Dopefish Reviews Resident Evil 5

Ah, I know what you’re thinking. Actually, that’s not true, but I know what you would be thinking if you were a semi-regular reader of my stuff and if you were thinking exactly what I hoped you’d be thinking going into this blog. You’d be thinking the following.

“Dopefish, you foolishly lying codswallop! Every chance you get, you mention that you don’t have any modern consoles at all except for the DS, and depending on your definition of ‘modern’, the PS2! Now, you talked about Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale because you were interested in it, but you’ve never appeared that interested in this game, so why would you even bother bringing it up at all?”

Well, fictional maker of accusations, I have an answer for you. See, Resident Evil 5 was, at the time of writing this, the only Xbox 360 game I had beaten from start to finish. Not owning an Xbox 360 has helped it gain that title, to be honest. In the time between originally posting this on ScrewAttack and getting a WordPress of my own, I’ve beaten, uh, 4 Assassin’s Creeds, two of the Batman Arkham games, Asura’s Wrath, Dishonored, Splinter Cell: Conviction and a handful of generic FPS games, but Resident Evil 5 still holds the honour of being the first Xbox 360 game I finished. Which is unlikely to change, given, you know… how being the first works.

On one of my visits to my good friend Al’s house, we found ourselves playing the co-op, and after getting reasonably far, we had decided that we must complete the game. After a very long second visit, we managed to finish it, and so I may now share my thoughts on a game I… you know, now that I think about it, this is only the second Resident Evil game I’ve ever beaten. Huh. I should work on that some times.

But anyway, this is one of the most important Resident Evil titles of all-time. See, Resident Evil 4 drastically altered the gameplay at the expense of some of the horror elements, but with the benefits of being amazingly fun to play, something which I can’t honestly say about… well, ANY of the other Resident Evil games. Seriously. Any of them. But that was partly because the previous games followed the same formula; if you’d played Resident Evil, Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3 and Resident Evil Zero, I don’t think you’d get anything new out of Resident Evil: Code Veronica.

So Resident Evil 5 had to continue gameplay from where RE4 left it, but without filling gamers with the same dread they had when the older series was dragged out with not much change. It also had to satisfy the older fans who were scared that from now on, gameplay would only be action, action, and more action. So, how exactly did Capcom manage to pull this off?

Well… they didn’t really.

Resident Evil 5… I’ve already spent way too long introducing you, so let’s get to the nitty, the nitty-gritty, and me, the gritty nitpicking brit.

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First off, the graphics.

They’re good. I like them.

As always, I don’t have much to say on graphics. They’re never incredibly impressive, but I do like how detailed they are despite the variety of areas in the game. As much as I love Resident Evil 4, the village was brown, the castle was black, and the island was brown and black. Resident Evil 5 has daylight in an African village, a small factory, a big factory, some docks, ancient ruins, tribal villages and more. There’s no stand-out moment, although that’s just a depressing side-effect of having really good graphics in the majority of games these days. I did really like the lighting effects though – the daylight segments looked excellent.

The gameplay is where the game’s biggest successes and failures are found simultaneously. I’ll start with the good parts – the controls are mostly kept the same from Resident Evil 4, which is a very good thing. There are also more choices in combat; there are more opportunities to get a melee attack on someone, you can chain melee attacks together with the help of your partner, and you can attack enemies while they’re on the ground. Considering that combat makes up the brunt of the game, it says a lot that they did manage to exceed my expectations.

The co-op works well too, I played it with a friend (which means I will not be able to comment on the AI’s apparently terrible decision-making if you play single-player) and we found ourselves formulating plans and taking on groups of enemies in a co-ordinated fashion – and it was fun! We left ammo for each other when needed (… most of the time,) and we came to each other’s aid when we were in trouble, there was a lot of teamwork required and I liked that!

Another plus; I really liked Sheva, not in a ‘I’m going to write fanfiction about her’ way, but I respect the fact that she was a new character coming into the fifth instalment of a game series and it could’ve been a lot worse. They didn’t try to make the game about her or give her a ridiculously tragic back-story, or even overstate her heroism and make her outshine Chris Redfield – she was a fellow graduate from the University of ass-kicking and that’s really all that was required of her to be a good character, so I’m glad they didn’t overcomplicate things.

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Just get a woman with a gun and let her actions speak for themselves – I’m all for plot and character development, but not when it would feel forced in.

… Now for the negatives. Well for one, trading between players could’ve used some work. You couldn’t trade guns. At all. Also, trading ammo was a waste of time because you didn’t get to pick how much you could trade; let’s say I have 50 handgun bullets, and my buddy is all out. I can either leave him helpless, or give him all of my bullets so that then I will be helpless instead of him. Or I can give him bullets and he can reload his gun and then give back what’s left but that’s a very time-consuming deal.

The menu itself could be better. Call me old-fashioned but I greatly prefer the days when opening the menu would pause the game so you could get out a herb or choose a different gun without getting your head cut off with a chainsaw. I know that it adds to the tension, but the only time I need to switch my gun in a game is when I’m in combat, and it took a while to get used to it. I’d say I was used to changing weapons by the end of the game, but it took me up until that point to get used to it. Useful. Oh, and after Resident Evil 4’s wonderful attaché case of strategic storage, we’re back to using a designated number of slots where an egg takes up the same room as a rifle, and for some reason the Melee-Proof Vest I bought that never seemed to work anyway needed to be carried in my inventory, as if I was holding it up to block incoming attacks rather than wearing the bloody thing. Wonderful.

Finally, the general controls are a bizarre mixture of First-Person Shooter and Third-Person Shooter. When you walk, it controls like an FPS, with one joystick used to move forwards, backwards and strafe. But when you run, it reverts back to the old Resident Evil controls of moving and turning with one joystick. It’s honestly not bad at all because I got the control-scheme I wanted by running everywhere, which I prefer greatly to having to walk everywhere, but it’s still a little confusing. Why did they put this in?

I want to mention a slight dissatisfaction with the weapons too – I don’t want to make this blog ‘17 Reasons why Resident Evil 4 is better than Resident Evil 5’, but even when I was doing a No Merchant Run of Resident Evil 4, my shotgun and my handgun still felt mildly useful at all times. Hell, I played through the game once with nothing but the Red9 handgun, solely because I kind of liked it (it felt less like a powerful handgun and more like a weak magnum,) and yet playing Resident Evil 5, I was reluctant to rid myself of the handgun, shotgun or TMP, and since they each have their own allotted ammunition slots, that’s 6/9 inventory slots used. I did not want to use another gun. Yet, towards the end of the game, while my friend had picked up the rifle and a magnum, my guns felt entirely useless, even with all of the upgrades.

I would like to defend something I’ve seen said negatively about the game though; Quick-time events. I’ll be honest, I still see every complaint about quick-time events as ‘I have to press the right button at the right time? Since when was that a part of video games?!?’ but I can understand that an over-reliance on them can ruin a game, which is luckily a topic I don’t need to mention because Resident Evil 5 does not rely on them. They are present, and they’re not carried out badly – I was a little surprised the first time I got one, albeit not as surprised as I could’ve been because honestly, 5 seconds before it happened, I said to my friend, “Wait, have we had a single quick-time event yet? Are they in this game?” Nice timing, me.

Still, one thing Resident Evil 5 did well – really, really well, was the boss battles. Yes, it was incredibly annoying that Chris and Sheva had a very bad case of Cutscene Incompetence given that they had chance after chance to kill the major bad guys, only to repeatedly let them get away for literally no reason, but I’m willing to overlook that given that the bosses were, for the most part, excellent. There’s Irving, who turns into a bizarre hybrid of Del Lago and the Loch Ness Monster, a writhing mass of parasitic leeches you lure into a chamber you can fill with flames, a larger version fought or at least weakened with a flamethrower, an African ‘El Gigante’ rip-off which is better than it sounds, and some mini-skyscraper-sized writhing colossus of ‘Uroboros’ which you end up shooting repeatedly with a… Satellite lighting gun, or something. I’m not sure how to describe it, but it was very, very awesome.

Then there’s the final boss.

It’s (spoiler alert) Wesker and it’s definitely the worst battle in the game. Visually it’s alright, and even from a gameplay perspective, it’s interesting enough (I laughed when I realised that in order to sneak up on him in the first section, you take advantage of his ‘sunglasses at night’ policy and go all ninja on his ass by… turning out the lights. Seriously) but the finale was so troubled it became an anti-climax when me and my pal finally beat him.

See, here’s what’s meant to happen – you crash into a volcano, and Chris and Sheva get split up. Wesker follows Chris, them jumps after Sheva. Chris punches a boulder in a somewhat memetic fashion until it falls into lava, so that he and Sheva can regroup. Then they run back up to where Wesker was chasing Chris, and the final stage of the fight begins.

Here’s what actually happened – we crashed into a volcano and split up, but instead of chasing Sheva, Wesker just kept going after Chris. This caused slight problems when we managed to regroup, but we couldn’t get to the next phase of the battle because it was blocked by… Wesker himself. Let me try and draw you a really crappy MS Paint doodle of the situation.

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So this is how the boss battle starts. Well, it actually starts with everyone where Wesker is (Wesker is the angry blonde Kirby with glasses,) but as soon as the battle starts, Chris (I gave him a tattoo of the American flag on his cheek) and Sheva have a tactical retreat and are split up by a falling bridge. Speaking of falling bridges, those orange dots on the left symbolize that the path will crumble once Sheva walks over it. Also, the grey paperclip-looking thing on Chris’ island in the lava? That’s there to symbolize higher ground – the path with the boulder is significantly lower than the raised circle in the middle with the X on it.

Anyway, here is what is supposed to happen.

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As you can see, Wesker chases Chris, then loses interest and chases Sheva. Sheva performs a quick-time event when the path she’s on crumbles, and Chris punches a boulder into the lava so they can regroup, and make their way to the final arena, marked by the X. All good and proper, yes?

Well, here’s what actually happened.

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As you can see, Wesker did NOT lose interest in Chris, and now Chris is backed into a corner. Did I mention Wesker has a one-hit kill which can span the width of the entire path? So now, even if Chris manages to knock the boulder over, it can only be jumped on from Sheva’s side. So Chris and Sheva are, for all intent and purpose, utterly screwed. Seriously, how are you supposed to fight back against this?

You know how when you have to look up a video walkthrough, it can be a lose-lose situation? I mean, either it’s a simple solution and you overlooked it because you’re dumb, or it’s such a bizarre choice of actions that you can’t believe the game would expect you to do something like that to succeed. Well, this is the lesser-known third option, where you need to know what you’re doing wrong, so you look it up, and nobody can tell you. Seriously, there was no difference in the ‘walkthrough’ videos we found and what we were doing, with the exception that Wesker was not moving where he was supposed to, and thus the final boss was unwinnable.

This lowered the whole tone of the game for me – sometimes the final boss takes hours to beat because it’s incredibly difficult and a mixture of skill and luck and when you finally manage to chip them to death, you stand triumphant with a manly yodel of gaming testosterone, proud of your achievement. Then there are the stupid bosses that don’t work and when you beat them you practically throw the controller onto the floor before turning off the console and basically checking the game off a mental list with the side-note ‘Replay? No.’

I’d love to talk more about co-op or the Mercenaries mode, but I cannot as I did not play those modes. I do hear that they brought back Rebecca Chambers and Barry Burton though, so no complaints there. I’m also not going to mention the racism row outside of this sentence because it’s not worth mentioning really.

So… the plot isn’t bad but it doesn’t do anything new, and the soundtrack is forgettable (admittedly it’s better to be forgettable than it is to be notably bad – looking at you, Knuckle’s Stages of Sonic Adventure 1 & 2.) To be honest, that’s Resident Evil 5 all over, it doesn’t do much to advance the series and in general it’s nothing especially worthwhile compared to other games.

Not that it’s bad; on the contrary, Resident Evil 5 is a very good game, it just never seems to rise above goodness and into the territory the Resident Evil franchise is aiming for. It definitely doesn’t come close to Resident Evil 4, and although it’s pretty terrible advice, I can also say that given the reception to the direction the series has taken in recent years, it would maybe be for the best if Capcom took a few steps backwards.

I’m not saying they should copy Resident Evil 4, but take that kind of formula, the kind that put Resident Evil games back onto ‘Best of’ lists, and try to add some more of the survival horror elements that would satisfy long-time fans of the series, but in general, don’t change anything unless it needs to be changed, or unless you’re SURE you can change it to something better. The co-op was a nice feature and one worth congratulating Capcom for, but one nice addition does not make a game worthy of success.

So my general opinion? Resident Evil 5 is good. I don’t regret playing it at all. But there were a few things missing and the experience was a little lacklustre overall. It was a good game, but not a good progression of the series. It’s the kind of game I’m surprised I could fill a whole blog about, to be honest.

On which note, methinks it is time I ended this. Please let me know if you had any different reaction to Resident Evil 5 or the direction the series has taken, and as always…

Thanks for reading!

-The Dopefish

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