"I like games that make me think. When trying to break through a barricade of machine gunners and vicious packs of dogs, I want the answer not to be “use a better rifle” but to be something more involved. For instance, sending a partner along a catwalk to draw the gun fire while I sneak closer and blow out the fox holes with a close up grenade or two. Resident Evil 5 should’ve been littered with these kind of situations, but more often than not it opts for straight shoot outs. And they get old."
Here’s a riddle for gamers. What’s foreign, angry, and has a thousand tentacles sprouting out of its head?
If you answered Resident Evil 4, you’d be correct. If you answered Resident Evil 5, you’d also be correct. Capcom has officially run out of steam on the Resident Evil series. Resident Evil 5 is about as original as my writing a review for it. The un-originality extends through every aspect of the game, from design to script.
I do have to give Capcom credit for having finally improved their writing skills. They no longer write like fifth graders who happened to catch an episode of Buffy. They’ve increased their ability to at least a middle-school level of competence. Wesker still smirks and cackles and wears bad suits. There’s still an inconsequential villain with an incredibly annoying voice who shows up entirely too often. And an obligatory chick with large amounts of cleavage. But amazingly, these characters are actually believable this time through, and not instant train rides to facepalming. The scenario hasn’t changed much, though.
Imagine, if you will, running through a linear compilation of houses while angry people yell at you in another language. Imagine encountering a sneering villain who injects himself with some kind of virus before tentacles burst out of all of his major orifices. Imagine going up against said tentacle demon armed with a handy rocket launcher.
If you’re having a strong sense of deja vu, it’s only because these situations can be found in just about every Resident Evil experience, with a heavy emphasis on the last game in the series. Incidentally, people liked Resident Evil 4 enough to warrant it being released three times. Yes, Resident Evil 4 was fun and popular, no-one’s denying that. Resident Evil 5 plays out like it was designed by someone who had just discovered what “ctr-v” does, so I’m sure it will be popular as well. But really, how much more of this do we have to take before we see some originality in the gaming world?
In a way, playing Resident Evil 5 is like going to a friend’s house, one you haven’t seen in over a year, only to discover they haven’t changed their clothes or showered in the interim. They’re still your friend (maybe) but you can’t think of a reason to stay for long or to come again soon.
Except maybe to oggle at their busty South African girlfriend.
That’s right, this year Capcom has decided to continue in their long-standing tradition of having too many characters that we never get closure on by introducing Sheva Alomar, a foxy South African with an accent that hovers somewhere between accurate dialect and a palsy patient with a lisp. Together, she and Chris make the clumsiest action team of all time, not least of all because it takes them several more seconds to turn than Jabba the Hutt, but really more because of level design.
On the most basic level, the co-operative play works. As far as dropping two players in the middle of an action oriented game and telling them to fight their way through, it performs about as well as you’d expect. If the last decade of gaming has shown developers anything, it’s that any game is more fun with more people. But for a game which puts so much emphasis on its co-op capabilities, I was expecting more out of Resident Evil 5 than adequacy. The whole thing feels a little lazy. As far as strategy in the game goes, it consists mainly of standing ground and shooting. Then run forward and repeat with a new set of groaning targets. Again, not particularly bad design, but not very interesting either. And having a partner doesn’t add much. If you’re playing with the AI, especially on the harder difficulty settings, the extra body can actually be a hindrance, getting in your way, wasting your ammo, and occasionally finding themselves the center of a deadly gang bang (at which point you’re expected to go over and save them).
There are a few shining moments. The best sections in the game involve the use of dual-strategies, such as one player sniping from a dilapidated building in the mines while the other rushes forward to cut down the enemies surrounding the building. A fun little section in the marshlands has one player running around to open gates on a makeshift series of docks and planks while another gets on a machine gun turret and gives them cover. Even the arbitrary vehicular chase scene and subsequent boss fight stands out as a place where players can work together, one pinning down the boss while the other picks off the little guys around him. Dual strategies are fun. Of course they are, that’s the whole point of co-operative play! But most of the game plays so linearly with such straight forward strategy that little thought is involved and even less strategy is required, let alone a strategy utilizing two players. It’s just aim and pull the trigger until you lapse into a near catatonic state.
I like games that make me think. When trying to break through a barricade of machine gunners and vicious packs of dogs, I want the answer not to be “use a better rifle” but to be something more involved. For instance, sending a partner along a catwalk to draw the gun fire while I sneak closer and blow out the fox holes with a close up grenade or two. Resident Evil 5 should’ve been littered with these kind of situations, but more often than not it opts for straight shoot outs. And they get old.
My final verdict? Resident Evil 5 is more of the same wrapped up in a desire to cash in on the current market’s multi-player leanings. I’m not entirely surprised by this course of action, though the amount of un-originality showcased here is staggering at times. Still, I don’t begrudge it’s existence. It’s certainly not a bad game. Why would it be? It’s essentially Resident Evil 4 with a second controller. No, it’s not bad. But it’s hard for me to get excited about it.
P.S. It’s not racist.
Freelance review by Jonathan Stark (March 25, 2009)
Zipp has spent most of his life standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox there. Sometimes he writes reviews and puts them in the mailbox.
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