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Review: Resident Evil 5

Susan Arendt | 12 Mar 2009 19:00
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The continued success of Capcom's Resident Evil franchise rests on one simple, yet undeniable fact: People like shooting zombies. We'll forgive a lot - bad voice acting, endless load times, impenetrable plots - just so long as we get to shoot zombies. Resident Evil 5 has all of those faults and more, but you really won't care. You'll be having way too much fun applying a lethal coat of lead to the infected citizens of Kijuju to notice.

As the game begins, former STARS member Chris Redfield has joined the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance (BSAA) to wage war against those who would tinker with nature for their own nefarious ends. The fight has taken him to Africa, where he meets up with another BSAA agent, Sheva Alomar. They start off trying to prevent the sale of a particularly nasty bioagent, but things, as so often is the case in Resident Evil, rapidly get out of hand. A heartless corporation has been conducting biological experiments that - wait for it - have led to the creation of mindless, violent monsters. Not exactly straying far from the RE playbook, granted, but shooting zombies is why we show up in the first place.

They're not actually zombies in the traditional sense, though. As in RE4, the enemies in RE5 have been infected with the parasite Las Plagas, though the strain taken to Africa has been modified to be even more dangerous and unpredictable. The result is smarter enemies that are better capable of working together towards a common goal - namely, eating your brains. This makes the combat demanding and exciting; you'll concentrate your fire on the choke point in front of you, only to find that several infected are creeping up behind you or dropping in from the ceiling. Archers will distract you with fire shots while their knife-wielding pals zero in for the kill. There isn't a whole lot of variety when it comes to the infected, but what they lack in distinctiveness, they make up for in tenacity.

Older games in the RE series placed as much of an emphasis on puzzle solving and exploration as they did on combat, but RE5 is all about the gunplay, which makes the stick-and-shoot controls even more frustrating. It's not that you have to stand still while attacking that's the problem; your immobility forces you not only to take a more tactical approach to combat, but also to stay acutely aware of your surroundings, both of which make for a more vital and tense experience. The problem is the monumental delay between shooting and running. If you knock an enemy back and want to follow up with your knife or even a punch, it will take you so long to run to him that he'll be ready for you by the time you get there. Similarly, it takes so long to switch from shooting to running that by the time your feet actually start pumping, an infected has your neck in its mouth. If the transition from attacking stance to running were smoother and faster, then it wouldn't matter, but as it is, it's maddening. Walking is completely out of the question; your pace is so stupefyingly slow you may as well hang a sign around your neck that says "Zombie Food" and be done with it.

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