"Upon opening one door on their way to the rendezvous point, they encounter their first Ganado.....I mean Majini (same thing, different ethnicity). After blasting it to hell, it doesn't take long for our heroes to find themselves in deep doo-doo, as they get chased around the town by a horde of Majini led by a hulking chap wielding an executioner's axe. The main goal here, at least for a first-time player, is simply to survive long enough for a scripted event to kick in, allowing you to escape unscathed. In other words, it's the early-game village scene from RE 4 with a few minor tweaks."
When I think about it, Resident Evil 5's worst enemy probably is Resident Evil 4. That game, released for the previous generation of systems, took the tried-and-true Resident Evil style of play and greatly changed things to give players a fast-paced action-packed adventure. Enemies were far more mobile, with many possessing brutal attacks capable of instantly killing the hero, Leon Kennedy. Players would often need to quickly and precisely tap buttons to avoid any number of potential deaths and it seemed that the instant one powerful adversary would be vanquished, another would rear its ugly head. The game was a roller coaster ride that slammed its foot down on the accelerator mere minutes after I started playing and didn't let up until the very end.
As for Resident Evil 5 -- well, it's essentially the same game on more advanced systems. Replace Leon with Chris Redfield and give him a partner, change the location to somewhere in Africa, alter a few monsters and create a couple new ones and that's RE 5 in a nutshell.
Not that I'm really complaining about that. If you loved Resident Evil 4 as much as I did, it's a no-brainer that you'll get no small amount of enjoyment out of this game. But those positive vibes might be tempered with a small amount of disappointment. RE 4 took the series in a totally new direction. Here, Capcom seems content to mostly retrace those exact same steps, leading to a game where I spent a good chunk of time thinking things like, "I remember doing something like this in RE 4." and "Man, this seems familiar."
It didn't take long for that strong sense of deja vu to take hold. As the game begins, Chris meets African sidekick Sheva. The two are to meet up with a military team to infiltrate a black market weapons deal in a town somewhere in Africa. Of course, things won't be so cut-and-dry and our dynamic duo soon find themselves in all sorts of trouble. Upon opening one door on their way to the rendezvous point, they encounter their first Ganado.....I mean Majini (same thing, different ethnicity). After blasting it to hell, it doesn't take long for our heroes to find themselves in deep doo-doo, as they get chased around the town by a horde of Majini led by a hulking chap wielding an executioner's axe. The main goal here, at least for a first-time player, is simply to survive long enough for a scripted event to kick in, allowing you to escape unscathed. In other words, it's the early-game village scene from RE 4 with a few minor tweaks.
From there, Chris and Sheva find themselves going from one high-octane shootout to the next. They'll get into scraps with durable and deadly chainsaw-wielding foes and use a mounted gun to eradicate a massive beast bearing no small resemblance to RE 4's El Gigante (although with a different name). And, of course, there are no shortage of different types of Majini strewn throughout the game's world (consisting of places such as a swamp, a mine and various large buildings). Some even have parasites in them that will burst out from their head to keep up the fight after enough bullets have penetrated the Majini's body. RE 5 will remind players of its predecessor and remind them frequently.
Which, as I said before, is cool with me. Even if I found this game to be a bit predictable, I still had my share of fun with it -- mainly due to the intense confrontations. It's pretty much a sure thing that the second Chris grabs any important item such as a key, Majini will surge out of the woodwork with bloodlust in their eyes and parasites oozing from their mouths. Oftentimes, their numbers will make it seemingly a necessity to scamper away from the initial surge and find some open ground to turn around and start blasting.
Fortunately, with Sheva, Chris does have some competent help. The female member of the party has her own inventory and can equip anything Chris can. She's a pretty good shot, as well. I can remember a number of times where it looked like a large number of Majini would overwhelm me......until I realized she was picking them off one by one with merciless precision with the handgun I was letting her use. Sheva's skill in battle can make the seemingly insurmountable odds RE 5 loves throwing at the player become a lot more manageable.
Unfortunately, I didn't trust her with much more than that simple (and not particularly powerful) handgun. While Sheva's AI is admittedly good, players just aren't given enough control over how she attacks and uses items. I found myself only giving her the handgun to defend herself simply because the concept of ammo preservation is unknown to her. Give her something more powerful like a shotgun or rifle and, well, you won't get much use out of that gun against the game's heavy hitters after she runs through all of its ammo against the first few enemies she finds. I didn't even like having her holding healing items. Sheva's idea of when Chris needed to be healed was a bit different from mine, which led to me getting annoyed while watching her run through my meager supply of healing items whenever a character was reduced to about half their health.
To be honest, just about everything pertaining to managing my inventory annoyed the crap out of me. Here is where RE 5 most dramatically differs from RE 4 and the change isn't for the better. Chris and Sheva may only hold nine items each. Here, three bullets and one egg take twice as much space as a rocket launcher. This was a big step backwards from RE 4's set-up -- especially when you consider that all inventory manipulation happens while the action continues to go on around you.
I normally wouldn't have any problem with this, as it does make battles a bit more tense when you have to switch from your machine gun to the shotgun to handle a chainsaw-wielding maniac......and QUICKLY because he's stalking towards you, preparing for a decapitating blow. However, due to the tiny amount of items each character can hold, during these tense moments, you'll also have a few occasions where you have to trade items with Sheva while getting folded, spindled and mutilated by Majini. During those occasions, I often found it easier to just let Chris die, reorganize both characters' items and start over than bumble through the inventories of the two characters in an attempt to give Sheva a box of bullets or something, so Chris could have a stupid flash grenade and I wouldn't have to waste half my shotgun ammo to kill one exposed parasite.
And that's the funny thing about Resident Evil 5: While I would have liked it to be a bit more original, my biggest problems with the game were when Capcom deviated from RE 4's path, as they did with their inventory system. When I was blasting Majini, tapping button combos to dodge deadly attacks or traps and watching the Plagas parasites turn villainous characters into ungodly monstrosities, I was having a great time -- even if I felt I'd seen it all before. In the end, I found Resident Evil 5 to be a very good game, but not the memorable masterpiece I was hoping to experience.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (April 17, 2009)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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