Resident Evil 5 Review: Fun, but Never Scary
And then there’s Sheva. Playing Resident Evil 5 without another player is a frustrating thing, more and more so as time goes on. Sheva’s fairly capable in the early going of the game, but she’s crap against anything more difficult than your standard foe. She also foregoes fighting altogether a lot of the time, or pumps ammo into enemies uselessly. While we can debate all day whether horror games are diminished by having allies around to help, the simple fact is that most of the time you’re not afraid for your life in Resident Evil 5, you’re vaguely worried that something dumb will make you have to restart the section — something like Sheva getting cornered or running out of ammo or getting overrun by something too big for her AI to handle. She stands ineffectually by (or worse, in the way) incredibly too often.
Again we can compare to Resident Evil 4. Sure, that game was filled with its own companion quests, most of which required one to escort Ashley from one place to another. And yes, they could get frustrating, but there were also some moments that elevated that interaction beyond Ashley being another hunk of dead weight to be protected. She could run away or hide, which was handy, and some of the sitautions in which she needed to be protected were actually quite harrowing. What Capcom did well there was give you a new target for your anxiety; okay, maybe I can handle myself, but now I’ve got a defenseless young woman to worry about. She was a good foil to Leon’s badassery and the player’s mounting skill. No such defusing of your capabilities in Resident Evil 5.
It’s almost as if Capcom has a pile of working game components from its past games, and it isn’t quite sure what makes them work well. The series has always had a great deal of inventory management to deal with, and in past iterations this was a time-consuming but necessary part of the process. Should you take more ammo or more healing items? Should you bother to carry ink ribbons for saving or just hope to come across them? How much space should you leave open for items you’ll encounter along the way? All those decisions made you think about what you might encounter and forced you to realize that you never really knew what you might be dealing with.
Inventory management in Resident Evil 5 is rarely about managing your resources and more about hauling around a lot of garbage. It’s rare that the game ever doesn’t provide you with what you need for a fight, and while I ran out of ammo a few times, mostly I was able to procure enough to beat the game. If not, oh well — die, bounce out to the in-between-mission game store, and buy stuff you might need (although you could only buy grenade launcher ammo). So there’s no tension built into resource management, it’s just a chore that involves you making sure you have the gun that requires the appropriate bullets, and your partner gets bullets for her weapon. Digging through your bag on the fly to find things to heal yourself with, for example, just feels frustrating; if I was Chris Redfield, wouldn’t I have life-saving herbal sprays standing at the ready?
Of course, none of this is to say that I disliked Resident Evil 5. The game is just fine, but it stands apart from the rest of the series in some fundamental ways, many of which I would count as negatives but only in relation to other Resident Evil titles. It’s not a scary game; it lacks a great deal of the intensity and tension for which the series is known; it tries to recapture the greatness of Resident Evil 4 but continually kneecaps itself as it approaches the appropriate speed. Comparing it to its predecessors makes Resident Evil 5 seem rather weak.
But it’s a fun action game, to be sure, made much more so with a friend, which is the way it’s meant to be enjoyed. It includes some big set pieces and a number of tough, fast-paced battles. It does successfully bring you a high degree of a certain kind of tension a lot of the time.
But it lacks dread, shock, fear. The creeping sense of impending doom. The reluctance to open the next door for fear of what might be there. And that’s the result of a number of choices that make Resident Evil 5 something different than other games in the series. It remains great-looking and very competent, a challenging experience with a lot to offer, between its cooperative modes, 15ish-hour campaign and unlockable Mercenaries mode. It’s worth your $20.
Just don’t compare it to its older sibling, Resident Evil 4.
- Lots of involved firefights with various evil monsters
- Lots of content: campaign, co-op, and Mercenaries mode
- Lengthy campaign — lasts about 15 hours
- Co-op is fun, and the way the game is meant to be enjoyed
- High on action…
- …although low on scares
- AI partner is often irritating at best, completely useless at worst
- Tries to recreate a lot of the best stuff about Resident Evil 4, and fails
- PC controls, especially for quicktime events, are a bit weird
Final Score: 75/100
Phil Hornshaw is the author of The Unofficial Resident Evil Trivia Challenge. Follow him and Game Front on Twitter: @philhornshaw and @gamefrontcom.