Resident Evil 5 Review: Fun, but Never Scary
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
Released: Sept. 15, 2009
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.