Resident Evil 5 is a Third Person Action game set in a fictional country in Africa named Kijuju. We take on the role of series veteran, Chris Redfield alongside his new partner Sheva Alomar as they are sent in to capture an extremely dangerous terrorist. Things immediately don’t bode well and the entire country is quickly turned into a battlezone as the infection known as Las Plagas makes a return from RE4. For those that have not played the prior title, people infected by Las Plagas are not your typical zombies. They are near fully functional humans capable of using weapons, communicating and capable of transforming into a monstrosity if you blow their heads clean off.
Oh boy, does this game have one heck of an intro. Before we even have much of a grip on how this title’s tank controls and combat handles, we are tossed into the thick of it with nothing but a pistol. The infected trying to tear down your barricade and tearing holes in the ceiling to jump inside that cramped room with you, all while an endless amount of them start seeping through until you are forced to make a blind dash to anywhere where you have any chance of holding out for a while longer. It is intense and oddly enough, also the most challenging part of the game due to lacking any hard-hitting weaponry. From the beginning, it is all too clear that this is no longer horror like its predecessors. This entry has transitioned into full-blown action though it does retain its survival aspects in the form of having a limited inventory and scarce ammo.
The combat takes place in an over the shoulder view with your weapons all containing a laser sight to make precise aiming manageable. You can not walk and aim, so it becomes a dance in whether to hold your ground for a chance of stopping enemies in their tracks or playing it safe and putting more distance between you & them. Facing near any opponent in melee range will likely end badly for you since most of them specialize in short range attacks and while you do possess a knife for just that situation, your character is not in anyway efficient with it. Your best bet is to stun an enemy with a headshot and then go in for a button prompt that lets you sucker punch him to conserve ammo. It is pretty addicting watching their exaggerated physics after doing this, and you can even combo them together with your coop partner to make sure they don’t have the will to get back up after that beat down.
Co-op is the most prominent new feature added into this entry and is one you’ll be forced into even if playing in single player since your partner will be controlled by a bot. That as you can imagine, completely destroys whatever since of dread you may have ever had as you always have someone at your back. While the bot can be of use at times, it is best to play this title with another player be they your friend or a random person online. Considering it wasn’t horror in the first place, I personally do not find the addition of co-op to be a bad thing though it does feel pretty forced in, especially in solo playthroughs. The only area of the game where having another player made sense was during a cave sequence where one had to carry a flashlight to see what lays in front of them in that pitch black darkness. Most other things that require a partner are entirely arbitrary, be they needing two people to open a door or having two of an object such as a lever or chain to progress.
As hamfisted as the need for two players may seem, its addition fairs a lot better in the actual gameplay. Coordinating with a friend and sharing the scarce ammunition & supplies lends it a strategic aspect to it. If your partner dies then it is over for the both of you, so trolling gets you very little other than a good laugh, and it does motivate you to actually work together. The sequences where you are split up and being downed results in death does up the tension as you watch your partner get swarmed and you are busy reloading as well as looking over your shoulder in case you get ambushed yourself. That is completely lost if you are playing with a bot and is yet another reason I’d suggest getting whoever you can to accompany you throughout. This makes it all the more damning that Capcom removed split-screen from the PC version of the game for no good reason, and to make matters worse you also have to install Games for Windows Live which has long been dead.
Most of your time will be spent on foot walking through various locations and searching every nook & cranny for hidden items ranging from ammo, money, or hidden emblems that when shot grant unlockables. Picking up treasures or money will net both players the same amount of cash so making a rush for it isn’t needed. On the other hand, ammo, items, and weapons only go to the whoever picked it up. That can present a problem if you are not playing with someone you are willing to communicate with since you can not buy ammo from the store screen that pops up between missions or after dying. While ammo cannot be purchased in that shop, guns certainly can, and they are rather cheap. The real spending starts once you start upgrading a weapon as it will quickly become costly to upgrade its firepower, magazine capacity, and its other stats. More weapons start being sold as you progress through the game meaning that splurging all your cash into a starter weapon may not be the best decision.
No gun ever becomes useless however. Even a starting shotgun can pack quite a punch and later weapons are not flat out upgrades. They may have a lower capacity in exchange for more damage or other trade-offs that can be detrimental to your preferred playstyle. Some weapons such as the cattle prod or grenade launcher are unique in the fact that they can not be upgraded and are at their peak performance as soon as you purchase them. There is an overall decent amount of stuff to terrorize your foes with and are all viable options, leaving it wide open for an entirely new approach the second time around. Everything that you have carries over into subsequent playthroughs so the allure of playing through it multiple times is strong, especially considering you can’t unlock everything in one go. Even if you decide not to replay it, it stands at a pretty decent length of over 12 hours.
On occasion, they try to spice things up with the occasional turret section or quick time event. These fall flat on their face and are easily the worse moments of the game. As absurd as it is to be chased by Las Plagas that are riding motorbikes through the Savannah while you try to mow them down from the back of a jeep is, it simply isn’t fun. It is made even worse when you face a cool looking boss in such a manner and can’t help but feel disappointed as you mindlessly fire away with only the occasional QTE offering some form of interaction. The way they handled quick time events in cut-scenes is pretty erratic as well. There can be long stretches where one doesn’t pop up, only for them to suddenly make an appearance again as you scramble for the controls. Dying to them merely takes you back to the start of said cut-scene thankfully.
Aside from the lack of split-screen, the PC version has a few other serious issues. In one case my partner and I were fighting a boss for an insanely large amount of time since its weak point did not trigger, leaving us wondering what exactly we had to do. After multiple attempts and a so much time stubbornly wasted, he decided to look it up and discovered that the fight is glitched, with the only way to progress being to buy a rocket launcher and anticlimactically kill it in one hit. The other occurred during the last boss fight in where we had an insane amount of disconnects trying to get through it while we haven’t had a single issue with that before. Another minor issue is that “control scheme changed” prompt that pops up whenever you press anything on the keyboard, making it rather difficult to get a good screenshot. That last one will realistically not matter in the slightest to most people but I felt it to be worth mentioning.
Once you finish the game and unlock new game plus, you will also receive access to another mode called Mercenaries. It is an arena-based fight for survival in where you must try to string together kills for bonus points. You only have a few minutes to rack up as high of a score as possible, and there are objects scattered about that you can melee for additional time. It’s a simple mode but also fully fledged out in that you are able to unlock more maps and different characters to play as which come with a different weapon loadout. It is fast, it is frantic, and most importantly, it is a ton of fun. Think what you will about Resident Evil 5 but it sure has a lot of content for those that enjoy it and is surprisingly Capcom’s best selling game of all time as of this review.
Its story is nonsensical, to say the least. You definitely shouldn’t expect anything other than a reason to go from setpiece to setpiece. Enemies range from normal looking dudes with melee weapons, dogs, tribal men wielding spears and heavily mutated creatures. Towards the end, they do drop the ball when they introduce foes equipped with guns and body armor, unfortunately. They were already pushing it with their tank controls for an action game and suddenly turning it into a cover-based, third-person shooter was about as desired as using Microsoft’s Kinect to practice surgery. At the end of the day, while Resident Evil 5 is a vast departure from the survival horror vibe that the franchise is known for, it is still a decent title in its own right, despite some flaws. If you can get a friend to play it with you, then it is well worth a purchase, but as a solo experience, it leaves a lot to be desired.