I Bless the Rains Down in Africa
Posted by ColliderStaff
Written by Paul Stuart
A pox upon me for lasting only several hours into ‘Resident Evil (RE) 4’ for the Wii before I simply, well…got bored. Yes, I walked emotionlessly away from a game many consider to be one of the greatest console titles of all time.
Before I get pixilated tarred and feathered, let me explain.
As a guy who’s first foray into RE was on the original PlayStation, I’ve shared many a zombie with Leon, Chris, and Jill. While the series has certainly morphed for the better since its inception (1996), it’s ‘survival horror’ formula remains almost changed.
To elaborate, I’m still wandering through awkward overhead maps to nowhere, getting my ass kicked due to near-impossible AI, and relying on partners that are always a mixed bag of usefulness.
‘Resident Evil 5’ for the PS3 is more of the same…albeit prettier, smarter (partner AI-wise) and a thankful pseudo-respite from zombie homicide.
The first thing you’ll notice about RE5 is that it’s flat-out gorgeous. The transition to current consoles was a seamless one for Capcom, arguably the best use of the Havok engine to date. Soundtrack meshes with effects nicely, the din of orchestral lullaby and gurgling blood nicely presented in immersive audio.
A change in locale – to an imaginary location in Africa – is a welcome one. Maybe it’s just me, but industrial, forest and/or mansion surroundings lack the character that Toto’s Golden Continent offers.
Moreover, this new environ sports a great deal more natural diversity in both friend and foe. Last and instead of zombies, we’ve got biological parasites. (Nevertheless, these guys still form packs, move, and explode like their undead counterparts. More aesthetical than actual enemy difference, it appears.)
Chris Hedfield’s new partner – Sheva Alomar (no relation to Roberto and/or Sandy) – is everything that Prince of Persia’s Elika wanted to be. A semi-independent ass-kicker that makes fairly sound decisions in both protecting hers and your behinds. Sharing of resources and bailing each other out of messes becomes imperative; one dies, both of you fail.
In co-op multiplayer mode, Sheva is logically controlled by either your buddy or yourself. She’s also playable in single player mode upon completion of the game as Chris [within this game setting].
Fanboys argued against RE5’s shift toward more action (versus sequenced horror), but I beg to differ. While controls remain a tad awkward to execute – especially when fighting for survival on low ammo within a difficult to navigate landscape – you never feel helplessly entrenched in either bitter difficulty or shoddy cameras. I found RE4 unfortunately ripe with this deficiency.
I’m likewise a fan of RE5’s mini-events sequencing together a bigger story, a formula that frees the series from endless searches for save in lieu of intelligent checkpoints. Related, the ability to upgrade weapons in between continues is a stroke of genius, offering Chris and Sheva a literal fighting chance to reverse the outcome of the last go-round.
Moreover and akin to previous, recent RE titles, RE5 offers a survival ‘mercenaries’ mode when completed. This ‘fight till you drop’ challenge yields a drinking game option du jour when matches of Wii Tennis will no longer suffice. These additions become essential, with only 12 estimated hours of gameplay (in story mode) in exchange for $60 of hard earned cash.
SUMMARY: In sum and when writing this review, I did find RE5 an improvement over RE4…but not by much. I still felt cheated by the overwhelming enemy AI and poor camera swivels when in combat. Even more so the non-intuitive maps I was forced to traverse in the name of survival.
I did, however, bond with Sheva, was enamored with the new Africa locale, and engaged emotionally with the run-for-your-life nature of it all. Six of one, exploding brains of another.
CONCLUSION: While ‘Resident Evil’ veterans might find redundancy in ‘Resident Evil 5’ for the PS3, newbies will uncover a novel ‘survival horror’ experience. The game’s brilliant use of the Havok engine plus shift toward more fighting centric mechanics receive high marks. Still, RE5 simultaneously suffers from the ghosts of zombie pasts via extraordinarily high difficulty and feisty camera/control struggles.
GRADE: B plus