Friday, April 3, 2009

Resident Evil 5 - Review

This review originally posted on Gamers' Temple.

Player(s): 1-2
Extra Features: Online play through PSN or Xbox LIVE, Leaderboards, Download Content

Ever since the trailer shown at E3 2005, Resident Evil 5 has been the center of attention for many hardcore Resident Evil fans. E3 2006 basically set the standards for what to expect from this new Resident Evil and the following gaming conventions added the introduction of a new lead character along with the main character and co-op play. A vast majority of new trailers and gameplay videos have been surfacing for the past few months along with some very clever marketing schemes by Capcom dealing with building up hype for Resident Evil 5's release.

The trailers do not lie one bit about this Resident Evil having a story suited for hardcore fans of the series. There are some things you will find out about the series' past that will completely blow you away while answering some of the more elusive story aspects that were only hinted upon in the older games. Resident Evil 5 does a very good job of pulling together aspects from Resident Evil 4 and the more classic Resident Evil games. Las Plagas (Resident Evil 4) and the Progenitor virus (pre-Resident Evil) are the main focus of the story along with a few new additions.

It also showcases the return of a few older fan favorite characters such as Albert Wesker and another very popular character that has been missing from the Resident Evil storyline for far too long. One of the most elusive Resident Evil characters of all time is actually given a face and a voice in Resident Evil 5 as well. The reoccurring theme of "partner" is one of the major story elements in Resident Evil 5's narrative and it succeeds in bringing in some pleasing emotional depth to the overall story. I've always deemed Resident Evil: Code Veronica X as my personal favorite Resident Evil because of its overall story and characters, but Resident Evil 5 comes close in dethroning it from a story aspect.

The first major change one will definitely notice about Resident Evil 5 when compared to its predecessor is the impressive overall leap in graphics. This game is overflowing with high production value in many ways but the high resolution appearance is quite a sight to behold. The character models are all life-like and detailed. Even though we all know Chris Redfield has near perfect genes, you can see minor skin imperfections such as freckles if you look closely at his arm while controlling him. Character outfits are detailed enough to show stitching in the fabric from close range.

Backgrounds showcase some impressive lighting effects throughout the game as well. There is one sewer area in particular that gradually gets darker as your character moves toward the middle of the tunnel then slowly gets a bit brighter as an opening is reached. Shadow effects are lifelike as well such as seeing realistic character shadows as they move by an area with sunlight peaking or simply seeing the shadow of a crow that is flying overhead.

Resident Evil 4 had some pretty impressive battles, but Resident Evil 5's boss battles blow them out of the water. The boss battles about midway through the game onward are quite a sight to behold. Some of them are more shooter-based than normal but all of them feel unique and left me really excited throughout the battle. Being a hardcore Resident Evil fan, there is one boss fight in particular that left me extremely giddy throughout the whole battle since I couldn't believe what I was seeing unravel before my eyes.

The overall game plays much like Resident Evil 4 for the most part. It has plenty of newly added melee attacks that can be performed on an enemy by shooting and stunning it in a certain way. Resident Evil 5 even changes some of the melee attacks depending on the side of the enemy that your character is facing. There are even some tag team melees that require teamwork and these can be fun to try for while playing with a partner.

With melee attacks and many other actions, Resident Evil 5 still uses Resident Evil 4's button prompt command system where a button will appear in order to perform a certain action depending on the object, obstacle or enemy in front of your character. This works pretty well for the most part but there were still times where I'd accidentally perform a command that I didn't want to because my character stepped out of a certain detection area for a button prompt command. This is still only a minor issue though, just as it was in Resident Evil 4.

Slightly early in the game, a button prompt cover system is introduced where a character can stick to a wall with a tap of the action button. The cover system plays out much like it was in a certain part of Resident Evil 4 where Leon could take cover from enemies that tossed dynamite at him. Resident Evil 5 greatly intensifies the need to take cover as the game progressed however and the slight cover feature in Resident Evil 4 is given much more emphasis making its flaws more showcased. When your character takes cover behind a wall, that character cannot move along that wall at all, which can be a slight annoyance when you just want to simply move to the other side of the wall to get better aim. With that said, the button prompt cover feature matches the gameplay setup that Resident Evil 5 still maintains from its predecessor but a slight bit of enhancement over the old feature would have made it feel much better.

The game still uses the classic Resident Evil tank controls but loosens them just as much as Resident Evil 4 and provides the player with the same over-the-shoulder view perspective that we are now familiar with. Resident Evil 5 has four different control setups. It uses the classic Resident Evil 4 control style and a new style with a sidestep, a shoulder firing button, and the use of the right analog for turning. The two other control types blend these two together for a mix of the two controls. If you're starting this game right after having played Dead Space then Control Type D is most likely going to be the one for you, but if you're entering the game after having just played Resident Evil 4 then you'll most likely want to continue on using Control Type A's more traditional setup.

In Resident Evil 5, you play the main game with one completely controllable character and a partner. The AI partner in single player is both a blessing and a curse. My main gripe with the partner system in single player is the limited amount of control you have over your partner. Only two commands can be issued to a partner - Attack and Cover. Under the "Cover" command, your AI partner sticks close to your main character and equips the least powerful weapon in the partner's current inventory. When in "Attack" mode, the partner will equip the most damaging weapon in the character's arsenal and the AI will be more aggressive and go off on its own to do battle with enemies or find items. Thankfully, whether online or offline, you can keep track of your partner through a mini map which can be displayed on the side of the screen.

The only way to stop your AI partner from attacking is to request all firearms from your partner, but even then your partner will still try to attack enemies with the knife. There really should have been some sort of "Wait" command for the single player mode to keep your partner from acting at all. This would have been such a nice feature for the single player mode especially in some areas where the partner blows your cover by taking a shot at some unsuspecting enemies. There were also plenty of times where I would fire at an enemy's head for a head stun then rush toward the enemy to perform a melee attack that would knock him down along with the crowd that surrounds him, but the AI partner would mess up this chance by shooting the stunned enemy which immediately brought the enemy out of the stun and made it where I got assaulted by the whole crowd thanks to the lack of the melee command that I could have gotten if the AI partner didn't "help out".

Even with the complaints about the AI partner however, the single player game still gave me the feel of playing with a team. Your AI partner will conveniently help out quite often by healing your main character or giving your main character ammo when needed. Despite the slight flaws in the partner AI, it really is a lot more helpful than annoying. Experimenting with the partner AI and leaning how it works is quite a fun challenge. If only there had been some sort of "Wait" command to cancel all partner actions, the partner AI would have been a lot more memorable to me.

Playing the main story online or in split screen with an actual human player breathes new life into the team experience. The game gives you a set of partner commands that can be issued to your partner by holding down the assist button and tapping a direction with the d-pad - Go, Come On, Thanks, and Wait. The "Thanks" and "Wait" command are exclusive to co-op gameplay. There are also partner responses that can be activated after specific actions have been performed. For instance, whenever a partner heals your character or gives your character an item, you can tap the assist button to have your partner respond to the character to show gratitude.

It's amazing how such a simple communication system can so easily remedy the need for voice chat. You can request an item or ammo from your partner by pulling up their inventory and selecting request. All the other person has to do is equip the item then walk toward the partner for a "Give" command to appear. I use voice chat over Xbox LIVE to play alongside a few friends and we still use this partner communication system even then. It's a very simple yet effective communication system that fits in very well with the team aspect of Resident Evil 5.

The inventory system can only be pulled up in real time now, just like in the Resident Evil: Outbreak games. Press the Triangle (PS3) or Y (Xbox 360) button to display the menu during gameplay. Even though cycling through the inventory while action occurs on the screen takes some getting used to at first, it brings a whole new level of depth and strategy to the usual pause in gameplay to select from the inventory. For those willing enough to explore advanced techniques, the inventory menu can be brought up during the middle of a melee attack or many other character animations while your character is invincible. You can literally arrange your inventory while climbing a ladder. Yes, the game still gets that tense.

Resident Evil 4 introduced reloading animations to increase the tension. Leon could only reload in real time. RE5 brings back reloading through the inventory menu by combining the ammo with the gun. If you can master when to pull up the inventory during gameplay to take advantage of inventory reloading then you'll never have to witness another reload animation again and this will improve your play-throughs significantly. The real time inventory system really opens the door to a whole new level of planning while experiencing the usual tension of Resident Evil 4 style gameplay for those willing to experiment and tinker with it.

The Mercenaries mode is back once again. It is unlocked after the main story is finished on any difficulty. Just like in Resident Evil 4, you can select a character with a predetermined weapon list and your character will enter a stage full of enemies where your goal is to get as many kills as possible before the time runs out. Players can collect time bonuses to extend the timer for more killing time and chaining kills all within a certain amount of seconds can raise the overall score.

Everything about the Mercenaries mode is bigger and better this time. More stages can be played and there are more unlockable characters. But that isn't even the best part. The most fantastic part about this mode is that it can now be played with two players, so you can join up with a friend locally or online and work together to get a high score. It's absolutely amazing how addicting this mode can be with two people and really shows off how the overall Resident Evil 4 style gameplay still holds up.

When comparing the Xbox 360 version and the PS3 version there are some slightly noticeable differences once they are placed side by side. The Xbox 360 version suffers from some noticeable screen tearing at times and its darker areas tend to lack as much of a realistic appearance as the PS3 version. In contrast, the PS3 version's jagged edges on the characters are more noticeable than on the Xbox 360 version, the framerate doesn't always move as smoothly on PS3 (it's only slight) and some environmental effects are watered-down on PS3.

Regarding environmental effects, there is one part of Resident Evil 5 where a truck falls over and slides while still moving toward the characters. The Xbox 360 version has more noticeable sparking effects during the slide and has a thick layer of smoke protruding from the bottom of the truck after it comes to a complete stop. The PS3 has the same effects but they are much less noticeable. Environmental effects such as the dust at the Pubic Assembly are not as noticeable on PS3 either. All of these issues are rather minor, but they are still noticeable when playing both versions.

The Xbox 360 version still has the usual achievements and the PS3 has its trophies. The PS3 version has some unlockable features for PlayStation Home as well. The PlayStation Home Kijuju portion also has some unlockable features that can only be accessed by those that have a copy of Resident Evil 5.

If you're a hardcore Resident Evil fan then you'll be able to overlook the minor flaws in Resident Evil 5. The game is every bit what this hardcore Resident Evil fan was hoping for and then some. The new co-op gameplay greatly intensifies the replay value with providing a new experience each time the game is played. You won't be putting this one down for months to come. The differences between the two versions can be a slight factor when deciding between them but, overall, I think the controller that you are most comfortable with and the available friends that will play alongside you on each console should be the major concern.

The Good:

+ Overflowing with high production value
+ Blends Resident Evil 4 style gameplay with a story and characters that will likely please hardcore Resident Evil fans
+ The entire main story can be played solo with an AI partner or with a friend through split screen or online play
+ Good overall enemy variety along with some extremely good bosses
+ Online Mercenaries mode!
+ A bunch of replay value through the harder difficulty levels and The Mercenaries mode is back once again

The Bad:

- More control over the AI partner's actions would have been appreciated
- The cover system feels mediocre


Resident Evil 5 digs deep into the series' origins with its overall story and slightly enhances the overall addicting gameplay that left its mark with Resident Evil 4.


Berserker said...

I know what you're thinking: The score is too high!

No, that score reflects how much this game is taking over my life and all my spare time, my email, my blog, and keeping me from seeing all my friends on Xbox LIVE. It's an absolutely fantastic game and everything I was hoping for.

If anyone is interested, I posted the link to my Street Fighter IV review in the review section on the right hand side of the blog page.

Oh, and one more thing regarding RE5:

...this RE5 guide is going to blow everything else that I've done up until now out of the water... with the limit of text of course.

^ That's going to be up next week if it kills me. I'm not going to mention how big it is yet, but let's just say it's... bigger than the RE5 demo FAQ, that's for sure.

Brian said...

Haha, can't wait to see the core of your life force online buddy :D

I would also agree that the score is high, but for the criteria you describe, it's 100% appropriate. I'm a little surprised that you didn't go into a little editorial about the actual sense of fear the game instills, though. Plan to write about that eventually? :D IMO the game has its moments of fear - gingerly walking through the underground lab full of lickers is easily my favorite part, but outside of that, nearly every other instance was an "oh no, almost out of ammo" fear.

The way they filled in the gaps for the story is good; the detail in the files is awesome as well. However, I still say that the dialogue itself could have used polish. The partner aspect is an important theme throughout the game, but IMO nobody talks like that. It takes away from the drama that could come just from a single look or action as opposed to speaking it outright. You-know-who's (man I hate how that sounds like we're talking about Harry Potter) "Don't you trust your partner?" line effectively shut down a lot of the hope for the writing in me... It served the same function as Leon's infamous "Louis" cry, though it wasn't as bad.

But what can I say, I'm harsh when it comes to writing, and after the plethora of good writing in the games I played last year (and what I discovered just a couple weeks later in MadWorld and God of War Chains of Olympus) it was disappointing.

What's really funny is that bioterror has become a hot topic over the past year. This season of 24 deals with it, MadWorld deals with it...

Sixth_Finger said...

Don't know about the score... sure, RE5 has some minor issues, but seeing how the co-op alone is built I wouldn't even think at a score under 9.

Also, I feel like quoting the "dialogue part" Brian wrote.
There was too much emphasis on the partner aspect of the story, and some of Sheva's lines just seems out of place to me.

Brian said...

Yeah, I can definitely agree with your point on the co-op aspect. As I think more and more about what it takes to implement it, and to have it fairly seamlessly, a 9+ is totally justified. It's at least that much just for mercenaries alone, I'd think.

I believe my harshness just stems from having played better. My judgment on the game comes from comparing it to the romantic ideals I have for RE and comparing it to other shooters.

Sentox said...

It's probably a 7/10 for me. It's a good action game, but there are better in the genre.

Most importantly, for me, it's absolutely not as good as RE4.

It'd be 9 out of 10 if it was just Mercenaries, though. One point deducted for that stupid voiceover at the start of each run that breaks immersion >:(

Berserker said...

Thanks for responding, guys. I actually like that voiceover in the Mercenaries myself. I always say it out loud whenever he start so speak.

And yeah, I'm not really pleased with the RE5 review of mine - felt that way before I even posted it up here. I'm going to add some more to it soon. The opinion stays the same but it needs more description overall.

I've been in such a state of neglect for the past few weeks from working on my RE5 FAQ. I have 3 backed up pages of email in my inbox and I haven't even looked at all my RE5 materials (wallpapers and faceplate) that I ordered to go along with it. Most Xbox LIVE friends haven't seen me in close to a month. On PS3, you'll find me in "Unavailable" mode over half the time that I'm on since I'm usually busy with the FAQ. Hopefully this will change next week because I'm getting a bit tired of avoiding online play and true enjoyment of the game.

Have any of you tried RE5 Versus yet? It feels kind of strange being competitve in an RE game. It played rather well once I got used to it though.

Berserker said...

*starts to speak

Brian said...

Haha, keep going dude! Only jump back in when you feel well and ready :O You do a good job staying focused; at some point I think I would have relapsed (within the week I think :P). I await the 1.3MB file that will be your ultimate FAQ :D

I haven't gotten Versus, and I don't think I will for a while. I haven't even touched Mercenary more than twice so far, so there's a lot I haven't gleaned from the game :/ Been hitting the schoolwork and tv/sports more than games these days actually.

Berserker said...

I spent a good majority of last night getting the guide in a posting form. A bunch of things were added. 1.3MB? Ha, we're going beyond that soon.

Mercenaries will consume you. Don't get too involved in it if you have other things that need your attention. ;)

You could always play a game with me later on and I'll get you high on the leaderboards. I have my ways in duo mode.

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