!!! I'm going to have pubes when that happens.... (note for the slow: I'm old and have pubes :P)