Action filled survival horror game set in Africa – an instant “must play”!
Chris Redfield, a BSAA (Bio-terrorism Security Assessment Alliance) agent is deployed to the Kijuju area in Africa to investigate an alleged terrorist threat. Upon arrival Chris teams up with Sheva Alomar, a member of the BSAA African branch. Together they begin to pursue a person named Ricardo Irving, who is selling viruses to the underground markets in the vicinity. The two agents soon discover that a specific virus is spreading and effectively turning people into crazed, murderous monsters called majini.
Things are quickly turning ugly from there. As if Chris didn’t have his hands full already, he also stumbles upon a clue that may lead him to his long-lost friend Jill Valentine. In the middle of all the chaos, Sheva decides to join Chris in a risky vigilante mission to track down those responsible for the virus outbreak and to find Jill.
Resident Evil 5 is a sequel to Resident Evil 4 but the stories of the two games do not directly link into each other. It does however continue the game-mechanical steps taken in Resident Evil 4 and is thus a more action oriented game comparing to the first games in the franchise.
In Resident Evil 5 you play as Chris Redfield, accompanied by Sheva Alomar, or vice versa. Together armed with whatever weapons you find you will fight a zombie-like outbreak and face many dangers, traps and deadly monsters. The game is played from a third-person camera view, placed right behind the shoulder of your character. Because of this you will be able to see your characters moves as he reloads weapons, wrestles majini, climbs ladders, opens doors and takes cover etc. This alone really takes you into the game world and the hazards that lie there in. If you’re playing alone, your side-kick is controlled by a computer controlled AI. If you want to have another player control your partner, you can either play locally on a split-screen set up, or you can play online on PSN and allow random players join your adventure.
The goal of the game is basically to get through each of the stages in one piece. You will encounter many types of enemies, such as crossbow wielding majini, majini dogs, flying mutants, and even military majini. Through the course of the game you will also get to a drive boat, use numerous weapons such as flame throwers, rocket launchers, grenades and machine gun turrets. Typically each stage requires you to unlock doors, search for clues, find key cards and occasionally you must go separate ways with your partner to overcome certain obstacles. These are all very well designed into the setting and story, and they never feel forced.
It should be noted that Resident Evil 5 for the PlayStation 3 requires you to install the to the hard drive, and that install requires about four gigabytes of free disk space. On a brighter note, the loading times are very fast. In fact, they’re so fast that you won’t even have the time to read the fluff text on the loading screen before you’re thrown into the game.
The game can be played in three different difficulty settings (one additional can be unlocked). There are 16 chapters and around six boss battles in the game. Playing through the story for the first time took us 13 hours (excluding replays caused by deaths), so it certainly is a lengthy adventure. The various chapters take place in and around the African town Kijuju, but you will also explore mines, villages, secret facilities, a swamp, numerous abandoned places and other interesting locations.
The story of the game has a realistic feel to it – it is filled with panicky decisions done on a do-or-die level and as such it is a very thrilling experience. There are a few interesting plot twists in there too, but they aren’t overly surprising. It’s hard to stop playing the game because you will want to know how the story develops, and the characters are very sympathetic. I will not spoil the end of the game, but towards the end the game loses its edge somewhat story-wise. The last chapter or so in the story simply doesn’t have the same quality as the rest of it. Even though the game is exciting all the way from the start to the very end, the story really doesn’t hold water there in the end.
The level design is pretty straightforward, meaning that you will spend most of your time advancing from one point to another. There are only a few occasions in which you can backtrack to previous locations and explore open areas, and there aren’t any alternative routes to explore. There are however some secrets hidden around the stages, and it’s always a challenge to find and figure them out.
Generally the game has evenly rounded combat sequences with exploration and clue searching moments. There is a distinct line between the two, so you’re never exactly forced to battle enemies and at the same time try to figure out what to do or where to go, save for the boss encounters. But other than that there is time for thinking in between all the action.
Between stages you will get a chance to organize your inventory. You can leave stuff you found behind in a storage box and buy weapons and other helpful items such as bullet proof vests and first aid sprays. You can also freely move items between you and your partner and sell items. During the game you will find numerous treasure items that you can sell for some extra cash.
You can also upgrade various attributes of your weapons such as fire power, clip size, reload times and critical hit rates for example. You can’t directly buy ammunition other than to the grenade launcher which is frustrating. You will however be granted a fully loaded clip when you upgrade clip size. This is one way to get some of those very rare Magnum bullets.
Other than the standard story mode, you can unlock The Mercenaries mode. This is basically a time attack mode where you must kill as many enemies as possible before the time runs out. There are eight stages in The Mercenaries, (seven of them have to be unlocked) and during the game you can find extra time and weapons to keep you going for the higher scores. In this mode you can also unlock additional playable characters, and even play in multiplayer (again, either locally or on PSN).
For some extra replay value Resident Evil 5 features a whole bunch of unlockable items and bonus content. There are 46 toy capsule figurines – basically 3D models from the game that you can look at in a special menu. There are also unlockable extra costumes, bonus weapons, costumes, documents about interesting characters and history in the game and video effect filters. There is also a wide array of PlayStation trophies that you can earn by doing various tasks such as completing chapters, killing majini with specific weapons and in specific ways.
As an extra spice there are some Quick Time Events (QTE) in some of the cut-scenes of the game. This means that sometimes when your characters face danger in a cut-scene, the screen will prompt you to quickly push a button on the controller. If you’re too slow or press the wrong button, your character will die, forcing you to replay the cut-scene. In the event that you must watch a cut-scene over and over again, you can press the select button to skip to the interesting part – i.e. where your involvement is needed. The QTEs will maintain the tension even during cut-scenes, because you need to stay alert on which button must be pressed. They’re randomized, so you can’t learn them by heart.
The controls in Resident Evil 5 are pretty much solid. Even if you hate playing first- or third person type games with a regular controller, you will be able to adapt to this game with only 10-20 minutes of playing. Switching equipment can be done with clever hotkeys on the D-pad and your weapons are mapped to the two left triggers, whereas you use your weapon with the right trigger. Jumping over obstacles and opening doors is also very easy and convenient. It’s also extra cool that you can bash down doors by tapping the “open door button” rapidly.
Aiming shots with the gun and movement can feel slow and it is faithful to the well-known Resident Evil formula where you don’t really move all that fast – but outrunning majini can be done quite effortlessly. There’s also a quick command for turning around which you will need to utilize in order to maneuver and battle in cramped areas.
The AI controlled partner behaves really helpful, and you can also issue commands to her that she will follow to the best of her ability. There are situations where your partner wastes resources (or healing items rather), but the ammunition she uses are put to good use – she has a deadly aim!
Even though the game is fully enjoyable playing alone, It’s probably recommend playing together with someone – either locally in split-screen or over the PSN. It’s much more fun and gives you more tactical opportunities.
The visuals in Resident Evil 5 are simply brilliant. The game has a distinct look and feel thanks to its very detailed environments and high contrast look. The textures are also very sharp and detailed for the most part. To depict fast motions, there’s a motion blur effect in place on both characters and the camera. These effects are subtle but does produce a desired and nice effect.
The blood and gore does look good also. The blood effects are gritty and can look pretty disturbing – for example when shooting someone in the head, you’ll see their head explode into bone splinters and brains. The character and monster models are very well done too, save for some specific models that rely too heavily on shader effects.
Playing the game in two player mode will split the screen horizontally, but leaving a blank space on either side of the viewport, failing to fully utilize the screen space on a wide screen TV. The frame rate in split-screen does have some weak moments, but it never gets in your way.
The sound is also very well done – you will hear the relentless majini howl, scream and groan as they do what they can to stop you dead in your tracks. It’s very intimidating and even disturbing to hear it because it’s so well made. The voice acting generally is great and does add life to the whole experience.
The music also changes dynamically to combat and tense situations. The soundtrack that accompanies the game isn’t anything you would listen to while not playing because it is very much just background music. It’s very cinematic and it’s inspired by the African theme – it goes perfectly with the terror theme and setting of the game.
Resident Evil 5 isn’t that much about the creeping horror. It’s more about a panicked situation where anything can happen and where you’d do best to prepare for the worst. As such it seems to have taken all the intense elements of the previous Resident Evil games and compressed it into this one, leaving most of the slow-paced backtracking and clue searching behind. The result is an action oriented horror game where you are bombarded with dangers in a very hostile environment. Having a partner at your side is certainly helping an otherwise maddening situation, but even so you can’t help feeling a bit lost and lonely at times.
So, is this a worthy successor for the legendary Resident Evil franchise? Yes it absolutely is! The co-op oriented gameplay blends perfectly with the terrifying development of the story and the action elements are very well-balanced with the suspence that is iconic to Resident Evil games.
Chances are that you will want more of the same after the first play-through, and I think that the additional difficulty settings, unlockable stuff and bonus content will encourage you play it through more than once.