Capcom return to the perennial classic; how will it all end?
In gaming terms, I am an old man (30, for those who care). I remember the original Resident Evil, and even the game which inspired it (Alone in the Dark, for all the kiddies out there). I have faithfully followed the series for years, being lulled into buying such awful titles as Resident Evil: Dead Aim, all based on the belief in the brand name.
Resident Evil always conjured up several images: Zombies, shlock-horror, B-movie acting, and a fantastical tale of corporate manipulation affecting the life of the everyman. However many bad games I played, I always returned to the fold, hoping that the next game in the series would bring back glimpses of the greatness of Resi 2, and Code Veronica. I struggled initially with myself when Resi 4 was released, but eventually grudgingly accepted that the world sometimes moves on, and us old farts need to deal with that.
So it was with some trepidation that I fired up Resi 5 for the first time. A few reviews of the console versions proclaimed that the game hit a new peak for the series, and I was eager to see the results.
My first impressions were good. The game looked fantastic, and when I had a try with the 3D Nvidia kit, it looked even better. The sound was suitably eerie, and the opening two levels sent a very nice tone to progress forward from. The mouse was excellent for aiming with, and the setting was a welcome change.
My second impressions were not so good. The game had three major failings I had to deal with.
Firstly, the responsiveness of the character. In the current days of Gears of War, to have a character who has to stop and raise his gun every time they needed to fire was a huge turn-off. Battles became a very awkward stop-start affair, with my character freezing in place, planting his feet firmly and raising his pistol before I could loose off a few shots. This took half a second before I could defend myself, and lead to several deaths early on. Many reviewers have argued this gameplay decision was produced to make the game harder, but seriously? In 2009, we canīt walk and fire a gun at the same time?
The second problem was much larger.
Both enemy and partner AI are pretty awful in this game. Maybe you could argue that “Majini” are supposed to charge straight at you, controlled as they are by strange parasites inside their bodies, but from a gameplay point of view, it gets very old, very quickly. With the exception of the boss characters (of which more in a moment), most areas could be beaten by running to a clear area, turning and shooting until the horde get close, and then running to another clear area, repeat ad nauseum. Maybe I am missing something here, but it made for a pretty boring (and I must say easy) run through of the game.
In 2009, we canīt walk and fire a gun at the same time?
Also, your partner (who shares your inventory), is unbelievably trigger happy, and will deplete your entire bullet reserves for her equipped weapon, before bleating repeatedly for more ammo. She will also quite happily stand still, being munched on by several Manjini, whilst doing little more that shove them back from time to time. I actually found the game easier when I a) took all of her weapons away from her; and b) told her to stand in a corner while I defended her. I actually think the game would have been much better if she had been removed completely.
Next, the story seemed to take a long time to go anywhere. The first six levels of the game all follow exactly the same plot thread, and even when the pace picked up, I couldn’t help but feel some characters were dropped in purely to be able to tie up the loose ends surrounding them, as opposed to actually advancing the story. And, without giving anything away, the end was a really shambolic attempt at closing up the entire Resident Evil story, which fell woefully short of the mark. I also found many of the characters very badly realised, and really didn’t connect with them. This lead to a very “don’t care” attitude towards them, which again detracted from the whole experience.
However, in the games defence, a few things did stand out. The boss fights, by and large, were quite inventive, and broke up the monotony of the level action quite nicely. Co-op worked very well, and actually improved the game, as I no longer needed to protect a useless partner, and instead could work on strategies with another player. And the unlockable extras mixed the game up very nicely too.
So, to sum up, would I recommend this game? I suppose that if you think that Resi 4 was one of the best games in the last five years, you would enjoy this game a lot. If you like fast paced action, or well told coherent stories, I would say no.
I canīt help but feel that this game would possibly have benefited from dropping the Resident Evil tie, and starting a new franchise instead. That would have allowed more scrutiny over the stop-and-shoot system, a new story that didn’t need to close old questions, and more variety in enemies.
So, I am sorry to say, itīs time the old girl was put to bed. At least the ending of the current story will leave everything open for a new chapter, or maybe even the popular “reboot” us old timers love to criticise so much. And maybe, just maybe, we will get to walk the hallowed halls of the creepy old mansion again……
The Bad: Standing still whilst aiming is so last century; enemy and companion AI is atrocious; the story ends with more of a whimper than a bang.