- Format: Xbox One (version reviewed), PS4
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Capcom
- Developer: Capcom
- Players: 1-2 (online & offline)
- Site: http://www.capcom.co.jp/bioDL/5/index.html?targetURL=http://www.capcom.co.jp/bioDL/5/us/
- Game code shared from freelance work
E3’s announcement of Resident Evil 7 surely didn’t come as a complete surprise, as Capcom have in the last year or two made a concerted effort to make Resident Evil more visible to current-gen console owners. Dodgy spin-off aside, this has largely been achieved by leaning on that industry favourite of re-releasing old games for the current generation. So it is that we’ve seen digital versions of Resident Evil 4, the Resident Evil remaster, Resident Evil 0, Resident Evil 6… and, most recently, Resident Evil 5. Yes, they pushed the sixth game out before the fifth one.
What makes this chronological misstep all the more confusing is that, to be frank, calling this a ‘remaster’ is a little misleading. It holds together just fine, and runs smoothly; but whereas Resident Evil 6 had been polished to the point where it arguably emerged looking like a brand new game (though it started off looking good as it was), it’s immediately obvious that Resident Evil 5 has been dragged into 2016 from the previous generation. Character models have not always aged particularly well, and textures are disappointingly outdated.
With that moan out of the way, we can concentrate on the game itself. For those not familiar with this entry, this was the first (canon) Resident Evil to introduce any sort of multiplayer, in the form of two player co-op. Offline or online, you can have another human being join in the zombie-slaying with you. Playable characters here are series favourite Chris Redfield and, new to the franchise, Sheva Alomar. They can heal one another as well as themselves, swap and share ammo and items, and help the other if they are grabbed by an enemy; or even revive them with limited health if they get knocked down and enter a ‘dying’ state. Naturally, the second character is controlled by AI (who can be given simple commands) if you’re playing solo. Overall, it’s an extension of the ideas explored in Zero.
What 5 also has in common with Zero is an undeserved rejection by large chunks of the fanbase. While that’s understandable to an extent – the introduction of a second character to help out shatters the remnants of horror that the series was clinging on to from 4 – it’s not a bad game at all. What may have further irked certain diehards is the abandonment of the typewriter system, and the introduction of autosaves. We see this as a major plus though, one nod to modern gaming that was overdue.
Despite the essentially revelatory introduction of co-op, the game’s problems ultimately lie in its frustratingly unambitious nature. Capcom clearly looked at the huge critical and commercial success of 4, and decided to stick close to this formula for the sequel. Largely human-looking enemies that point and roar pod-people style? Check. Occasional tentacle things coming out of the head? Check. Beefy enemies with hidden faces and huge weapons? Check. Regular siege events? Check. Add in a bunch of recycled sound and visual effects, and it feels familiar without enjoying the superb design or creepy atmosphere of the previous game.
But again, that’s not to say that the game is a complete loss. Far from it. The template used is at least a solid one, with a choice of control setups to boot. Gameplay is generally some sort of variation on the quiet-run-barricade-shoot-run-shoot dance. It works well thanks to the enemies, which generally keep you on your toes. They’re usually a crowd of slow and weak but aggressive and numerous monsters, with one or two bigger and much more powerful ones thrown in to distract you. There will sometimes be a projectile attack of some sort to worry about too, and from your very first encounter they’ll work to flank you and approach from multiple angles at once. You might find yourself meeting the end of such a battle with a sigh of relief.
It’s also shamelessly crowd-pleasing in places. Without spoiling things for the unaware, a few of the series’ best-known faces put in an appearance, to help ground the adventure in Resident Evil lore despite the new setting of sunny Africa. The story mode is, overall, a solid if largely unadventurous chapter in the franchise.
As you’d hope, this reissue comes with all DLC made for the original release. So outside of the story, you have instant access to the fan-favourite survival Mercenaries mode, as well as Versus. A Resident Evil deathmatch is an odd idea but, well… many people relish the idea of jumping into the shoes of Wesker and blowing away those STARS do-gooders. Plus you still get to shoot zombies, anyway. What’s frustrating however, especially for those who’ve already finished the main game once, is that some of the extra content is locked away. Most costumes still have to be earned, and the main attraction for many people – the two extra story missions – require you to play through the game again in order to access them.
It may fall well short of the quality Resident Evil 4 is drenched in, but then most games do. If you need to bring yourself up to speed on the series story so far before the release of 7 (even though there’s thus far little sign that it will reference events in other games), then Resident Evil 5 is well worth your time. It’s a little ugly, and a little clunky, but it’s also solid and takes you places you want to go. Sort of like an old zombie Volvo.