Resident Evil is a long running series with many characters and plot threads. Basically A Corporation set up by a few scientists became a global pharmaceutical giant. This company manufactured many things, however this was a front. At its heart the Umbrella Corporation was a secret research program involved with genetic viral manipulations. These experiments had many aims, most importantly the improvement and evolution of man into biological weapons of mass destruction. Throughout the history of the games the T-virus which essentially creates zombies, monsters and super humans depending on whatever it infects has been one of the main focuses.
At the start of Resident Evil 5 we are re-introduced to Chris Redfield, a character seen in earlier games. He is in Africa doing work for the BSAA, an organisation setup to combat the threat of bio-weapon terrorism springing up in the wake of the disintegration of Umbrella.
Chris is given a new African partner to assist his integration into the culture he is investigating. This unfortunately throws up flashbacks to his previous female partner Jill Valentine, who vanished fighting Alfred Wesker a super human viral powered enemy.
Chris believes that Jill may still be alive and has reason to believe that the terrorists he is investigating here in Africa will have leads to her whereabouts.
Chris is sent to meet a man called Irving who is selling bio-weapons and he hopes to capture him in a sting operation. The BSAA team which is backing him up are spectacularly slaughtered by a new bio-weapon. Chris and Sheva chase Irving and his mysterious masked female bodyguard from the meet site across large swathes of Africa hoping to uncover who Irving's boss is and where he is getting the bio-weapons.
Chris and Sheva are likeable heroes, although their dialogue is a little stiff, and their love triangle hardly convincing. Enemies are of the cardboard cut out manically laughing bad guy variety, destroying the world because it's in the script rather than for any good reason. It seems churlish to pick on Resident evil's storyline, as it never really aims to be taken seriously. This is action movie fare and all involved know it.
The story progresses mainly in the cut scenes with only minor details being exposed in the actual levels themselves. The cut scenes are all well done and rendered using the in game engine. The action is suitably cinematic and a joy to watch.
Resident Evil is a fairly traditional third person shooter with no real cover system. This is stupid and or commendable post Gears of war, it does have a cover system, but it's very clunky and you rarely need it. The enemies tend to melee attack rather than shoot, don't get me wrong you do get shot at, just not really that often for the first two thirds of the game.
The major issue with the control system is the aiming system, as is fairly traditional in games for the past three or four years the left trigger is used to sight down your gun. The problem is that movement stops functioning when you do, Chris can't even shuffle slowly while aiming his gun. It feels very claustrophobic as zombies shuffle towards you and you try and gun them down without flinching, but it is a fairly glaring omission that could have been easily rectified.
Your inventory is the other rather old school system, copied from the early games it means you can carry very little. Ammo needs to be loaded into guns manually while in your inventory. You have a large array of weapons but can't carry very many of them and comfortably pick up health etc. during a level. For example picking up a bullet proof vest for Chris and Sheva sees two of your precious inventory slots being permanently used up. Thankfully the game pauses while you micro manage your stocks. As far as realism goes its fine, however, since when has realism played much part in games. Even supposedly realistic games ask us to believe that ammunition grows in crates.
In between missions you can place items in a store and sell collectables for in game cash. Each weapon can be upgraded to improve accuracy and effectiveness. One play through will usually allow you to upgrade two weapons out of the ten or so. This makes climbing the skill tree a fairly prolonged and unattainable goal as most people will not want to play through five or six times to get all the weapons powered up.
The focus on co-op play is evident from the start, Sheva is ever present and her assistance is needed at many Army of Two style moments as you open doors and both of you push obstacles together. At times you split up and work in separate areas towards the same goal. All of these things are novelties that add little. What is important is that she provides a constant companion who shoots at the enemies and attracts her fair share of the trouble for you. Give her good weapons and keep her well stocked in Ammo and she will be useful. Only occasionally does she get killed and halt the game for you. The real point however is the fairly seamless online co-op feature which allows you and a friend to play together. Which really does make the game that much more fun.
The levels are fairly simple, you start at point A and have to get to point B through all the zombies, dogs etc. in the way. Sometimes you have to survive in an area for a set time period to progress, at others there are bosses to kill or keys to find.
There are on rails sequences where you fire from an emplaced gun on a jeep. There is a little bit of QuickTime button pressing at times.
At one point in the game you come to an experimental sandbox area. There is a lake with lots of little villages around it. You basically have to collect four pieces of a key to open the door out of the area. What is novel is that instead of a corridor you can choose any of the four villages in any order to fight in and find the pieces of the key.
Each of the main chapters has little subtle variations in game play. For a short section of the game one of the partners must carry a lamp to light the way, which means that vision is very limited and that partner can't shoot. There is a sun temple which has magnified beams of light that toast you alive along with mirror angling type puzzles. There is also a place where stairs are moved in combinations to find your way to a goal. In a small section you have to be quiet and stealthy to avoid the attention of blind licker monsters. On a ship you have to use cranes to move cargo containers around to make progress.
Enemies are suitably varied; there are Magini types with chainsaws, chain guns, shotguns, and the larger executioner and mutated villager type Magini. Alongside the Magini are a cast of bat/insect hybrids, mutant dogs, alligators, lickers and the cockroach like reapers. At times you also find the enemies using emplaced guns.
The art direction is great, African shanties, labs, ships, all rendered well with a distinctive style. The monster design is of the animal insect mash up variety and done well.
Your reasons for being there and objectives are kept fairly clear at all times.
The character animation is done well, though there is some stiffness, I felt that everyone always seemed to be standing upright. There is no spinning head over feet when blown up, as if the characters were rooted to the ground.
Boss battles are a big part of Resident Evil, this game is no exception. There are roughly ten boss encounters and each one is varied. Black tentacle monsters, huge hybrid creatures, trolls and super humans all have a go at you.
Methods of dealing with them are as varied, basic shooting, luring them into traps and shooting certain targets in sequence. All have their patterns to learn and areas they fight in littered with help for those that explore. Unlike some bosses in other games, I felt these fair for the average gamer on normal, however my foray onto hard after completing the game found the troll monster at the jeep sequence darned irritating.
The Capcom MT framework engine is one of the best in gaming I feel and one that deserves to be licensed and used by all the developers who can't actually make their own. The frame rate and detail supported here are excellent. There is only really the Infinity Ward Engine and Guerilla's Killzone engine that are comparable.
Checkpoints were handled well with rarely any long retreads after you die.
The game took me around 20 hours on normal to complete. I played through half of it again on hard. Once you complete the game you have the ability to gain infinite ammo on weapons you have fully upgraded. This character building adds to the replay value and makes the harder difficulty levels easier to take.
I received 435 achievement points which I feel is fair enough.
Music and sounds effects are of a high standard. Not my taste really I have to say but adequate.
Multiplayer controversially has been added as a piece of downloadable content. Something that I won’t be buying as it does seem to be a blatant attempt to claw more money from fans of the game.
Capcom have made a good game here, taken as a shooter it performs well, those who want the survival horror of the early Resident Evil series will have to look elsewhere. Great graphics and mostly irritant free game play make a game that deserves your money. The inventory system could do with an overhaul, other than that this is a game that needs to be played.