Monday, August 07, 2000

Resident Evil 5 | 9.0

FOR THE FANS OF RESIDENT EVIL 4: This is about the best sequel to RE4 that you could hope for. The graphics are excellent. It has a lot of big guns and intense action, and it adds co-op play to the mix. The controls have been slightly enhanced, as this new installment mirrors some of the tweaks that games such as Gears of War and Dead Space have added to the template RE4 created back in 2005. However, you cannot move and shoot, and you may be a tinge disappointed with the fact that neither Leon or the Merchant return. If that's what you wanted to find out, you can stop reading now.

Are they gone? Good. Now it's just us in the room.

You guys remember Resident Evil. You remember the exploration, the emphasis on limited ammo and weaponry, the 3D characters against static backgrounds with jarring camera angles to heighten tension. You remember the scares, the jumps... the "Survival Horror". And if you remember RE4, then you remember that you've already had to kiss all that goodbye.

You also remember the storyline. You remember the evil, faceless Umbrella corporation. You remember battling with all of their insane Bio-Organic Weapons, monsters, and zombies. You remember how each subsequent installment in the series was crescendoing to a final showdown with Umbrella, all while revealing more and more mysteries about the elusive company. You remember the ending of Code Veronica, which was set up as a lead-in to that aforementioned final confrontation with the next sequel. And you also remember that sequel was RE4, which flushed that whole entire plotline down the toilet in the very opening cut sequence. Let's recap.

RE:CV Ending/Chris Redfield: "It's payback time. We've got to destroy Umbrella. Now, let's finish this once and for all!" - The jet shoots off into the sunset, the credits roll.
RE4 opening: Umbrella went bankrupt and was destroyed, here's something else.

Well, gee. That was pretty anti-climactic. So the whole climax you guys (I'm looking at you, Capcom) have been building towards this whole entire time has already happened? And it all happened off-screen? There seems to be a HUGE gap here. Pretty sloppy. I would go so far as to say that this opening cutscene is the biggest anti-climatic turdbomb in the history of gaming. And what's the deal with this cult and the mind-controlling parasites thing? Why is Leon is being chased by a moving statue? WTF? The whole plot of this game doesn't seem to fit in with the overall flow of the storyline that's been established up until this point. So how's the game? Well, the game is good. Very good, in fact. It's a great action game (emphasis on ACTION), but I'm still scratching my head as to why this game is entitled Resident Evil in the first place.

And so, then we were given "The Umbrella Chronicles" for the Wii, which was basically the half-baked answer we got to the gap between RE:CV and RE4, and it's not even part of the numbered series. And now, after four long years, we finally have RE5. So how is it?

Well guys, it's basically RE4 all over again with a fresh lick of paint and co-op. Even the Plaga-infected villagers, which return as the main enemies here, have the exact same animations that they did in RE4. Now, I have been following this game's development for a long time, and I don't think it should take four years just to make another linear, Go-from-Point(A)-to-Point(B)-and-kill-everything-in-sight, RE4-style game, but I guess I'm wrong. Remember when they said that there would be new enemies in this game? Not Plagas or zombies, but a whole new breed of the dead? What happened to that? What happened to their talk of that heat meter beside your health, that if not lowered with water, your character would start to hallucinate? It just feels like this game is too scared to try anything different from RE4, and I think that it is worse off for it. It just doesn't have an identity of its own, and as much as I've dogged on RE4 in this review, it was much more effective in its execution than RE5 here. There is the co-op, which is definitely how this game is meant to be played. Playing it with a buddy definitely enhances the experience, and will have the two of you strategizing over tactics. And as far as the A.I. goes, I've seen a lot of people complaining about it, but I didn't really have any problems with it at all. Sheva DOES combine herbs and things, but yes, you will have to do most of the item management for both characters, which can prove to be quite the pain, since the item management is in real-time, and you're often surrounded by enemies. You can also quick-select your weapons with the directional pad; a control mechanic lifted straight from Gears of War. Speaking of which...

The standard controls are going to be very confusing for newcomers. You'd think they'd add the ability to move while aiming and shooting. It's kind of awkward that the left analog just sticks and does nothing when you aim, and you have to switch over to the right analog to control your laser sight. It just feels awkward, like something's missing there. Because, well, something IS missing there. I find it baffling that Capcom has emulated the controls/enhancements from the action-heavy Gears of War, yet chose to leave out the most practical use of those controls. The reason that there is no run & gun, according to Capcom themselves, is because it racks up the tension that the series is known for, and that by adding run & gun, RE5 would be straying from its roots. Um... follow along with us, Capcom. This game isn't true to its roots at all. This game is not Survival Horror at all. There's no creepy atmosphere or anything. The whole game takes place outdoors in broad daylight. I didn't even see one door opening sequence. Instead there are a brief trivia lessons in the load times between doorways to the next segment of the level. This is an action game. It's even more action-oriented than RE4. So, Capcom, if Resident Evil is going to be an action game now, then it should BE an action game.

As for the storyline, right off the bat, it's better than RE4's, but that's not saying much. Chris Redfield is now with a new anti-Bioterrorism organization known as the B.S.A.A., which sends him to Africa to bust a bioweapons deal that's going down in the Kijuju region. It is here that he meets up with his partner for this assignment, Sheva Alamor. From there on, there are a lot of twists and blatantly obvious turns. A couple characters from the series past return, a few new ones are introduced, and most all of the original plot threads are brought to a close, culminating with the death of a certain prominent antagonist. The story was kind of up and down for me. In a lot of ways, it felt like a true sequel, notwithstanding a lot of the dumb crap from RE4 tacked on. I was thrilled when Umbrella was briefly re-introduced and explored, as well as the section where Chris and Sheva stumble upon an underground laboratory containing a familiar old B.O.W., which was great to see, and had me pining for the good ol' days of the series' past. As a hardcore fan, that section alone was worth the price tag for me. But a lot of the big reveals, such as Wesker and Spencer's true motives, felt very contrived and cliche. The ending also felt strangely anti-climactic, and by the time it was all over, I was still left with many unanswered questions. What did Wesker ever do with Sherry and Steve? What ever happened to Barry? Last I knew, according to the RE3 Epilogue, he was heading to Europe with Jill and Chris. I'd rather Capcom brought back more of those past characters as opposed to introducing more and more new ones. They just dropped all those plot threads. They could have at least given us something to wrap up those character arcs, like an Epilogue file or something like that.

Overall, I found Resident Evil 5 to be pretty mediocre. Sure, there's a lot of great features and tons of unlockables that give it a lot of replay value, but at the end of the day, this game is pretty forgettable. The gameplay was solid four years ago, but it's 2009 now. The things that were exciting about RE4 then aren't so exciting now. Action games like this have evolved with stuff like Gears of War and Dead Space, leaving RE5's dated gameplay in the dust. It just feels stale. I never got bored like this with the classic Resident Evil games. I still don't understand why people dogged on its controls so much. It takes you, like, ten minutes tops to get accustomed to the "tank"-style controls, and then they're a breeze. They become second nature to you. They never should have changed the formula. However, I also realize that there's a new fanbase now; a new generation of gamers that don't have any patience for the classic titles. The thing is, with a lot of these kids now... the PS2 was, like, their first system. And these PS3s and 360s are like their Super Nintendos. Capcom is taking the series into a new direction for a new fanbase, and for the oldschool RE fans, you can consider RE5 here to be the last hurrah. In other words, this is the de facto ending of the series that wraps up the original storyline before even more fundamental changes are made. Well, it's been fun.


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