Resident Evil 5 Reader Review
Being a Resident Evil fan (I have mentioned this about a thousand times before but forgive me for making it very clear from the start) I approach writing a reader review of Resident Evil 5 with a certain degree of unease. I love it, but equally I hate it and despite my usual ability to find a fence to sit on, Resident Evil 5 leaves me in a barren and confusing wilderness that I find unfamiliar and quite scary.
This isn't to say I have liked all of the past attempts to come under the Umbrella (groan) of this series. Umbrella Chronicles was nothing more than an average milking of the franchise, Resident Evil Survivor Code Veronica was truly awful and I have to confess even despite the superb controls, RE4 Wii Edition felt like they were desperately scraping the anus of the Golden Goose in the hopes another shiny object would plop out for them.
That said, Resident Evil 4 is a good place to start on my criticism of Resident Evil 5. Forgetting that they took subtlety and most of the old plot and threw them onto the nearest pyre, there was far more to like about it than past incarnations. It was well designed, well thought out, had good features and some truly great moments but the icing on the cake was that it was what the Survival Horror genre so desperately needed at the time - and worked, in fact it worked so well the majority of horror and action games since have borrowed some if not all of the good points of the game. Keeping the old plot at arms length meant that newcomers were not immediately overwhelmed, whilst subtle references and characters made the game fresh and daring to those of us who have been in bed with every Resident Evil game so far. Resident Evil 5, by contrast, never seems to know if it's going forwards or backwards from this formula.
Resident Evil 5 throws us back into the manly arms of another old favourite of the series, Chris Redfield, and his sexy sidekick Sheva. Chris has been deployed to Kijuju in Africa to investigate some shady goings on and meet up with said Sheva chick and Alpha team and put an end to these shenanigans. They eventually find a very dead Alpha team except their mortally wounded team leader who tells them there... oh god, wait a moment! Didn't we do this in Resident Evil 1?
It doesn't sadly end there. Which is a shame, because the first thing to mention is the village and everyone in this game are actually incredibly well designed and beautiful. If anything, it's one of those games where on an HD screen it's almost enough to give the jaded gamer in me a bit of a stiffy. The transitions from light to dark and back are very well done and add new discomfort to the formula, and everything looks dirty and nasty so it all works and looks like what we see on the news every few weeks.
The problems fly at you thick and fast from this point, so let's get the issue of racism cleared up first. Now, I consider myself a reasonably tolerant man and I can put up with plenty of insults so I wasn't really expecting the issue to flare up with me. I am not a reactionist who responds to pushing the boundries with fear and disgust, after all truth be told Resident Evil 4 wasn't exactly immune to the issue of racism, what with the cliche voice acting ad dialects and the depictions of rural village folk as filthy dirty dishevelled sorts who don't so much as even have a community tin bath to share between them. But Resident Evil 5 drops the ball after a while and rather than avoid the racism issue, decides to antagonise it and play on African stereotypes - which raised more than a slight quizzical eyebrow from me. But then, should I be surprised they fell for this? I'd almost think it was intentional but then that would be suggesting that Capcom wanted to provoke the ranting Daily Fail reading masses, which is a thought I'd rather not contemplate.
The second is the controls, something I am in two minds about. The problem is, Resident Evil 4 Wii Edition. As much as it was more of a cash-in, by some sheer stroke of bastard luck they managed in that one port to magically transform a great game into a great game that handled brilliantly. Resident Evil 5 sees us go back to the traditional controller method of aiming and I'm in two minds about this. One, I shouldn't have expected the controls to equal that of the Wii. Different system, different controls, but on the other hand it's a strange experience after having handled a game with such precision that I feel like going backwards to an inferior model. It's still fine but for me, I missed it somewhat and will continue to do so as long as Capcom make shitty on-rails lightgun shooters for the Wii. They just feel a bit too clunky and cumbersome, and when you need to be nimble it's too much of a hassle to deal with.
Well, I've danced around her long enough so let's get down and dirty with Sheva, and the co-operative play that they clearly took wholesale from the Outbreak games. Now, I haven't actually played this co-op yet so I will take it from those who have that its best played as such but on her own being handled by the internal AI, Sheva is the most hateful woman I have ever had the misfortune to meet. Ashley was an annoyance in Resident Evil 4 but even that stupid bitch managed to get herself kidnapped and trapped from time to time. Sheva is there with you as a near-constant pain in the arse, either wasting your shared ammo supply because she saw a bumble bee sneeze from fifty yards away and decides to dump half a hundredweight of ammo in its general direction, getting in your way because she wants your opinion on whether her fat stupid ass looks big YES IT DOES NOW PISS OFF I'M TRYING TO KILL SOMETHING HERE, pulling the pin from a grenade and throwing the pin instead of the grenade (I exaggerate. But not by much.) or wasting valuable healing items on you when you get so much as a splinter in your finger. Fiddling around with the sheer fucking evil inventory system with her is a lot like what they tried doing in the Outbreak series, and it didn't work then and is even less tolerable now. It's easy to think that Sheva was an afterthought than an intended and integral part of the experience but she's just nothing more than a hindrance in real terms. When you are more worried about what your hateful AI assistant is doing than the dozens of maniacal mutants wanting to rip you limb from limb, you have to ask yourself is this high-maintainance airhead really worth the effort? Isn't it best to tell her to smoke a fat one on a dumpster whilst you go ahead to do your own thing?
Then we get onto the plot. Oh dear. Does anyone remember Quake 4? That amazing plot twist they kind of gave away because there was no other really valid part of the game to show off? Yeah. Welcome to 2005. Home of the Spoileriffic Trailers. It's a real shame because we all KNOW who the raven-masked woman is long before we even get to the big reveal. Resident Evil 4 at least managed to keep Ada's appearance secret until the last minute and even then kept us guessing as we ploughed through the game, in Resident Evil 5 you can see plot developments coming at you from miles away because most of them they already gave away in trailers. Come on Capcom, keeping some of this under your hat would have been nice. Instead I question why I paid money for this game considering you already gave the majority of it away for free and without the complicated annoyance of the gameplay and Sheva being an utter bitch to you. There are no real puzzles, there's nothing here that couldn't have been done in a movie adaptation and even then, I'd have questioned if it was worth the entry fee.
And to touch on the inventory system, which I do with lead-lined gloves, why go back from a good thing? What was so wrong with Resident Evil 4 and the Attache Case? Getting limited slots and making a few bullets take up the same room as some massive over-compensatory semi-automatic penis extension is nothing short of total retardation. The one thing I was glad to move on from with Resident Evil 4 was the inventory system, and now we have it back in force here? And now we have to fuck about with it in real-time whilst being wailed on by the bloodthirsty mobs? Fuck off and die, please. The nearest suicide booth is third door on the left. But at least we have mercenaries, which is pretty much the same as the RE4 model but oh wait yeah a bit of that is a paid-for extra no really please go and die horribly.
As much as I rag at Resident Evil 5 though, I cannot bring myself to hate it. But nor can I say with any seriousness that I love it. Capcom have proven to us many times that they care for and nuture the Survival Horror genre with love and tenderness - Resident Evil 4 and the oft-overlooked Haunting Ground examples of this devotion, care and love - but here, I feel no love or compassion. It feels rushed, short, heavy on the cliche, short on surprises and sloppy, trying to shoehorn in the old plot to sort of try and get the series moving again but putting in things that they were right to have binned in the first place. Yet it looks forward, with a distinct impression that they're finally getting somewhere with the series and know where it is headed to next. But is this aimed at a new audience or the old audience? I don't know, which means it probably caters to neither very well.
Resident Evil 5's main enemy is Resident Evil 4 and considering how much we all seem to agree on that game being brilliant that was always going to be a hard act to follow, but sometimes more of the same is preferable to trying to create something new. Resident Evil 4 is just a much more solid, smooth and enjoyable experience than Resident Evil 5 and whereas the former will always have a place in our hearts, Resident Evil 5 is an experience that is best put into context and left out of sight. I'm sure this game works as a co-operative game, played with a reasonably sane individual (but my oversexed cat would be a more preferable assistant than the in-game AI Sheva), but it needs to work in single player or you just half a half-finished game, and that's what Resident Evil 5 feels like. It may be prettier, but it's a much more difficult game to live with and no matter how you dress it up, there's no escaping that this latest addition to the family is just not going to fit in.
I do still love you Resident Evil. Just please go back to your old RE4 toys that we loved. And for christs sake, ditch the current ideas of lightgun variants on the Wii and give us a proper game with the RE4:WE controls. We need you, we love you, but Dead Space is currently the better horror game on the 360 and there are plenty of action games out there that deliver a more solid, tempered experience to all than this sloppy excuse of a game.
Oh christ, did I just call an EA game better than a Resident Evil game? What's the number for The Samaritans again? Help me! Capcom game not good scratchy Dead Space fun give me cookie so I play.
5 / 10