Evil Is Resident, Again

Resident Evil 5
Reviewed On
Xbox 360
Available For

Editor’s Note: These scores are when playing with a partner via split screen, or over Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network. If played with an AI partner, take a half gem off for gameplay, fun, and overall score.

Resident Evil is a series that I both liked and hated. When the first game came out, it ranked up there next to Final Fantasy as the one release I was sick and tired of hearing of. When I played it, watched the opening cutscene with the horrible acting, waiting forever for the loading screen "door" to open, and the tedious corridor exploration mixed in with scripted moments of surprise, I thought to myself "why does everyone like this so much?"

Even with playing, and completing, the sequel I said the same thing, and afterwards ignored Nemesis (RE 3) altogether. While I did have an interest in the Dreamcast’s version, Code Veronica, after I was done playing it my interest again waned out.

In fact, it wasn’t until I played the Wii version of Resident Evil 4 that I realized I missed a good game. Gone was the boring corridors and pre-rendered scenery and in its place was a new behind the shoulder perspective, fast paced action and an engrossing campaign. Even with the Wii specific functions (using the Wiimote to aim my gun and for Quick Time Events,) it was well worth my time and might be what I consider the best of the series.

And now we come to Resident Evil 5, a title that I have been waiting for release forever since the launch of the Xbox 360. When I heard it was going to follow up to RE4’s successful gameplay I was quite interested, and the demo, while it had its problems, peaked my curiosity. But now that the game is out, I must say that my concerns were far more than I expected.

Chris Redfield is again the lead character, and is on an official Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance (BSAA) mission in the Kijuju region of Africa There he meets up with his eventual partner, fellow BSAA agent Sheva Alomar. They are both in search of an individual named Ricardo Irving, who is involved with a mysterious project called "Uroboros." Eventually they both find out they bit off more than they could chew, as old friends and enemies alike will be put in the mix.

The gameplay of RE5, as mentioned before, follows in the same structure that Resident Evil 4 had. However the new features added make the game an exercise in frustration. To start off, the new partner can be more a hindrance than a help. When played by an AI, as opposed to a real live friend, that character becomes an item hog, running out of her way to collect power ups, even going as far as running into your line of fire, and even running through explosive tripwires without even looking both ways. As for combat, she will even use the weakest weapon or one without any ammunition. Note to fellow players, make sure you never give her a stun rod because she clings onto it like a security blanket.

Playing the game with a partner on Xbox Live did help make the game a bit more enjoyable but even so it has another huge problem…the inventory screen.

Sure the Resident Evil franchise has been notorious since the first game for its limited inventory, but after an acceptable update in Resident Evil 4, the inventory system in RE5 takes a huge step backwards. Both Chris and Sheva can hold up to nine items at one time. While ammunition can be combined into one single inventory block, the same can’t be said for healing items such as herbs. Even with combining a red and green herb together (or two greens for that matter,) they still require two spaces prior to combining.

And when Chris has one herb and Sheva has the other, you will need to trade in order to open the space where the other’s item needs to go. Even worse there are times when a valuable item needs to be discarded.

The inventory system is worse when weapons need to be switched. Since inventory control is done in real time (as opposed to pausing,) the grid must be opened, then switched over to the weapon you want to use, and finally selecting "Equip." When surrounded by a gang of enemies, good luck trying to switch without being attacked. Sure there is a hot key function, but it will only work with four of the squares that are based on the D-pad’s arrows. Having a fifth weapon means you’ll have to equip it via the mention listed above.

And while we’re on the inventory system, please explain to me why body armor has to take up a full square. It gets worse when you consider there is both melee armor and anti-bullet armor available. If you have both, then kiss two of your inventory slots good bye!

I may be making it sound like Resident Evil 5 is a terrible game but in actuality it isn’t. When not dealing with inventory or bad AI the combat is quite exciting and fast paced. There are also some MGS4-style chase sequences and impressive boss battles. There are even some combat scenes that implement a Gears of War style cover system. But again I need to ask why is it that when behind cover I cannot move around to get into a better firing position? Basically you’re stuck to the wall until you release yourself from cover.

The same situation occurs while aiming your weapon. You’re stuck in place! We’re able to move while aiming in other shooters (Gears of War and Metal Gear Solid 4 easily come to mind,) but why in RE5 are we stuck in place? Is this S.T.A.R.S. or BSAA standard operating procedure to stand still when aiming or under cover? I don’t get it!

Even worse is when you have no choice but to run. At times the control can be so stiff that Chris and Sheva appear to be standing in place before they run off. Try having that happen when a hood wearing, chainsaw wielding monstrosity comes rushing at you!

Graphically, Resident Evil 5 is gorgeous. The African setting is done quite well, as are the designs of the main characters, the zombies, and the monsters. The bosses alone are worth special attention, as they look almost too good to kill.

However, the voice acting in the game is a severe case of hit or miss. While I cannot say the acting is the god awful "you’re the master of unlocking" quality of the first RE, it does have its bad moments. The character Irving might be the most annoying RE character since Steve in Code Veronica. After his transformation into a boss creature, his only response is "I just had an extreme makeover!" Without a doubt this is one of the biggest cringe worthy lines I ever heard in a game.

Resident Evil 5 is significantly shorter than other games in the series. With only six chapters it can be finished in about 10 hours. Extra modes and new weapons will become available, as well as an upcoming Versus mode via downloadable content. But still, even with all this, in addition to searching for all the hidden emblems, it would be nice if there was more to offer, but completionists and achievement junkies will keep playing.

Resident Evil 5 is not a terrible game. In fact it is quite good, when you play with a live partner. If only the brain-dead AI was removed, allowing an option to play solo, as well as implementing a better inventory system, then the game might be worthy of at least 4 1/2 Gems. As it stands, playing with an AI only awards it 3 1/2. However the final score above takes into consideration the use of a partner over Live or PSN, or even in split screen.

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