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Critical Reception: Capcom's  Resident Evil 5

Critical Reception: Capcom's Resident Evil 5

March 11, 2009 | By Danny Cowan

March 11, 2009 | By Danny Cowan
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This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Capcom's horror action sequel Resident Evil 5, which reviews describe as "a radical departure from the genre Capcom helped create." Resident Evil 5 currently earns a score of 86 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.

IGN's Ryan Geddes grades Resident Evil 5 at 9 out of 10, explaining that its gameplay differs greatly from previous entries in the series. "Change can be a painful process," he begins. "Just ask one of the unfortunate citizens of Kijuju, the fictional region of Africa that serves as the setting of Resident Evil 5, the latest entry in Capcom's ongoing zombie videogame saga. A power-mad corporation's evolutionary manipulations have caused a biological disaster that turns people into mindless hosts for a military-grade parasitic infection."

"Like the story it's trying to tell, Resident Evil 5 is all about evolution," Geddes continues. "Capcom has gone out on a limb with the latest numbered sequel in its long-running survival horror franchise, and although one of your goals as a player is to survive the horrors around you, this entry in the series is a radical departure from the genre Capcom helped create near Raccoon City more than a decade ago."

Unlike earlier Resident Evil titles, Resident Evil 5's gameplay is largely cooperation-based, either with a second human player or an AI partner. Geddes finds that the AI-controlled partner character has a few quirks, but works well overall. "Sheva likely doesn't have quite the same fanatical approach to ammo and health conservation that you do," Geddes warns. "She's a bit trigger happy, even when her targets aren't perfectly presented, and she tends to heal herself and Chris at the slightest sign of a flesh wound."

"But beyond that," Geddes says, "I found her to be at the same time both refreshingly unobtrusive and surprisingly intelligent, as A.I. partners go. Some players will hand her a few weapons and let her loose on Kijuju, while others will likely restrict her inventory and use her as more of a pack mule."

"With Resident Evil 5, Capcom has broken away from many of the survival horror conventions it pioneered," Geddes summarizes. "The creepy suspense of the earlier games has been replaced with an action-packed intensity that will instantly appeal to some gamers and disappoint others.

"As an action game, RE5 is a success, and there’s a wealth of replayability through item collection, weapon upgrades, score chasing and the unlockable Mercenaries mode. But this is no gentle nudge to the formula of the previous main RE games; it's an evolution. And if you can accept it as that, you just might love Resident Evil 5."

Simon Miller at X360 Magazine UK gives Resident Evil 5 a score of 8 out of 10, noting that AI hiccups come as a too-frequent distraction. "For Resident Evil 5 to truly succeed, the AI needed to be near perfect," Miller claims. "It had to seem that when the computer was in charge it reacted and responded like an actual human; the core of the game is completely built on using team-based tactics. So, when it hits a blip, Resident Evil falls apart for a short period of time."

"Expect to get very frustrated with one Miss Alomar," Miller warns. "It may be that she decides not to shoot, leaving you with the arduous task of trying to take down a host of enemies that were designed to be assaulted by two people. If Sheva is on task with that, it’s likely she’ll turn into the world’s most selfish BSAA agent. No matter how many times you request an item, be it a gun or a ammo pack, on occasion she won't give it to you. Responses such as, 'You can't be serious' and 'Not right now' will have your heart worrying about its immediate future."

In other situations, however, Miller found the AI partner to be unexpectedly helpful. "There are instances where Sheva is astonishingly sharp," he admits. "Load her up with health packs and she’ll keep a constant eye on you and be at your aid within seconds should you need it. In direct contrast to a point we just made, during another important battle, which we won’t spoil, she was the pivotal reason for our victory."

Miller finds that Resident Evil 5's control scheme performs well throughout. "Combat is eerily satisfying, with its slow, methodical nature giving the series a completely unique feel within the current climate," he praises. "There has been criticism far and wide that a ‘run and gun’ mechanic was needed to save the survival-horror genre from archaic doom, and although we could understand someone being slightly put off by its omission, our playthrough found no reason for concern."

In all, Miller enjoyed the experience, but strongly recommends that players play with a human co-op partner if possible. "Played with two people it's a delight, showing the world that co-op in campaign modes is becoming a necessity in any game that can incorporate it," he concludes. "Over Live and with a friend Resi 5 is unstoppable, but reverting back to the solo ways of old bears a few irritations we could have done without."

Eurogamer's Kristan Reed rates Resident Evil 5 at 7 out of 10, noting that the control setup is initially aggravating. "When you first pick up Resident Evil 5 it's almost impossible not to find yourself bitching about the way you can't move and fire," he notes. "Or the glacial turning speed. Or the unwieldy inventory system. (...) These fundamental design decisions are illogical in a modern context, and part of me wishes Capcom would wake up to the present."

"But the tradition of survival horror games has its place too," Reed admits. "Make it tense. Place just enough ammo and health. Make it a struggle to get by. To enjoy them, you have to be prepared to put to one side the default annoyances. Once you adapt to the way this game plays compared to all the other third-person action-adventures out there, it all rather clicks into place."

Reed notes that the mechanics strongly resemble Resident Evil 4's, only with a few important tweaks. "In many respects, Resident Evil 5 is content to follow the path of its much-loved predecessor and tweak a few things along the way," he writes. "It's still very much a series of abrasive set-pieces strung together by camp hilarity. The main addition is the presence of a fully-controllable camera for the first time. Assigned to the right stick, you finally have the option to sweep the viewpoint around as you wish, and as a result the game is more fluid."

Reed warns that other areas have seen little improvement, however, while others have changed for the worse. "From sound effects to graphical style to core gameplay and AI, there has been little or no change apart from an admittedly arresting visual upgrade," Reed criticizes. "And if that doesn't strike you as mildly disappointing, then the almost complete absence of puzzles and exploration may come as a hammer blow. Where puzzles do exist, they're so crushingly basic as to be insulting, rarely amounting to more than simple, pointless object hunts that take place right next to their intended target."

"That's not to say Resident Evil 5 is in any way a bad game," Reed says, "because judged on its own merits it's a very enjoyable and polished effort, blessed with considerate checkpointing, well-balanced enemies, sensible ammo-placement and the removal of the needless backtracking that used to pad out many of the previous titles. You can even buy ammo and health between deaths, upgrade weapons and tool up when things are getting too difficult."

Despite the convenience of these additions, though, Reed feels that Resident Evil 5 is such a vast departure from previous series entries that it might have been easier to accept as a side-story or a spinoff.

"While Resident Evil 5 might not be the game that the traditionalist might have hoped for, it still stands out as hugely enjoyable in its own right," Reed notes in conclusion. "Bereft of puzzle and exploration, Capcom has instead pointed both barrels at the action element in the hope that the masses will warm to it. Thanks to the game's stubborn loyalty to stop-and-shoot, the result is distinctive, but with suspect partner AI to contend with, this is a game that only truly comes into its own with a friend who's up for a challenge."


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