Love it or hate it, the one thing you can’t blame the Resident Evil series for is a lack of willingness to experiment and expand with the times. After a couple of rather dry sequels, RE4’s announcement that the game wouldn’t feature any ‘true’ zombies made a lot of long term fans quite upset. Despite all of the odds, the game actually turned about to be an excellent example of modern survival horror, providing you didn’t play it on the Wii or PC.
Resident Evil 5 is set in Africa, somewhat of a unique location as far as the undead are concerned. You play as Chris Redfield chasing a threat of bio-terrorism on the continent which, no surprise, turns people into various types of undead 7.62×39 hunting ammo . The plot itself is interesting enough, especially if you’re already a fan of the series. If you’ve never played a Resident Evil game before you can still follow everything with relative ease, although there are a couple of things that might go over your head.
The fifth game in the series (If you want to go by the conventional numbering at least – It’s actually more like the ninth) isn’t quite as much of a departure from the fourth, but there are still a few new mechanics thrown in. It also features the least ‘zombified’ bad guys yet. There’s still some level of shambling undead but there’s a lot more enemies that are faster and more dynamic in their movement and attacks than before.
The over major change is that you’ve got a friend along for the ride in the form of AI controlled Sheva Alomar, a young African woman who fights alongside you for most of the game. If the thought of an AI controlled companion scares you, Sheva can be controlled by a friend in the games very polished co-op mode – a very welcome addition in a genre that hasn’t exactly embraced many multiplayer modes.
Resident Evil 5 is a mixture of puzzle, adventure and action elements, although it’s generally more focused on the latter. If you’ve never played a Resident Evil game before, the fifth installment falls somewhere in-between an all out action game and a more brooding dark horror game like Deadspace. If you’re looking for a game that focuses purely on horror using atmosphere and pacing, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere. For everyone else though, RE5 is competent if not ground breaking addition to the genre.
The biggest let down is the games AI, which varies from being nearly competent to incredibly annoying. Your AI controlled friend has a tendency to shoot needlessly at just about anything that moves, wasting an incredibly amount of ammo in a game where ammo is already scarce. She also has a tendency to heal you at the worst possible time, wasting valuable resources. It doesn’t help that the games inventory management and control options are quite limited in scope.
RE5 might not be the pinnacle of the series but it’s another step forward in experimenting with next generation consoles. It’s not for everyone – the puzzle and inventory elements will frustrate those who are used to straight action games. However, it does plenty to please fans of the series while being solid enough to recommend to newcomers, especially those who are likely to play through the game on Xbox Live instead of the AI companion.