Resident Evil 5 Review: Fun, but Never Scary

In light of the imminent release of Resident Evil 6 and as part of an upcoming entry into our HorrorScope series, we’re taking a look back at its predecessor, Resident Evil 5, three years on.

There are some ridiculous, huge monsters in Resident Evil 5. Gross mutations with massive tentacles, giant bugs, and dogs whose heads split in half — there are plenty of the kinds of horrific creatures the series is known for creating.

And yet, the game is never scary, even as it chases the tension that often made Resident Evil 4 so intense.

It’s tough to say just what it is about Resident Evil 5 that dismantles the game’s ability to deliver the sort of intensity and scares for which the series is known. Even though it pits players against a number of the same kinds of challenges that earlier entries in the series have, and even though it apes Resident Evil 4 on several occasions. In the end, it may be that Resident Evil 5 is fundamentally a series of chases; it’s not about characters trapped and fighting for their lives, it’s about two people who purposely continue to throw themselves into the fire — and thus insinuate that they can handle it.

It’s hard to be scared for characters that know they can take on any monster with handguns and a can-do attitude.

Resident Evil 5
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Released: Sept. 15, 2009
MSRP: $19.99

Resident Evil 5 does make a few cool attempts at treading new “horror” ground for the series. A lot of it is set under a bright African sun, and it’s cool that it attempts to do this brand of horror in broad daylight. Capcom attempts to use contrasting lighting to add to the tension, sending players from bright village streets to dark interiors. It’d almost work, if that contrast was ever played against anything that amounts to scary, instead of irritating.

But the issue boils down to the one mentioned above — there’s no situation you can get into that you won’t be able to face down. Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar are incredible ass-kickers, and they spend the entire course of the game running from place to place, pursuing various human bad guys. They’re not fighting for their lives, like Redfield did in Resident Evil or Leon Kennedy did in Resident Evil 4. They’re not trapped, and in fact, they have the chance to get away on several occasions. But they keep going because they have people to stop and folks to save.

It’s not the same as in Resident Evil 4, when players found themselves suddenly besieged by vicious enemies that, for the first time, were wielding weapons and could coordinate their attacks. Barricading walls and doors, fleeing up ladders and out windows, created a situation in which you never felt like you were ready for what was in store. When you did try to fight, you found yourself overwhelmed quickly, and just as soon as you started to get a handle on what you were facing, chainsaw-wielding foes got mixed in, and you were running into boss fights at a regular, terrible pace.

Resident Evil 5 tries to replicate the formula, without realizing that surprise was the biggest part of that formula. For the most part, we’ve seen Resident Evil 5′s tricks before, even when it gives its Majini better weapons or new abilities. They’re primarily just more irritating to shoot down and take more ammunition. Add to that the fact that we’ve got another character or player backing us up, and a lot of the tension is transmuted to adrenaline rather than fear.

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7 Comments on Resident Evil 5 Review: Fun, but Never Scary


On September 27, 2012 at 10:15 pm

It’s amazing how this game is practically a brand new game when you have someone to play with. It really would have been better if the co-op was optional. Sure, escorting Ashley might have been troublesome, but you had the tools to deal with it and she didn’t run around trying to “help.” Sheva ended up being little more than a pack mule.


On September 27, 2012 at 11:20 pm

“Lengthy campaign — lasts about 15 hours”

I don’t remember it being 15 hours at all. In fact I even beat it with a friend in a night. Does this include the DLC from Gold Edition?

But yeah, my overall feelings on Resident Evil 5 are simply. It’s a good game but not a good Resident Evil title.

Phil Hornshaw

On September 28, 2012 at 7:31 am


It lasted a pretty long time for me, but with a co-op partner I bet it would take a whole lot less time. Still, I was going by Steam’s game time tracker (which, admittedly, isn’t super-accurate) and playing primarily by myself. But you might be right — that might be a little high because I was spending a lot of time searching corners, finding stuff, dealing with Sheva, and so on.


On September 28, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Yea, this game is really fun. I did play it with a coop friend on xbox live and really enjoyed. But, you are spot on. Its not a resident evil game. It needs to be renamed: Co-op Action Adventure Game.


On September 29, 2012 at 4:14 pm

PROS: The story is far more better than RE4 and feel like a true sequel to RE3 and code: Veronica.


On September 29, 2012 at 11:48 pm

i arleady have all weapons with unlimited ammo ps3 wesker fight is’nt so hard you only cant shoot him from the front right ? is’nt it


On October 1, 2012 at 9:07 pm

First time i played this game, first i was like “niiiiice, looks sweet” untill i face the first boss, the one with the bigass axe. I have a psicological condition that make me easily nervous, so i was soooo freaking nervous. The second time, a friend and i start playing coperative mode on veteran dificulty, we die a lot, but along the ride, i gaing fear of the 1 hit- kill capable enemies (the chinsaw dude, the f*****g reapers, etc.), so, in a way, this game was a litlle scary to me, but not as scarier than the previous games.