Resident Evil 5
First posted on 19 June 2010. Last updated on 01 March 2013.
The Resident Evil series has earned legions of fans since its debut in 1996, having begun on the original PlayStation then flitting from console to console with subsequent iterations. Every now and again, a title in the series gets ported to the PC, usually long after it has worn out its welcome on whatever console for which it has originally been developed. Whereas Resident Evil 4 has taken years to make it from the GameCube to the PC, Resident Evil 5 has made the jump in relatively short order, arriving on the PC in the same year as its console counterparts. Most of the titles in the canon are survival horror games, and it is fair to say that Capcom has helped to define the genre with the series. For Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5, however, Capcom has switched gears away from survival horror to explore other settings that only has the genre's ambiance, with the addition of guns—lots of guns.
Resident Evil 5 ostensibly has a story, but it is a story that you can easily miss if you do not pay close attention. The original Resident Evil concerns an accidental release of the T-virus which turns humans into mindless zombie like scourges or hideously transformed monsters. In the current sequel, the old T-virus has now graduated to what amounts to a tool of control, creating an army of infected that have evolved from shambling, clumsy adversaries to fighting more as soldiers, riding motorcycles and wielding machine guns. The game also sees the return of Chris Redfield, who heads to an unnamed country in Africa to uncover yet another madman's sinister plot to dominate the world by unleashing the new and improved virus—always a good idea in theory in the villain's mind, but it never quite works out the way it is intended.
Graphically, Resident Evil 5 represents a huge leap over any of its predecessors, including Resident Evil 4 that looks more or less to be just a direct port from the original GameCube version, resolution scaling notwithstanding. The PC version of the game boasts support for DirectX 10 as well as support for Nvidia 3D Vision (assuming you have the hardware to support it) that is not available in the console versions. The color palate, by and large, is bland, effectively giving the proceedings a gloomy, uninviting look throughout. The sounds, music, and voice acting are all serviceable, though none of them make much of an impression. The game comes with a holographic image of the box art, which is a nice bonus if you feel the need to show it off to your gamer friends or perhaps just admire it fondly.
Gameplay in Resident Evil 5 is as linear as it gets. There is no need to bungle around, trying to figure out which direction the game's action lies. Ever moving forward into the maw of whatever awaits you ahead, the game never burdens you with the old standby of finding a locked door that you are forced to double back later, after finding that pesky key, through long hauls of previously trodden territory. A holdover from previous games in the series continues to be that the playable characters cannot attack and move at the same time: you must stop to shoot, stab, or otherwise bludgeon the enemy. The stop and shoot mechanic helps to keep the game closer to its survival horror roots, in what may otherwise be just another generic circle strafing, run and gun affair.
Though the game manual recommends a gamepad (in particular, the Microsoft Xbox 360 Controller), aiming with the mouse is preferable from the over the shoulder third-person perspective. In addition, there are brief sections of the game where you are tasked with key tapping in order to overcome various obstacles. In these cases, it may indeed feel more at ease using a gamepad than having your reactions tested on how fast you can get your fingers moving to simultaneously hit the F and V keys on the keyboard. However, if you find that an awkward key combination is hindering your control, the game allows for the remapping of keys, and you will assuredly find another combination that makes these interludes more navigable.
The game is divided into chapters and chapter sections, where any game progress made at each stage is automatically saved for you. There are also checkpoint saves within the chapter sections, but these are not retained if you quit, so beware of leaving the game at these points. Action is focused almost exclusively on killing the infected and box smashing. Gems and money can be found throughout the levels that can be spent to upgrade or buy weapons during section breaks. There is only a single area in the game that requires traditional puzzle solving, which any seasoned gamer has probably seen, solved, and forgotten about it dozens of times before. There are fights that require tactical puzzle solving, which are challenging enough to be enjoyable but never hard enough to have you running and screaming. Teammate AI (Artificial Intelligence) is acceptable, and it can be set on passive or aggressive on the fly.
To best enjoy Resident Evil 5, however, you need to play the game the way Capcom intends it to be played—cooperatively. You can host or join in a public game, and playing with another random player online can make for a somewhat good experience. Yet, for best results, playing with a friend is recommended. Parsing weapons between you and a pal to complement each other, deciding who goes on point through a creepy corridor, choosing who takes up an objective and who provides cover, and the simple yelping to warn each other of sudden danger are what helps to elevate this game from good to great fun.
Resident Evil 5 supports Games for Windows Live. This means that you must have at least an offline profile to be able to save your games and an online profile to play in cooperative mode. Harking to its console roots, the game has an obscene amount of unlockable content, including bonus materials range from useless 3D figurines and extra costumes to harder difficulty modes and more useful perks such as unlimited ammo. After each chapter, you are scored based on competency in categories such as accuracy and kills. The points awarded to you can then be spent on the much of the unlockable content. Whether it is worth chasing down every scrap, including GFWL achievements, that the game has to offer by replays remains a question for the individual gamer, though it is worth noting that the advanced levels can change the gameplay sufficiently to warrant at least giving it a go. In Professional mode, for example, while the giant sized crocodiles may no longer be a threat to you and your fully upgraded .44 Magnum that you are no doubt wielding by now, the common infected can now kill you with only a single shot if you step too close. Cooperative or single player timed levels add to the bounty of the already complete package.
Long ago, playing a Resident Evil game is about mood, scares, and exploration. Now, playing the new Resident Evil game is mostly about shooting whatever moves. Despite the genre shift this franchise has undergone, Resident Evil 5 still retains some of the old spookiness and continues to be a game experience worth recommending. So, get a friend and turn the lights low! The world needs saving, again.