Sunday, July 3, 2011
Xbox 360 review: Resident Evil 5
With his former partner Jill Valentine missing in action (and presumed dead), Chris Redfield heads to an area in Africa known as Kijuju to investigate bio-organic weapons smuggling as part of his assignment with the BSAA (Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance). Once there, he meets his new partner, Sheva Alomar, and things quickly go south for the two as hordes of plagas-infected locals begin attacking them. Making their way deeper into Kijuju, Chris and Sheva make capturing B.O.W. smuggler Ricardo Irving their primary objective, as evidence of Tricell Laboratories' involvement with the plagas breakout begins to reveal itself.
The story of Resident Evil 5 is well executed, following a progression of events that feels very natural. While most of the early missions lay the groundwork for what is to come later on, things are kept interesting through the other BSAA groups that assist Chris and Sheva. And that's one thing that really stands out about Resident Evil 5 when compared to just about every other game in the franchise - you aren't alone for the majority of the game (at least, with regards to the story and cutscenes). Even with zombies running rampant throughout African cities, the chatter from allies and occasional assist from a friendly helicopter help make the events in Kijuju seem that much more feasible. The game as a whole does a good job of closing the book on the main Resident Evil story that started back in 1996, while still leaving enough doors open for future games.
Much like the story, the gameplay is more heavy on action than survival-horror. The core of the gameplay is rooted in third-person shooter mechanics, but a lot of the time the game will require players to complete puzzles while being chased by enemies and at the same time allotting them only so much ammunition. Some areas throw in vehicular action, which is a nice break from facing down hordes of enemies on foot. It also presents an interesting exploration into how Plagas differs from the T-virus.
The game's biggest problem, however, stems from an inconvenient item management system. In Resident Evil 4, the game would pause each time players needed to switch up ammo or heal themselves, which worked wonderfully. But as the development of Resident Evil 5 placed heavy emphasis on cooperative play, this element was not carried over. Players can still change up weapons and heal themselves in the midst of a mission, but must do so while enemies are still swarming around them. Also, each character is only allotted nine slots, and while a shotgun may take up one single slot, so does an herb. When playing solo, players can use Sheva as a support character if they so choose, stocking her up on herbs and lighter weaponry. Another aspect that lessens the frustration of this item management system is the fact that Sheva does a decent job in helping fight off enemies.
Resident Evil 5 isn't a particularly scary game, at least when compared to its predecessors. Some of this is due to the fact that the setting is in the wide open plains of Africa, and that much of the early missions take place in broad daylight. But it is also largely due to the new control and gameplay styles adopted in Resident Evil 4 (and carried over to Resident Evil 5). For those who have played the fourth title, expect that many of the enemies will have some counterpart in Resident Evil 5. Majini are essentially Ganados, while the Ndesu is a slight variation on the El Gigante. Even the Uroboros Test Subject - the first boss encountered in the game - bears some similarities to the Regenerators. That said, new enemies such as Lickers and the mutated bat-like Popokarimu are thrown in the mix and require players to use a trial-and-error system in combat.
While the Majini are the most basic recurring enemies encountered in Resident Evil 5, there are a number of variations on them. Players must adopt slightly varying strategies in order to dispatch them, whereas Resident Evil 4 simply skinned them over with new appearances for each level. Most of the boss fights are both fun and challenging, presenting a variety of enemies and strategies for taking them down. These are often the most tense portions of the game as well, so players will need to be attentive and stay on their toes as much as possible. And while many of the boss fights certainly play out on an epic scale, those who have played Resident Evil 4 will recognize that they have fought each of the major bosses before - if, perhaps, with some minor differences.
Mercenaries mode makes its return, with little change - which is perfect, considering how well it handled in Resident Evil 4. There are still only four characters to choose from, though each has at least two different loadouts and costumes to choose from. The different levels players can choose from range are all larger than those from Resident Evil 4 - some only a bit larger, while others offer a significantly larger playing field. Some are more open, while others are comprised of narrow halls and multi-leveled platforms, so each will require a different strategic approach.
A wide variety of environments are presented throughout the game, ranging from narrow city streets, to underground temple ruins, to swampland, and even the deck of a cargo freighter. The graphical style aims for a fairly realistic depiction of Africa, but the lighting effects add an extra level of oomph to make the game that much more visually appealing. The soundtrack plays to both the dark and gloomy parts of the game, as well as the tense epic battle sequences, presenting a nice contrast in style but still retaining a consistent identity. Though it may not be as scary as its predecessors, Resident Evil 5 presents a fitting conclusion to the story of Chris and Wesker.
My rating: 9.0 (out of 10)