Re-evaluating Resident Evil 5
The latest Resident Evil 6 trailer has sent the internet barmy, but isn’t it time that we gave Resident Evil 5 its due?
To speak to certain members of the gaming community, Resident Evil 5 was a game so bad that by their reaction you could easily think that it must have pissed on their grandmothers graves. It was the game that proved Capcom was past it, the big warning sign of the company’s migration to first adopting ‘western’ mechanics and then western developers for the series, leading to the eventual nadir that is the incredibad Operation Raccoon City.
It wasn’t as good as Resident Evil 4, the AI was shit, it wasn’t scary, Chris Redfield punched a boulder, Chris Redfield was the size of a boulder, it had a stupid bloody cover system.
True, one and all. There’s no denying the game’s faults, and they are many. But, rabid reaction aside (from both the fans and the press: remember the racism scandal?), looking at it three years later it’s nowhere near as bad as many proclaimed it to be. In fact, we’re convinced that it’s actually a very good game. Yeah, sue us.
Aside from the mechanical issues, which are important and we’ll touch on in a minute, we can’t help but feel that a lot of people just couldn’t get over the fact that it just wasn’t Resident Evil 4, or conversely that it was just Resi 4 with a few bells and whistles. People, eh?
There was obviously no way the game could have topped 4: scrapped and restarted more times than that dodgy car you bought from that guy in the pub, 4 was refined into the diamond it is over the course of years of blood sweat and tears, and was led by the man Mikami. It is one of the most important games ever made, having changed 3rd-person shooters forever and is so well-paced it would win the London Marathon if only it could enter.
With such solid foundations to work from, is it any wonder that Capcom chose to build on them? No. Problem was Resi 4 was so glorious that other devs had begun lifting from it wholesale, and iterating on it. The classic example is Cliffy B with Gears of War, taking the over the shoulder shooting and adding a cover system and co-op. Gears was a megahit.
Capcom returned the favour with 5, poaching the cover, and, more importantly, the co-op. Sadly, unlike the refined Gears, playing Resident Evil 5 solo was a nightmare thanks to Sheva’s poor AI. The game features plenty of co-op actions, and waiting for the AI to figure out what it was doing was brain-meltingly frustrating. Throw in quirks like Sheva using health sprays at the slightest scratch and wasting all your ammo and it’s no wonder people hated the ruddy thing.
Like Left 4 Dead however, another player changes the game completely. Unless you’re friends with Karl Pilkington, the AI problems disappear and what you’re left with is an engaging, if flawed action-adventure. Engaging because, in terms of scale, setting(s) and weapon handling it’s fantastic. Capcom got the shooting, and your enemy’s reactions to getting shot, just right – have a little go on ORC and see the difference. It’s derided for being action focused, but there’s no doubting they got the action totally right (and as for those moaning about moving and shooting: tension, people, tension).
Flawed because its encounter design sometimes lets it down – the aforementioned cover system being shoehorned in to fix the problem of zombies with guns – and also its middle third devolves into tedious, boxy puzzle rooms that seem more like busywork than fun. Where Resi 4 built steadi, expertly to a crescendo, Resi 5 builds well at first before the conductor falls off the stage, recovering in time for a fan-pleasing finale.
Ah yes, the fans. There have been plenty of accusations levied against 5 (and 4) that it’s ‘not a Resident Evil game’. Well, it is. You know what’s not a Resident Evil game? Ninja Gaiden 3.
It’s not survival horror anymore, obviously, but Resident Evil wasn’t just about creeping around finding keys and reading books. It was also about blowing BOWs into teeny tiny pieces: Resident Evil 2 has upgradeable guns, just like 4 and 5. It’s just that the latter games chose to focus on this area of the franchise, shifting from tension to panic. And, story-wise, it’s absolutely a Resi game, wrapping up long-running story threads (Wesker!) in satisfying fashion. It’s flawed, yes, and nowhere near as technically accomplished as its forbear. With the right players though, it’s an absolute blast. It had an impossible mission, and in the cold light of not-the-release-date hysteria it made a pretty good fist of it.
But forget all of that, because where Resi 5 is concerned, It Does Not Matter. The entirety of Resident Evil 5 could simply be a screen saying ‘TROLOLOLOLOLOLOL’, because also on the disc is the effortlessly brilliant Mercenaries mode.
Mercs is far, far better than the game that houses it and is worth the full price of the game alone. For this reason, Resident Evil 5 can never be called a failure. It’s one of the best score attack games of all time: but don’t take our word for it. Check it out yourself…