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Resident Evil 4 is often considered one of the greatest games of all time. It popularized the over-the-shoulder view, has excellent pacing, and contains an atmosphere that’s unmatched, even in games today. While Resident Evil 4 is usually spoke of very highly, detractors and even some fans of the series will claim it’s not a real Resident Evil game because of it’s focus on action rather than horror. I, personally, love the focus on action since I’m not a fan of horror genre and I’ve also never played the original three. The gunplay and action is what got me interested in Resident Evil 4 in the first place. But the first game in the series I actually played and beat is Resident Evil 5. Developed and published by Capcom, Resident Evil 5 was released for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in March, 2009. It was released for PC in September of that same year. For this review, I played the PlayStation 4 version which was released in June, 2016. It’s also available for Xbox One. The PS4 and Xbox One versions of Resident Evil 5 contain all of the content from the original release along with all of the DLC. This includes the Lost in Nightmares and Desperate Escape campaigns. The game runs at 1080p and sixty frames per second. Resident Evil 5 follows in the steps of Resident Evil 4 but this time with the added feature of co-op, which is a major element of the gameplay.
The main campaign follows a returning Resident Evil protagonist Chris Redfield, now a member of the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance, abbreviated BSAA. As soon as the game starts he’s introduced to his new partner, Sheva Alomar. Both are tasked with stopping Ricardo Irving from selling a dangerous bio-weapon. Eventually Chris and Sheva both uncover a plot to release a new strain of the Progenitor virus called Uroboros. On your journey you’ll encounter both new and returning characters and you can also find files and documents scattered around the environments that provide backstory and lore. The voice acting is decent, overall, although some characters and dialogue seem over-the-top. Unlike Resident Evil 4, the dialogue is more serious than cheesy, which is either good or bad, depending on your preference I guess. I have to point out Chris’ appearance which is just ridiculous. He’s all buff and I guess he’s supposed to look badass but his head is too small or something. It doesn’t seem proportional to the rest of his body. Throughout the campaign, Chris has several flashbacks about an incident at the Spencer Estate which took place before the events of the main campaign. These flashbacks detail what happened between Chris and his old partner, Jill Valentine, and series antagonist Albert Wesker. The Lost in Nightmares campaign is actually about these events. In Lost in Nightmares, you play as Chris and are partnered up with Jill. The Desperate Escape campaign feels more like an extension to the main storyline. You play as Jill and are partnered up with Josh, a character introduced in the main campaign. The story here starts towards the end of the main storyline and it shows how Jill and Josh escape the Tricell facility. Now the main campaign takes place in Africa and has a good amount of environmental variety. You’ll battle through villages, marshes, and even an oil tanker. Overall, I would say Resident Evil 5 is creepy but not scary. It lacks the same kind of impact Resident Evil 4 made and just doesn’t have the same feel. The horror elements and sense of tension just aren’t here. Outside of the Lost in Nightmares campaign, Resident Evil 5 places a much bigger focus on action than its predecessor and it’s just not as atmospheric and immersive. At least not in the same way. In many ways it feels like Resident Evil 4 with a new coat of paint. But if you were expecting a scary experience with a consistent feeling of tension and suspense, you’ll probably be disappointed. But think of it like comparing the original Alien film to its sequel, Aliens. The former is a straight up horror movie and the latter is more of an action movie. I, personally, prefer the latter.
As you may or may not know, even though I enjoyed Resident Evil 4, I didn’t like the controls. I do not like tank controls, never did. Resident Evil 5 employs tank controls with added mobility. What does that mean? That means you can strafe when not aiming or shooting. And if you don’t want to call it “tank controls” then I don’t know what to call it. I’ll call it stiff movement. Controlling the characters feels very stiff as did controlling Leon in Resident Evil 4. And just like the previous game, you can still turn one hundred and eighty degrees at will, context sensitive actions are required to do things like push buttons and pull levers, among other things, and once again the gameplay revolves around the controls. During specific encounters, you can take cover behind objects and even fire at enemies from cover but this game isn’t really meant to be played like a cover shooter and the cover mechanics just feel clunky. Quick time events do return as well, and they even occur during cut scenes so you should always be prepared. You’re going to be killing a ton of enemies in this game. Learning how to conserve ammo and accurate aiming are probably the two most important things for survival. Shoot an enemy in the head to stagger him and then approach him to perform a melee attack to possibly knock him down. You now have the option to perform another melee attack on a downed enemy, although you can still whip out your knife and start slicing if you want to. That seems to be a great strategy for saving ammo. However, you need to be aware of your surroundings and sometimes when you’re getting overrun, shooting and running away is the best course of action.
Resident Evil 5 places a massive focus on co-op. Whether you play solo with Sheva as an AI partner, online with another player, or in local split-screen, Sheva will always tag along with you and if she dies it’s an automatic failure. You need to be mindful of her health, what weapons she carries, and her ammo. However, having someone back you up is one of the upsides. For example, if you’re about to die, Sheva can resuscitate you, even if she doesn’t have a health item. If you’re getting attacked up close and personal, if she’s close by, she will perform a melee attack to free you from enemy clutches and you can do the same if she’s being attacked. She’s also not too bad when it comes to combat. She’s a beast with a rifle, pulling off head shots in rapid succession. However, not all is great with the Sheva AI. She tends to eat through ammo rather quickly and when she’s equipped with a pistol, I found it rare that she would switch to any other weapon. Sometimes she’ll get in your way but luckily, you have the option to turn off “AI Reaction” which I guess is friendly fire. I’m not sure, I always kept it off. Playing with an actual human partner is the way to go but the sad thing is you don’t have the option to play through this as a solo character. However, Resident Evil 5 offers some of the best co-op gameplay I’ve ever experienced. You really do need to communicate who you’re playing with, decide whose going to carry what weapons, and share resources appropriately. Jeremy and I eventually found it best for each of us to carry weapons that don’t require us to share the same ammo. For example, he was designated the primary long range character and would carry a pistol and sniper rifle. I would carry a shotgun and assault rifle. This way neither of us had to share the same ammo and certain situations would call for different weapons so communication was key. It was really fun. The game likes to throw the co-op mechanic in your face constantly with way too many actions that require both Chris and Sheva. Even if your with AI Sheva, you can’t just walk through some doors or activate an elevator, or do anything that would take you to the next area. Why she can’t just teleport to the next area, I don’t know. Sheva has to be with you so you can leave together which gets annoying. Luckily, you can always call her to your location. Some areas require Chris and Sheva to split up and when playing with the AI, these areas always make me nervous because if she ends up in the “dying” state, there’s no way to get to her and you’ll have to wait out her death before trying again. AI Sheva also likes to use any health items when either of you lose a certain amount of health. But if you don’t want her to do that, you’ll need to remove any health items she’s carrying, but also risk her dying if you get split up. Chris and Sheva can give each other items if they’re in close proximity and you can actually spray your partner and it will heal both of you at once which is nice if you want to conserve healing items.
Managing your equipment is another key aspect of the gameplay and basic survival. Both Chris and Sheva have nine inventory slots for equipment and everything but money, treasure, and special items needed to progress, take up one inventory slot. Unlike Resident Evil 4, there is no carrying case and you cannot increase your carrying capacity. There’s also no merchants. In between chapters, when you die, or restart from a checkpoint, you can access a shop to buy and sell weapons, first aid sprays, and even vests, among other things. I don’t like how melee and bulletproof vests take up an inventory slot and they also don’t reflect visually on the character. Although, one of the things I do like about this game is the inventory. You can actually store items for use later. You can access your current equipment at any time during gameplay, however, this time, it doesn’t pause the game so you can still get attacked which becomes frustrating. You just need to be very aware of your surroundings. You can upgrade weapons to make them more powerful with things like better firepower, reload speeds, ammo capacity, and stuff like that. One of the biggest downsides to the inventory system is how it handles two players, or at least two players playing in split-screen since I didn’t play online. Player two can’t buy or sell items, or even upgrade weapons. In fact, to upgrade a weapon for the second player, that player needs to remove the weapon from their current inventory so it ends up in the inventory storage. Then player one can upgrade it. It just seems unnecessary. I guess taking purchasing options away from the second player is a way to emphasize coordination but it just seems like a convoluted way to do things. Killing enemies and destroying objects will usually reward you with money, ammo, or herbs. Killing tougher enemies normally provides you with valuable treasure and treasure is also scattered throughout the environments. Just like in Resident Evil 4, some breakable objects contain snakes that will attack you so you’ll need to be careful. You can sell treasure for money and the money is used to buy items from the shop and upgrade weapons. There’s two types of herbs – green and red and herbs can still be combined for more powerful effects. A green herb can provide you with a small amount of health or you can combine it with another green herb for more health. Combining a green and red herb creates a spray that will restore your health completely. Red herbs on their own are useless. The developers also decided to remove the Yellow herbs and you can no longer permanently increase your health.
Scattered throughout the environments are BSAA emblems that you can shoot and act as a form of collectibles. At the end of each chapter, you’re scored based on accuracy, enemies routed, deaths, and clear time. You’re also given a ranking based on your performance along with points. You can use the points you’ve accumulated to purchase Bonus Features. These include things like character costumes, figures, and even visual filters. Some of the these features are unlocked by completing the game, or completing it on specific difficulty mode, and a good majority of them are unlocked by how many BSAA emblems you’ve shot. There’s thirty emblems total and they’re really well hidden. They’re never placed in front of your face and I think the first time I completed the game, I only managed to find and destroy one. They’re hidden in the most obscure places. Some of the unlockable bonus features include infinite ammo for your guns. However, there’s a catch. To unlock infinite ammo for a weapon you need to upgrade it fully and then purchase the infinite ammo option from the bonus features menu. After playing through the game three times, I was only able to unlock infinite ammo for five weapons so you will have to grind for treasure to purchase upgrades and go for the best scores possible in chapters for the most points. Playing with infinite ammo is extremely fun but also removes much of the challenge. With all of the unlockable content, Resident Evil 5 offers plenty of replay value.
The gunplay in Resident Evil 5 is just as satisfying as it is in Resident Evil 4, if not more so. Pulling off a well placed head shot is very satisfying although you still need to watch out for the parasite that may emerge from the neck of headless enemies. I really love the arsenal here. There’s multiple types of pistols, submachine guns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, shotguns, there’s a grenade launcher that can fire different types of rounds like explosive, electric, and even acid, and the rocket launcher also returns but can only be fired once. It’s best used on bosses. Explosives can be acquired throughout the environments and these include hand grenades, incendiary grenades, flash grenades for disorienting enemies, and even proximity bombs. There’s also special weapons that cannot be stored in your inventory and are usually for specific situations like boss battles. These weapons include a turret, flamethrower, and even a satellite laser. Now there’s all different types of enemies and deadly creatures to blow away in Resident Evil 5. Once again the enemies here are not zombies, but are infected with a parasite or virus. Most of the standard enemies will run and charge at you, some throw things, including explosives, some carry shields, and others are equipped with armor. Early in the game you’ll encounter enemies that can fly and infected dogs that can jump you. Enemies carrying chainsaws are still annoying and can kill you instantly if they make contact, and late in the game you’ll encounter big dudes carrying chain guns but they don’t show up as often as they did in Resident Evil 4. Some enemies will transform into a hideous creature when they take enough damage and most of the tougher enemy types are all bullet sponges. There’s an enemy called the Reaper which is probably the creepiest enemy in the game. It’s also very deadly since it can kill you instantly if you get too close. There are quite a few boss battles in this game and if you don’t conserve ammo, some of these bosses can be really, really tedious. If you have the rocket launcher equipped, I know you can take out at least two of them very quickly but on your first play through there’s no way to know when these bosses will appear. Overall, all of the bosses are well designed, grotesque, and each require different strategies to defeat. Just like the bosses in the previous game, defeating them requires a combination of shooting, context sensitive actions, and sometimes quick time events.
Both the Resident Evil 5 and Desperate Escape campaigns have you fending off most of the same enemies. Lost in Nightmares, however, focuses more on atmosphere and puzzle solving, rather than combat, and introduces maybe one or two new enemy types. And those are the only enemies you’ll encounter. This campaign seems to emphasize running a way and utilizing the environment to kill enemies. From what I gather, some fans of the older games really appreciate Lost in Nightmares due to its shift from action to horror, but I really didn’t care for it, myself. You can probably beat it in less than an hour, too. The Desperate Escape campaign has a huge focus on action, but I also don’t care for this campaign, either, because it just feels like horde mode throughout the entire experience which can become frustrating. The enemies never seem to stop coming and it ends with you fighting off waves of enemies, requiring you to stay alive until the timer reaches zero. It’s terrible.
Now there’s four difficulty modes – Amateur, Normal, Veteran, and Professional which is only unlocked after completing the game on Veteran. Completing the game once unlocks New Game + where you can play through the game again on any difficulty with your current equipment. It also unlocks the ability to play as Sheva. Another nice feature is that you can play through any already completed chapter from the chapter select screen. Now Resident Evil 4 employed a feature known as adaptive difficulty where the game would adjust the difficulty based on your performance. The basic idea being if you die a lot, the game will take the proper measures to help you along. If you’re blowing through areas without a problem, the game will make things a bit harder for you. The adaptive difficulty was excellent at keeping you moving forward while at the same time keeping you on the edge of your seat throughout the entire game. If Resident Evil 5 utilizes adaptive difficulty, it does it poorly. When playing in split-screen, we did run out of ammo here quite often. Yes, I admit we probably did manage inventory incorrectly, among other things, but having no ammo late in the game is very, very, frustrating. Boss battles usually supply ammo but we spent a good hour, maybe hour and a half, trying to take down the second to last boss with basically no ammo. It was ludicrous. I think having a second player just adds to the stress of worrying about ammo and survival. Managing equipment for two players is probably the reason we ran out of ammo. I’m going to say poor inventory management and wasted shots that ate through ammo was our ultimate downfall.
The Mercenaries is a returning game mode from Resident Evil 4, now titled The Mercenaries United. Once again the objective is to kill as many enemies as possible before the evac chopper arrives for a high score. You can play this mode solo, online with a partner, or in split-screen with a friend. You can select one of multiple characters, each with their own set of weapons. The weapon sets make each character unique in a way and your preferred character will probably depend on weapons you prefer to use. I love using Tribal Sheva because her crossbow can kill most enemies in one shot. Achieving a high score is all about killing multiple enemies in a row to accumulate combos for big points. Throughout the stages are plenty of herbs, ammo, grenades, and even bonus time items to extend your time and you also want to be on the lookout for combo time which earns you one thousand points for each combo kill for a limited time. If you end up in the dying state, you can actually resuscitate yourself. The Mercenaries United also includes a variant of the solo mode titled No Mercy which just contains a shit-ton more enemies. No Mercy is actually quite difficult and leaves you with basically no breathing room ever. There’s several stages to choose from and memorizing where items are in each, specifically bonus and combo time items, can be very helpful in achieving the highest possible score. The enemies will always keep coming and tougher enemies will spawn in as you keep blasting more and more away, making things more difficult. I found The Mercenaries United to be much more forgiving here than the Mercenaries mode in Resident Evil 4 and, ultimately, I had a lot more fun with it here.
Visually, Resident Evil 5 looks pretty good for a game released in 2009. You can tell it doesn’t look like anything released recently but it still holds up. The texture work is good, little effects like blood splatter and enemies exploding look great, and character and weapon models show a good amount of detail. And once again the reload animations look sexy. All weapons, minus the knife, are equipped with a laser sight for aiming, however, when playing in split-screen this game employs a dual fullscreen feature rather than one split full screen. Unless you have a massive TV, the laser sight can be a bit small when playing in split-screen, sometimes making it a challenge to aim accurately. Resident Evil 5 is a very cinematic experience, especially when talking about the cut scenes. I just love the camera work and how it’s all presented and some of the more action packed cut scenes are really enjoyable to watch. Overall, the game lacks in the color department, and just has a washed out appearance, even if using any of the unlockable visual filters. Now I think it’s safe to say I’m a fan of the audio design. The weapons sound powerful, making them feel extremely satisfying to shoot. I love the sound of the equipment shuffling whenever your character moves. Little things like that are always a nice touch. The music is full of orchestral scores that match the cinematic style of the game. I really enjoyed the song heard throughout the final chapter. On the technical side, the game ran pretty smooth throughout. The frame rate rarely dipped in single player, however, it would noticeably dip when playing in The Mercenaries, No Mercy mode. It also dipped more frequently when playing in split-screen but it never hindered the gameplay. Overall, I would say this is an excellent port.
I played through Resident Evil 5 three times so I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it. Despite it lacking the same impact, pacing, and immersive atmosphere of it’s predecessor, I think it’s actually great a shooter. I think I would say I enjoyed it more than Resident Evil 4. However, that’s because I prefer action over horror. Now I can understand why fans may not think as highly of Resident Evil 5 compared to 4 because it really doesn’t do anything new and lacks many subtle qualities that made 4 so excellent. But for me, I love the arsenal, I love the action, and I love how the weapons feel. Just like Resident Evil 4, the gameplay is designed around the controls, and I simply don’t like the controls, even if you can strafe when not aiming now. That doesn’t make it a bad game or even bad controls. The controls work and are responsive, it’s just that character movement feels stiff and I don’t like that. But if you enjoyed the gameplay of Resident Evil 4, I don’t see why you wouldn’t enjoy Resident Evil 5.
Ultimately, I would recommend Resident Evil 5. It’s definitely worth-a-buy and considering you can get it for pretty cheap now, I don’t see a reason not to check this out if you think, at the very least, it looks interesting. It’s an action packed experience that’s best played in co-op but is still very enjoyable solo. I really would prefer to play this as a solo character when talking about the single player but this does have some of the best co-op gameplay I have ever experienced. This game also contains plenty of replay value. With all of the unlockable content, the two other campaigns, and The Mercenaries United mode, there’s plenty of reasons to return. In fact, to see and unlock everything, you’re basically required to play through the game multiple times. Would I say Resident Evil 5 is better than Resident Evil 4? That really depends on what you prefer. I enjoyed 5 more, but I can see why people prefer 4. I do admit, Resident Evil 5 does not do anything that we haven’t already seen in 4. There’s a few additions that make things more convenient but the core gameplay is relatively the same. Still, Resident Evil 5 is a great shooter and if you can enjoy or even tolerate the controls like me, you’re in for a pretty good time.