For me, the Console Wars extended well past the 16-bit era of videogaming. Unlike a lot of my friends, I did not have the income to justify doubling down so, while they were all off playing PlayStation and PlayStation 2 while alsoa playing Nintendo 64, I stuck with the Nintendo 64 and GameCube since SEGA were no longer in the business of making consoles. As previously detailed, this means that I didn’t have much exposure to Resident Evil (Capcom, 1996 to present) apart from the Nintendo 64 port of Resident Evil 2 (ibid/Rockstar San Diego/Factor 5, 1999). Although I enjoyed the GameCube remake (Capcom, 2002) and Resident Evil Zero (ibid), I yearned for the chance to take up arms as Leon S. Kennedy once again.
Resident Evil 4 (Capcom Production Studio 4, 2005) changed that while simultaneously changing the franchise significantly. Slowly, as Capcom released more and more titles with newer control schemes and gameplay mechanics, Resident Evil shifted away from being a survival-horror series, where supplies were limited and caution was the preferred choice, and became far more action-orientated. Resident Evil 4 laid the groundwork for this, moving the camera behind Leon’s shoulder and allowing full 360-degree movement, and changed the franchise’s focus away from zombies and the machinations of Umbrella and more towards parasites and mutations.
Staying the course, Resident Evil 5 (Capcom, 2009) took these aspects and ramped them up to eleven. Returning Chris Redfield to the series, Resident Evil 5 dropped players into a complex plot revolving around Albert Wesker’s attempts to destroy the human race with the Oroburos virus. Teamed with Sheva Alomar, Chris finds himself on a path towards not just saving the human race but also of vengeance; prior to the game’s events, Redfield’s partner, Jill Valentine, was presumed dead at Wesker’s hands and Chris, having bulked up to stand a better chance against Wesker’s superhuman abilities, is determined to have his revenge.
Unlike Leon, who was lumbered with protecting and rescuing Ashley Graham in Resident Evil 4, Chris and Sheva operate as a unit. Two players (or one with the CPU) can progress side-by-side throughout the main campaign; Chris and Sheva each have their own limited inventory slots meaning that, with no Item Boxes present in the game, trading and combining items is essential to survival, similar to the partner system of Resident Evil Zero. Ideally, you’ll want to play Resident Evil 5 with a friend as the CPU is extremely basic; your partner will shoot at enemies, pass you ammo, and heal or resuscitate you when necessary but is just as likely to be found stuck behind objects or running against a wall. They also seem incapable of using any weapon other than the one assigned to the top of their inventory, meaning you’ll probably end up using them as a walking, talking storage system.
Supplies are plentiful, however, even more so than in Resident Evil 4; dispatched enemies will often drop herbs, ammo, gold, or other trinkets while breakable pots, chests, and other objects will yield similar provisions. Other treasures can also be located throughout the story and can be sold at the end of each chapter to purchase new weapons; while it is sad to see the Merchant absent from the title, this does make inventory management a lot simpler and easier. In terms of gameplay, the control scheme of Resident Evil 4 remains intact here, with some additions; at certain points, the player must command their partner to pull levers, open doors, or otherwise assist with various, simple puzzles. Quick-time events still pepper certain cutscenes, meaning you have to remain on your toes the entire time whilst playing, which adds a nice level of spice and interaction to otherwise passive gameplay moments.
The enemies in Resident Evil 5 are many, varied, and plentiful; the first mission alone sees Chris and Sheva swarmed with a seemingly endless horde of Majini and the number of enemies onscreen at any one time is easily double that seen in its predecessor. Beyond the regular zombie-like enemies, players will also face the hulking Executioner, spear and shield wielding foes, the return of the Lickers and chainsaw Majinis, and even a gigantic troll-like creature. The ultimate confrontation comes against Wesker, who faces the player at first largely unarmed except for his superhuman abilities and, ultimately, in a mutated form that closely resembles that of a Tyrant. Beyond the main campaign, players can also take part in the Mercenaries mode (where they must eliminate as many enemies as possible within a strict time limit) and a Versus mode (where players take part in online battles as part of one of two factions) . The story is further fleshed out in two DLC campaigns, ‘Lost in Nightmares’ and ‘Desperate Escape’, which sees players once again back in control of Jill Valentine.
When I first played Resident Evil 5, I remember being quite underwhelmed and disappointed; I had enjoyed Resident Evil 4 quite a lot, despite the hindrance of Ashley’s dead-weight, and it felt as though something had been lost in trying to do more and more. I don’t really mind the added emphasis on action or co-op as it makes the game a breeze to play; checkpoints and autosave locations are plentiful, meaning you can get a good feel of how to progress past more difficult sections and the freedom of movement is unparalleled. Since playing the HD remake on Xbox One, though, I have found that the title is a lot more fun and interesting than I previously believed. Admittedly, a great deal of my enjoyment has come from playing online co-op with a friend of mine but, even when playing alone, I have found myself returning to the game’s campaign, earning Achievements, stocking up my inventory, and earning more BP to spend on costumes, figurines, and upgrades for my weapons.
All-in-all, Resident Evil 5 is a great action-horror title; it is not the classic Resident Evil formula but, should you wish to play a game that is, there are plenty of previous titles that are readily accessible. I think the game may have gotten a bad reputation back in the day for straying so far from the survival-horror genre but, now, with the benefit of hindsight and subsequent titles, I can appreciate the faster pace of the title and Capcom’s attempts to keep the franchise relevant in a difficult market.