Resident Evil 5 marks the debut of Capcom’s long-running survival horror series on the HD generation of consoles. Resident Evil 5 has a lot to live up to, not only is it one of the most anticipated titles of the year, but it’s also a direct sequel to Resident Evil 4, a game that redefined the third person action genre 4 years ago.
Let me clear one thing first. Despite being billed as a survival horror game, RE5 is neither about survival nor a can it be classified as a horror game. The game is anything but scary and even labelling it as a horror game is an insult to the genre. The abundance of items that are scattered throughout the levels and the ones you can collect from fallen foes makes surviving this African adventure a relatively simple affair. To Capcom’s credit though, they never resolve to using tricks like monsters jumping around corners or other such cheap scares to make the game feel scary. Resident Evil 5 is an action game from start to finish and that’s putting it mildly.
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“The game is anything but scary”
The other main reasons for the lack of creepiness can be attributed to the fact that most of the game takes place in broad daylight, which considerably eases up any sort of tension the game tries to build up. And then of course, you have the inclusion of co-op in the single player campaign. For the first time in the mainline RE series, you can play the complete campaign with a friend either using local split-screen or online.
Capcom have made a few other changes that may not go down too well with the hardcore fans. You no longer have to rely on those elusive ink ribbons and typewriters to save your progress. They are replaced by a new checkpoint system. The inventory system also has been completely overhauled, and finally, you have the cover system. YES, A FREAKING COVER SYSTEM! What’s worse is that the cover system, which is used extensively in the latter half of the game, feels completely tacked on, making it completely worthless.
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“The new Chris is a walking tank”
Series veteran Chris Redfield returns once again, and if you don’t recognise him instantly, it’s not your fault. You see, since his absence, Chris has undergone a major physical transformation. He is no longer the Chris you knew; instead he is replaced by a generic beefed up dude who can readily fit into any UE 3.0-powered game. In short, the new Chris is a walking tank. And guess what, he controls like one too. Or maybe it’s the developer’s fascination with lethargic tank controls that made the designers model him this way.
The controls in Resident Evil 5 remain quiet faithful to its predecessor, which is not a bad thing since Resident Evil 4 was quiet a ground-breaking title for its time. The problem is Resident Evil 4 released 4 years ago and games have moved on since then. Games like Dead Space are a great example of how developers have perfectly managed to take the old Resident Evil 4 control scheme and add a new layer of depth to make it work for the current breed of gamers. One reason why Capcom went for a more action-oriented approach with Resident Evil 5 was to appeal to a wider and more casual audience, but the clunky half-assed controls will surely not find many takers.
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“The controls in Resident Evil 5 remain quiet faithful to its predecessor”
Ex-S.T.A.R.S operative Chris now works for another secret agency called the B.S.A.A. He is sent to the fictional African state of Kijuju to investigate and look into the terrorist hotspot and deal with it. But Chris, who is not just content with saving the world (again), also has some personal stake in the mission – to find his long lost partner Jill Valentine and settle a score with his arch nemesis, Albert Wesker. Soon after his arrival, he meets a sexy African lass named Sheva Alamor, who’ll accompany him throughout his adventure.
The inclusion of Sheva as your co-op partner really opens up the game. If you decide to play the game all by yourself, Sheva will be controlled by a fairly competent A.I. On lower difficulties, she can be quiet a handful; she’ll watch your back and hold her own against most of the enemies the game throws at you. Pump up the difficulty and her limitations become quiet apparent. Sheva has this habit of wasting health packs and ammo, and on higher difficulties, this can cause quiet a problem, since you cannot buy ammo in the game. And this is where the online part comes in. The whole campaign in RE5 can be played online as well, and this is where the game really shines. If you even get a half decent partner, the game can be an absolute blast. If you can’t connect online for some reason, then just call over a friend and enjoy some old-fashioned split-screen action.
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“Sheva Alamor will accompany Chris throughout his adventure”
Still reading? Good. The first few minutes into the game are quiet chilling; you control an unarmed Chris wandering through the village while the infected villagers stare at him menacingly. A feeling of uneasiness grips you as you walk down the street and then all of a sudden it goes quiet; very quiet. Moments later, you’re surrounded by dozens of infected villagers. Your only aim at this point is to survive the onslaught till your backup arrives. Moments like this make the difference between a good game and a great game, but sadly in RE5’s case, such moments are few and far between.
Like Metal Gear Solid 4, the game is divided into different chapters. There are a total of 6 chapters, each lasting 90 minutes or more. Most of the game follows the same old formula from the previous games, so majority of your time will be spent shooting the infected villagers. There are also the occasional on-rail shooting gallery sections and puzzle solving sections thrown into the mix. The puzzles, like the game itself, are dumbed down to such an extent that you’ll be wondering to yourself why did they even bother with this, not to mention the new mini-map that pin-points the exact location of what you’re looking for and where you have to go next. Two-thirds into the game, the developers, for some reason, decide to make the game into an out-and-out shooter. You’ll encounter enemies that take cover and wield all sorts of sophisticated weaponry, and herein lies the problem.
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“There are occasional on-rail shooting gallery sections”
Visually, the game is a stunner from start to finish, powered by Capcom’s in-house framework engine. The game churns out some of the most gorgeous eye candy to grace current-gen systems. Especially impressive are the character models and environmental textures, both of which are painstakingly detailed. A special mention must also go to the game’s drop dead gorgeous lighting system and the way it reacts and bounces when the player comes in contact with it. The only downer is the animations, most of which are recycled from the old game. It also brings back RE4’s old problems like improper hit detection or shots not registering at all.
While the visuals impress, sound, on the other hand, is mostly disappointing. The guns sound and feel underpowered. The voice acting, while not as bad as the old games, is still quite laughable and it’s made worse by the amateurish writing. The lack of a memorable musical score is also another sore point.
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“The game churns out some of the most gorgeous eye candy to grace current-gen systems”
The game is filled with tons and tons of extras. If you are a new comer to the series, Capcom has added the whole RE back-story for you to read up on. Other stuff includes collecting alternate costumes for the characters, different colour filters, etc. There is also a new game option that lets you play the game on a harder difficulty with all your items from the previous playthrough, along with infinite ammo for a fully upgraded weapon.
The game also unlocks an extra mode called The Mercenaries on completion. The Mercenaries is an arcade/time trial mode where you (and a partner) try take down as many enemies before the time runs out. It’s highly addictive and with the upcoming DLC which pits the players against each other, this mode should give the game legs. Like the campaign, The Mercenaries can be played both offline as well as online.
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The Mercenaries: “It’s highly addictive”
Resident Evil 5 is a game that’ll surely generate conflicting opinions. There are people who’ll feel that the series has strayed too far from its roots, and there are those who’ll feel that the game has changed very little since its previous iteration. If you fall in either of those categories, you’re better off posting long rants on message boards or sending hate mail to Capcom than playing it. If you are one of those who doesn’t give a damn, as long as it’s a well made game, then I whole heartedly recommend Resident Evil 5. You won’t regret it.
(+) Stunning visuals
(+) Co-op is well implemented
(+) Good boss battles
(+) The Mercenaries mode
(-) Has changed too much/little depending on your perspective
(-) Dumbed down for mainstream appeal
(-) Poor inventory management
(-) Awkward controls
Resident Evil 5 is in stores now on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 for Rs 3,499