I've now come full circle in my quest to play all the mainline Resident Evil games: back to the first RE game I ever finished, Resident Evil 5.
Handsome beeflord Chris Redfield's journey through the heart of Africa alongside his spunky sidekick Sheva Alomar, taking his vengeance against the evil Albert Wesker, who is now just a straight up superpowered villain bent on world domination. RE5 takes the third-person action RE formula established by RE4, loosens up the controls a little to allow strafing (though not while shooting, mind), and adds a co-op partner character who'll blast zambamboes alongside you (AI-controlled, if you're playing on your own). The inventory system has been overhauled as a 3x3 grid sorted in realtime, RE4's Merchant has unfortunately lost his job to a bland menu screen, and the overall tone has taken a turn for the... serious? I hesitate to say that about a game where you fight the final boss inside a volcano, but at least we're not running away from giant statues in the image of zany Spanish dwarves
So I bought this game on day one and played it to death back on the PS3. I loved shooting the dudes, I loved the ridiculously over-the-top action cutscenes, I loved reading all the files about the history of the Resident Evil series. I probably haven't played it since like 2010, though, and I actually didn't enjoy going back to it as much as I thought I would. Back in the day I remember people being down on the game thanks to the forced co-op, the cover-based shooting encounters and a general feel of trying to go back to the RE4 well, and while I didn't agree with those complaints at the time... right now I feel like they were pretty spot on. I still had a lot of fun playing through it, but RE5 has some pretty big problems and I really don't think it compares to the stone cold masterpiece that is RE4.
OK, let's start with this co-op stuff. I like Sheva, and playing on Normal difficulty this time around I never died because of any AI-related antics. I saddled her with whichever weapons I didn't want to use, mostly left the healing duties to her, and she was totally fine. But with Sheva's inclusion came a host of PS3/360-gen co-op mechanics that really frustrated me. There's a down-but-not-out state stolen straight from Gears of War, for instance, where if your health drops below a certain threshold you'll enter a staggering state and need your partner to come and rescue you. This is fine in a regenerating health game like Gears, but RE5 uses consumable healing items that you can carry with you at all times, and there is nothing more irritating than being separated from your partner and knowing you're going to die DESPITE HAVING A HEALING ITEM IN YOUR INVENTORY. I have literally died on top of a Green Herb that the game wouldn't let me pick up. It's also just needlessly difficult to swap and exchange items with your AI partner, which speaks to some of the same issues I had in RE0. Menu functions that you should be able to do but can't, QOL features that would be such a huge help but aren't there. How many grenades did I unintentionally give to Sheva when I was trying to throw them because I unthinkingly mashed the 'Give' button thinking it was a QTE?
The game unabashedly tries to top RE4, with very obvious callbacks to memorable setpieces from that game like El Gigante, the Cabin, the QTE moments, the giant bosses with special weapons; even the overall three-act game structure of rural village-> spooky castle/ruins -> combat heavy military area. But where RE4 has you saying "Oh yeah, that bit!" with glee as you stumble into a huge fight, RE5 has a lot more "Oh no, that bit" moments. I mean, RE4 has a few areas that aren't great, but RE5 has some genuinely awful parts, particularly when the enemies start shooting back at you. The retrofitted cover system doesn't work especially well, with finicky positioning required to get the prompt to show up in the first place and then iffy protection afforded from damage once you're in place, and most of all it just isn't much fun to kill guys by shooting them in these games. You want to be mixing it up right there in the fray, hitting weakpoints and going for melee hits, but instead you're stuck pewpewing around a wall. Also I still hate the Reaper enemies and their awful one-hit kill attack. I also read some things about the PC and PS4/XB1 versions being a little glitchy in terms of boss health and AI; I'm not sure if that's legit, but I definitely had a harder time playing the PC version than I remember from the PS3 version back in the day. Chainsaw Men took a frankly absurd level of punishment (I literally dumped 12 MAGNUM ROUNDS into one's face before it died), and that one Uroboros boss where you can use the Flamethrower took forever.
But enough complaining, because I still really like this game. Giant muscleboy Chris is the best character redesign in history, and I absolutely love this game's stupid story. Chris is out there mowing down zomboes by the dozen in search of our girl Jill, and when I played this game back in the day I always assumed they must have had a real relationship in the earlier games. Now that I know all the backstory, though, which is to say that they spent the entirety of RE1 separated and then were never in another game together until RE5, it all just seems so delightfully silly. And of course nobody ever has sex in the RE universe, so we know it wasn't a romantic thing, either. Chris and Jill's whole bond is basically invented in this game; "Because we're partners" is Chris' earnest answer to everything in this game, which is so anime it hurts. And now Wesker has gone from the goober in CVX doing slow-mo jumps to the coolest guy in the universe, effortlessly dodging bullets with a flash-step superpower faster than your eyes can follow, clad in a carbon fibre battle suit and purring out every line in D.C. Douglas' positively scandalous villain voice.
RE5's action cutscenes are an absolute treat for a fan of CG fight scenes. They were handled by Just Cause Productions, a stunt/motion-capture/animation company run by none other than our old friend Reuben Langdon (aka Dante, boiz!), and they are just magical. Reuben Langdon and Dan Southworth (Vergilllll) do motion capture, and Reuben voices one of the ill-fated BSAA agents (the guy who drives the Humvee early on and gets squashed by the El Gigante). The choreography, the camerawork, the creativity of some of the ridiculous stuff they do is so good. Too good for plain old gifs, just watch this hot fire and thank me later:
So, that was RE5, then. Not quite as great as I'd remembered, but still really cool. I'd love to see Sheva come back some day, and I hope there's still room for action RE in this new more grounded world of RE games post-7. Speaking of 7, that's the one I'm playing next, and the last remaining mainline RE for me. Wish me luck!
- Lord_Capulet likes this