Tech News on G4
The good, the bad, and the Evil
March 16, 2009
By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada
There's a lot of talk about how the Resident Evil series has moved away from its 'survival horror' roots. The games in the series are now less about hoarding what little ammo you can find, taking out slow, plodding zombies, and solving strange environmental puzzles, and more about bigger weapons, epic battles and extremely smart enemies.
The fact of the matter is, it doesn't really matter how you define the series. Because there is one adjective that can almost always be used to describe Resident Evil games: fantastic.
And really, what more can gamers ask for?
Resident Evil 5 takes gamers to a fictional town in Africa called Kijuju. The original Resident Evil's Chris Redfield is back, this time as a member of the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance (BSAA). He's in Africa with other members of the BSAA investigating possible black market bioterrorism dealings (because that's what they do), and is joined from the get-go by a new character called Sheva Alomar.
Where developer Capcom really went out on a limb was in its decision to make Resident Evil 5 a two player co-op game. Gamers don't have the choice to play alone - if they don't have someone to play with online or split-screen, they'll have to be joined by an AI-controlled partner. As anyone who has ever played co-operatively with a non-human player can attest to, it's no surprise that if at all possible, playing alongside a real human is much preferable to relying on a glorified bot - and a truly overzealous one at that.
And really, RE5 isn't just a single-player game with an extra player plopped in just to appease the ever-growing number of co-op fans in the video game world. Every level is designed to make players work together, whether they're standing back-to-back taking out enemies, or forced to cover each other from hundreds of yards away.
The game really is all about helping each other out and working as a team - rationing weapons and ammo, sharing money to buy items and upgrades, reviving each other when a character is on death's door, and figuring out how to take out the particularly nasty bosses. And that's all the more reason to play with a human. Although the computer-controlled Sheva will bark out hints during boss fights, there's something much more satisfying about working with a buddy, figuring out a character's weakness and finishing it off.
Besides co-op play, RE5 also differs from its predecessors in that it has ramped up the action ten-fold. Though there are some truly tense moments scattered throughout the game, a lot of the sequences involve hordes of enemies and a ton of high-powered weapons. Gamers will ride across the African terrain at full speed on offroad vehicles while controlling fully-automatic mounted guns, take on some of the biggest, most aggressive bosses ever found in a Resident Evil game, and acquire some truly wicked weapons.
Purists will surely cry foul, but there's no doubt that RE5 has a ton of truly exhilirating moments, made all the better when you're sharing them with another player.
There are some problems with the game that keep it from reaching the level of 2004's masterpiece, Resident Evil 4. Though gamers can still upgrade weapons, they won't be doing so by finding a weapons dealer throughout the levels. Buying items and weapons and upgrading only happens at the end of each level, before continuing your game or after dying. Also gone is RE4's Tetris-like item storage system, which could be upgraded and made larger as you acquired more items. In RE5, each player has nine slots to work with - no more, no less. As the game progresses, it seems more and more time is spent on deciding what to discard. Not only is the very idea of chucking away hard-fought items frustrating, but constantly micro-managing that aspect of the game takes away from the good stuff mentioned above - the action!
A lot of the game's supposed challenges seem to come down to trial-and-error. You may get to a particularly confounding boss battle, using up most of your ammo and health before figuring out what weapon you need to take it out quickly - only to die because you don't have what you need. It then simply becomes a matter of loading up on the right ammo and some health before the second go-round, taking the baddie out in a matter of a few minutes.
And while some bosses are truly epic and horrifying, some are downright pathetic and - without spoiling too much - don't even need a shot fired at them to be defeated.
Like any good Resident Evil game, there are plenty of extras to keep gamers occupied while fighting through the main campaign. Several hidden emblems are found throughout each level, which, along with earning points by getting high ranks in each level, can be used to unlock figurines of characters and enemies from the game. The game also keeps track of a ton of stats, from what you've killed, to how many times you've used each weapon, to how quickly you've completed each level.
There are also a few 'old-school' moments in the game that are certain to have fans of the series whooping it up from their seats. There's nothing wrong with providing a little fan service, and Capcom definitely doesn't falter in that respect.
In a particularly confounding move, the Mercenaries mode first seen in RE4 is back, but once again has to be unlocked by completing the game. Mercenaries, which has players taking on waves of enemies to earn high scores in timed levels, can now be played co-operatively online. It was a fantastic addition to RE4, but in this day and age of instant gratification, it's surprising that such a great addition to the game would stay hidden until the campaign is completed. It's kind of like a band putting their best song as a hidden track on one of their albums.
Though it has its problems and sometimes tries to be too many things at once, Resident Evil 5 is still a very solid entry in the famed series. As always, Capcom didn't rest on its laurels. It took chances and did its best to make things new and interesting for seasons veterans of the series, while making something accessible to those who have never played a Resident Evil game before.
This one is definitely worth the time to play through. Just make sure you bring a buddy along for the ride with you.
Resident Evil 5
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