Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Resident Evil 5

It has been quite some time since I have taken a moment out of my ever so busy schedule in order to write a proper review of a video game. Part of this is due to the fact that I've been gaming a LOT less as of late. I've sold a bunch of games and I still haven't beaten the first DLC for Fallout 3. This is bad for me, I know, but with March and the release of two highly anticipated titles on my books, my XBOX 360 has once again received love for something other than a glorified DVD player/TV streamer. The first game that came out, Halo Wars, Nate and I are playing through together over XBOX Live. Resident Evil 5, however, I got and played all on my lonesome.

I'd like to add a forward notice that I've played all of the main games in this series, and by that I mean I've played Resident Evil 1, 2, 3, and 4. I've never played Code Veronica, 0, or any of the other side games. I am still well versed in all the important plot elements in those games, so it's not like I have ever had trouble following the story. Besides, with 4 we saw the beginning of a brand new story and gameplay style.

Ok, so let's do a quick retrospective here. In the original game, a group of STARS members arrive at a mansion investigating the disappearance of the previous team. What they find is a house full of zombies and an extensive laboratory underneath. You can play as Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine, and each of their stories reveal little things about the mansion and it's owner, the Umbrella Company. In the next game, you take control of Claire Redfield, who had come to visit her older brother, or Leon Kennedy, a brand new STARS agent who had just arrived in Raccoon City, only to find it had been taken over by zombies due to an outbreak of the T-Virus. In the next game, you once again take control of Jill Valentine, who has made her way into Raccoon City and is now trying to deal with the same problems Leon and Claire dealt with. At the end, Raccoon City is bombed by the US Government to stop the outbreak, Umbrella is brought to trial for crimes against humanity, and disbanded. In 4, we once again find ourselves playing as Leon, who is now a special agent for the government trying to rescue the president's daughter, and we find ourselves face to face with a new bio-terrorism threat: the Las Plagas virus. In the end, you destroy the virus (or so you think!) and save the president's daughter. All is well... for now.

Resident Evil 5 once again puts us in the very capable shoes of Chris Redfield. Now a member of the BSAA, he is sent to Africa to meet up with other BSAA agents and investigate a threat of bio-terrorism. Before the events of the game, Chris just had to deal with the death of his partner, Jill Valentine, at the hands of the infamous Albert Wesker. Chris is a bit apprehensive to get a new partner in Sheva, Alomar, but she will prove invaluable during the events of the game.

Resident Evil 5 is perhaps the first real direct sequel to any of the games. The games were always linked due to Umbrella and Raccoon City, but you could pick up any of the main games in the series and just play as if it were any kind of zombie outbreak game. Resident Evil 5 is the first game that is not new gamer accessible due to the incredibly intertwined story. The overall linking plot elements of the 5 games are actually fleshed out much more in this game, which is nice, but right off the bat, I found it a little upsetting that the plot was so directly tied into the previous games because I feel it could hurt positive reception to the game for those who were unable to play the previous games. The load screens do come with an explanation of the timeline of Umbrella and the evolution of the T-Virus, but I still feel this created a bit of a problem. Resident Evil 4 certainly did have it's throwbacks to the previous games which wouldn't make full sense without playing all of them, such as the importance of the character Ada Wong, but to anyone who didn't recognize her, they probably assumed she was just some kind of super spy. Her stealing the Las Plagas at the end of 4 plays deeply into the events of this game, though. Furthermore, Chris has flashbacks to Albert Wesker and the death of Jill who, if you didn't know her from 1 or 3, must seem confusing (not to mention they dye her hair for some odd reason). I think it important to mention, however, that Resident Evil 5 acts as the official end to all the stories created since Resident Evil, so whenever the next game comes out (and you can bet it will), there will be a brand new, new user-friendly storyline and character set.

Let's move on to things I liked about the game. First off, the visuals are amazing. I remember reading a long time ago that Resident Evil 5 would work heavy with lighting, and by that I mean that when you're outside and it's bright, the screen will be very bright, and when you're somewhere dark, it'll be very dark. This idea was apparently scrapped, but elements of it are still there. The difference between light and dark areas are pretty incredible, and there is never an instance of too much bloom. I also really like the story to it. I like how any questions that existed before this game are now tied off and finally laid to rest. More importantly, I'm glad to see the story end. When the gameplay changed, it was only natural for the story to end. We still have elements to continue off of (remnants of Umbrella, the new company Tricell, and the BSAA) but it's not just the re-hashing and continuation of the same old plot with the same villains over and over. Also, as much as I was apprehensive as to having a companion through out the entire game, Sheva really is a God send. I can't imagine playing some of the game without her. I'm reminded of a level in Resident Evil 4 which I fondly call "The Room" which was probably the hardest part of the game since you were swarmed with cultists, and I wished someone would help me out. In 5, Sheva is that helper! It's also really great to play the game with someone else because, while the AI is incredibly intelligent, a real person works much more efficiently as a team. The people behind the game Army Of Two should really sit back and take a look at how well Resident Evil 5 works before releasing the sequel because the co-op elements of Resident Evil 5 pretty much takes Army Of Two out behind the school and beats it mercilessly.

However, as much as I enjoyed this game, it is easily the worst game of the main Resident Evil series. The first 3 were truly survival horror games. In the original, you wandered one singular mansion for the entirety of the game, unlocking new things that you'd had to walk past at the beginning as you go. The puzzles were challenging, and the bosses even more so. With 4, we stopped having a survival horror game and were given a linear action game, with a beginning, middle, and end that we achieved at the game's pace instead of our own. There are barely any puzzles in 5, and the puzzles that are there are really not that challenging. Move a couple mirrors, man a turret, do some cutscene based fights. When I played 4, all of the new things seemed truly revolutionary and exciting for the series. The one fight scene made entirely of cutscene based actions and it was such a breathtaking scene to watch. In 5, there are similar ones that are stunning visually, but they seemed less exciting. There also aren't really new evolutions in the villain base in this game. There are new monsters, sure, but they're all variations off the Las Plagas from 4, and the boss fights aren't as challenging. Finally, I think it is important to mention how much shorter this game is compared to the other ones. I might be exaggerating a bit, but I do believe I spent much more time trying to beat 4 than I did this one, let alone all the previous games and their puzzles. Resident Evil 5 is truly an ACTION horror game instead of a SURVIVAL horror game, and while it can certainly stand on it's own, it doesn't fully live up to it's predecessors.

I don't mean any of that to deter anyone from playing. I plan to play through the game again myself on a harder difficulty setting to do some of the things I didn't do the first time. It's really very fun. Some of the boss monsters are pretty horrifying to look at, and there were definitely moments where I said, "Oh my God, really? Really??" And did I mention that this game is truly an achievement for co-operative gameplay? Because if I didn't properly express that, allow me to do so again in this sentence. I am very glad to have shoveled out the money for the limited edition. So if you're looking for a solid action game in today's market, look no further than Resident Evil 5. I give it a solid 8 out 10 on the Matt-meter.

There are more games I would like to play in the upcoming future... Afro Samurai, Spider-Man: Web Of Shadows, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 (noticing a theme?), and more. I am trying to find more time to play games so I will probably be up to putting some more reviews in the future as that is mostly what I add to this blog. Keep an eye out for that as I am most certainly an expert, and the only real opinion you need is mine.

No comments: