Following up on what many consider to be one of the industry greats, Resident Evil 4, is a task any developer should dread. Producer Jun Takeuchi is the type to give it a shot though, but this latest sequel feels too constrained in a traditional Resident Evil style to come together.
Fans who feel the series took a route too far into action territory with RE4 are going to despise what’s happened to Resident Evil 5. This latest effort brings in a number of firsts, including an infected populace who can now shoot back, turret sections, and a vast increase in enemy numbers.
Puzzle solving is all but a distant memory, save for a single level that feels more like Tomb Raider than Capcom’s horror franchise. The addition of co-op is further evidence of a shift towards action, with some parts practically requiring human help.
Sidekick Sheva, when in the hands of the AI, is usually one step short of brain dead. Her aim is terrible, use of health items questionable, and following skills miserable. While not the worst AI partner ever devised, she feels like one of the most unnecessary.
This series has never needed co-op, save for the forgettable online adventures Outbreak and Outbreak File 2. Co-op is a wonderful thing and more games should use it, but solo players should not have the help. The few times the extra character comes into play are forced, and could have been avoided through a slightly altered campaign that only included those areas in a multi-player setting.
The action focus also comes into play when discussing the control scheme. What worked in RE4 doesn’t work here. It’s an issue of design, and as stated before, it’s the design shift into the action genre that makes the classic “stop and shoot” mechanics nullified. RE5 tries to combat this with a sloppily designed cover mechanic that only works when it wants to. Seeing enemies run towards the player and then suddenly stop their offensive to a crawl is an immersion breaker only serving to break down the game to keep the old controls.
That’s not to say that after an adjustment period things don’t become second nature. You slowly adjust your play style to compensate, at least until the next boss fight dictates otherwise. The final boss is a perfect example, requiring quick moves the control scheme isn’t designed for, and on a side note, going overboard on the quick time events.
Inventory management is also poorly planned. You can never expand your attaché case size as you could previously, which turns Sheva into nothing more than extra inventory space. You cannot combine items such as herbs (and only red and green ones exist this time, no yellow) between inventories. You need to request items from each other, thoroughly aggravating when you have a full case, simply to mix. Since it’s live and not done away from the action in a pause menu, this becomes a difficulty issue as well.
RE5 remains an experience though, holding some of the best cinematics in the franchises history. An oil refinery explosion is truly awesome, making up for some questionable voice acting throughout (expect “Thanks partner” to become the new “What are you selling?”). Visuals are breathtaking despite some rudimentary environments, including lighting that ranks amongst the best on the market.
Beating the game allows the player to complete the game as Sheva, instead of Chris Redfield. However, you could just do this in co-op in the first place, so whatever bonus this brings to online fans isn’t immediately evident. Mercenaries mode returns and remains a highlight.
If Resident Evil 5 chose to break the series mold and use a new control system, there’s some potential for this to be as exciting as RE4. The design choices however range from sloppy, lazy, down to flat out wrong. There are numerous moments that stand out, but nothing compared to the sheer joy of the classic fourth from beginning to end.