Resident Evil 5 Review (Xbox 360)

Review written by Alex Easter.

There is no trader in Resident Evil 5.  Many reviewers will most likely start by saying how this fifth numbered entry is a textbook case of a game being so built up by the press and gamers alike, that it could not possibly live up to those expectations, but will be slated for failing to do so anyway.  But I wasn’t one of them, so stuff that, this game is excellent.  However, the omission of the trader is representative of an unfortunate theme that permeates Resident Evil 5; efforts to differentiate itself from its lofty predecessor are often unnecessary, if not ill-advised.  RE 4’s trader, was an interesting character that appeared sporadically throughout the game, serving as the shop.  In RE 5 players are simply taken to a screen that fulfils the same function between chapters.  This approach jars with an otherwise immersive experience and feels less natural.  In spite of this and other changes the game will inevitably, and quite rightly, be dubbed Resident Evil 4½.

Much of this arises from retention of number four’s control style, which is essentially unchanged.  This ‘walk or shoot’ system felt fantastic in 2005, even revolutionary, but this was a time before Gears of War; things have rapidly moved on since then.  However, the inability to move and shoot is in the series’ DNA, and while I’m not for sentimentality, I do think it’s good to keep something of the old.  Fact is, it still works brilliantly, keeping tension high during hectic moments, without feeling contrived.

The graphics are superb; the sweat on Sheva’s brow, the heat haze permeating the exquisitely detailed game world.  Resident Evil 5 stands up well against the likes of Metal Gear Solid 4 and Killzone 2 and the slick presentation and amazing level of polish in the set pieces and cinematics equal those of the former, which in this respect still represents a benchmark, while avoiding the self-indulgence of that title.  However I do wish that developers would make their HUDs semi-transparent for those with plasma TVs, as after playing for an extended period of time, I was greeted with Chris Redfield’s life bar every time I switched on my TV.  The music is excellent throughout, adding real weight to the drama of the cut-scenes, and heightening tension during combat.  Improving further on the previous game, the dialogue is rather good, too.

Co-operative play is new to the series, and as a co-op experience, RE 5 is up there with the best.  The team dynamic works extremely well.  One stand-out section set in a cave sees one player carry a lamp, illuminating the way for the other to shoot.  It’s claustrophobic stuff, making coordination and teamwork crucial.  The feeling of relief one feels when a giant mutant hyena, sailing toward your throat, is shot out of flight by your partner with a rifle is a most exhilarating one, and represents the RE 5 experience well.  This is still a horror game, it’s just a different breed.  Standing back to back facing off the advancing horde as you hand each other ammunition has always been how I imagined a co-op game should be.  The Horde mode in Gears 2 manages it, as does Left 4 Dead and RE 5 has cracked it too.

However as with the above, the single player mode suffers, being far less compelling.  It’s impossible to recreate that camaraderie with an AI, especially one that insists on using nothing but the weakest weapon ALL THE TIME.  Sheva is also ignorant of the fact that you’re meant to shoot zombies in the head.  Tsk.

The game’s pacing and length are excellently judged, regardless of what you may have heard, with 10+ hours of intense, packed gameplay, and the bosses are satisfyingly over-the-top and tentacly.  However many bosses are re-hashes of RE 4 nasties, and a number of set pieces are also carried over.  Even the rotating mirror puzzles return.

Replay value is high, weapons need collecting and modifying, treasure and emblems need finding, and there’s a Mercenaries score attack mode.  However this is all lifted from RE 4 as well, the bottle caps make a return for Heaven’s sake.

That said, it is unreasonable to level the charge of not moving things on enough against RE 5, especially considering Link has been going to the same temples carrying the same boomerang for the last decade.

There’s a precedent for giving a number that supposedly encapsulates all of a reviewer’s thoughts and feelings, so I’ll give an 8.  This could easily be a 10 were it not for the fact that the single player suffers so much.  If the trader had been brought back, I would have given this game 11.

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