Thursday, March 26, 2009

Resident Evil 5

I wasn't excited about this game until I actually played it. To me, it was just another Resident Evil game. Besides, horror's never been my thing. And then I played the demo. Wow. That was one of the most adrenaline pumping, exciting gaming experiences I have had in recent memory.

Resident Evil 5 stars major character Chris Redfield (he was in the first RE wasn't he?), fighting alongside new partner Sheva Alomar. In this game, Chris has joined the BSAA, an organization committed to combating bioterrorism. He's feeling been feeling kind of down since the supposed death of his partner Jill, so he is a little skeptical when he meets his new partner. These worries are pushed to the back of his mind soon, however, when the two are ambushed by a horde of zombies soon after being given their equipment. They even witness the execution of the very same man who first greeted them at the hands of a gruesome foe known as the Executioner. As they continue their travels, unraveling the situation at hand, things become increasingly more dire, as more and more of their comrades fall to an enemy they know little about.

RE5's story is sort of a mixed bag. It's not a masterpiece, to be sure, and the largest plot hook and spoiler is extremely obvious. Abandoning its horror roots for a decidedly more action packed style, RE5 is full of explosions, impossible maneuvers, and of course there's a car chase present. The story wants to be the focus, but recognizing it as such only detracts from the overall experience, so let's throw it to the side for now.

RE5 is a game you will either like or hate. So I'll discuss it in a different format then usual.

The game's graphics are beautiful. The environments are incredibly detailed, there's a multitude of effects in use, such as dust kick up, light reflection, and motion blur. After playing this game, its tough not take these things for granted. Explosions are satisfying and look awesome, and while your typical grunt zombies do get old after awhile, other forms are rather creative, and most certainly gruesome. If there's one thing to be said about this game, its gruesome at times. People die in a large variety of ways.

The co-op delivers. You're not doing this game justice playing it solo. Grab a friend, either online or offline, and play it in co-op. You'll have a blast, I promise. Everything about this game promotes teamwork. The inventory system, most of the bosses, the HUD, and there frequent times when you can vault a partner up to check out another area. One of my favorite team oriented parts is right before you first face the chainsaw wielder, where you vault Sheva across to another roof. You could let your buddy try to fend for herself in the next building, but I always have a sniper rifle handy, so I descended one floor and covered her from the balcony. It was a blast. Before each level you're able to buy new weapons and items, and re-arrange your inventory, as well as upgrade your weapons. Its important to strategize with your friend and make sure each person's weapon arsenal complements the other's.

This game can be seriously adrenaline pumping and exciting at times, which goes hand in hand with the co-op. Like during the public assembly level, when we had to hold out for a few minutes against a seemingly never ending hoard of zombies, accompanied by the Executioner. When you or your partner takes too hits, they'll go into DYING status, where they can do nothing but slowly stumble around, and have only seconds until they die. You have to get over there and quickly either slap an adrenaline booster into them or, if you have one, use an herb. This is sorta like the revival system in Gears of War 2. There is almost no let up in action. The few moments of downtime always feel like they are building up towards another burst of excitement. The suspense can make the fainthearted nervous. Even the cutscenes can and likely will kill you.

The game is filled to bursting with replay value. Trophies/Achievements and the cooperative multiplayer aside, there's a lot of weapons in the game, each of which can be individually upgraded. When you fully upgrade a weapon, you can choose to buy the option to have infinite ammo for that weapon. There's also costumes, figurines, and other stuff to unlock with special points that are earned basically by playing the game, and also by seeking out and destroying BSAA emblems, of which there are 30, scattered all around the campaign. Chris and Sheva also have their own secret special weapons to be unlocked and bought, and once you beat the game for the first time, you unlock the Mercenaries mode, which challenges you to off as many enemies as you can. There are also leaderboards, and I'm pretty sure versus multiplayer is on its way too.

For most of these, whether or not these are negatives depend on what kind of games you like. For example, if you are expecting a game akin to Gears 2 or some other 3rd person shooter, the fact that you cannot run and gun at the same time will likely be a sticking point. Cover is context sensitive (its nonexistent for the first half of the game, then becomes more common, and everytime you want to take a shot, you need to stop. Ammo, while not as scarce as in RE4, is still a valued commodity, as it cannot be bought. So each weapon is equipped with a laser sight for more accurate aiming (You've gotta make each shot count). You'll find yourself cursing under your breath when you miss more than twice in a row, and waiting for just the right time to reload.

Again, I personally did not find this to be much of a big deal, but some will. A LOT of actions are context sensitve. Cover is, melee attacks are, a lot of the finishing moves for bosses and special enemies are as well. For one enemy (I'm looking at you, Lickers), you better hope you better have some real twitchy reflexes, or you'll find yourself pinned to the floor, death looking you in the eyes. There are also a lot of Quick Time Events. Unless you are coming from RE4, you will likely fail every single one of them on your first try. Don't ever take your hands off the controller during a cutscene.

This is purely a matter of taste. Being a Resident Evil game, one would expect this game to be, well, scary. Or at least creepy. Well, it's not. The creatures are nasty looking, but I never actually felt scared of them. Nervous, sure (death is always just around the corner if you're not careful), but never scary. This has pissed off some Resident Evil veterans, but it didn't bother me.

Personally I don't think this deserves all the criticism it gets, but the AI is worth mentioning. A word of warning. Don't expect any amount of flexibility from the partner AI. Give it a weapon and it will fend for itself to a realistic extent (Sheva does get grabbed, but her aim is generally dead on). To put it bluntly, the AI is very straightforward, I suppose. It will always stick by you, and its main intent is always to provide cover fire. Don't expect it to do much on its own, it will usually just follow up on what you're doing. HOWEVER, be careful what you trust Sheva with, as the AI burns through herbs like Kirby through a stack of food. The AI will come running with a full health spray if you so much as get a paper cut, and is not intelligent enough to combine herbs, so it will constantly waste lone green herbs. The AI is helpful, as long as you don't grant it too many liberties. It will burn through ammo very quickly, but I tended to as well so I generally let that complaint slide. Another problem is that the AI will almost never switch weapons. It lacks the ability to adapt to varying situations. Whatever weapon Sheva chooses to equip in the beginning, she will stick to for the entirety of the level, regardless of how much peril it may get her into. Keep this in mind as you set up her inventory. To her credit, as I said before, Sheva's aim is topnotch, and at times better than mine. The car chase (and even the final boss battles) is arguably easier with the AI than with a human. She's quick to save you if you're grabbed, and usually intelligent enough to run in for a melee hit if I can get an enemy to stumble. She also gives excellent cover fire.

I refuse to recognize this as a negative, but I've seen a lot of people who have a bone to pick with the inventory system. Due to multitude of items you'll likely be collecting throughout the level, and the limited space you have to carry them (each character has nine slots), it can be puzzle in itself figuring out how to make space for everything. Fortunately you have a stash you can deposit all your items into at the end of each level. Personally I think the limited space adds a level of strategy to the game, but maybe I'm just being optimistic.

I can see Resident Evil 5 being a tough game to rate, because this is a shining example of gaming likes and dislikes being purely a matter of taste. 9.0/10

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