Resident Evil 5 rides off the coattails of its predecessor’s success, trying to balance itself between the popular shooters from when it released, and its own history in the survival horror genre, but feels like it’s not quite sure who it wants to be and never really finds it’s footing in either genre.
Set in a fictional region of Africa, you’re dropped into the roles of Chris and Sheva, chasing down a bio-organic weapon that’s about to be sold on the black market. It’s not long before things take a turn for the worse, and they’re dropped into a situation that’s quite recognisable for fans of the series.
The game starts off with sequences reminiscent of Resident Evil 4, and initially pulls it off pretty well. There’s a timed sequence where enemies slowly pour in and you need to fend them off while waiting for an escape route to appear, and shortly after you’re forced to tackle a head exploding parasite, much like in the previous game. The groundwork of 5 feels very familiar and it’s at this point when the game’s at its strongest. It’s just a shame it doesn’t feel particularly fresh.
Resident Evil 5 features multiplayer, meaning you can either play as Chris or Sheva through the game, though they play exactly the same in almost every respect, only differing in their voice acting and animations. In comparison to Ashley in the last game, having someone else to rely on makes a big difference, with the game making balance changes so you don’t have too much of an advantage. Most of the time you’ll be trying to strike a balancing act between each other, finding out which guns you’re comfortable with and swapping ammo between each other in order to make sure that you’re never left short in the middle of battle. Ammo is pretty abundant for the average damage weapons, but if you’ve picked a powerful gun like the Magnum you’ll be lucky if you find one clip every chapter.
Each level is strangely paced, alternating between high tension shoot outs and the sluggish puzzle areas, though these aren’t particularly challenging and just try to utilise the fact you’ve always got someone with you at all times. The most common puzzle you’ll come across is “pull these levers at the same time” which requires the minimum amount of communication to constitute a ‘puzzle’. Shoot-outs are very frequent and gradually become a bit stale, especially towards the end of the game.
Unfortunately the controls are also a little at odds with the dynamic that the game is trying to achieve. The game controls almost identically to the title before it, and those controls worked – tense, rigid, your aim slightly unreliable, it gave off a terrifying feel. 5 pits you against a lot enemies, and unless you can funnel the infected towards you down a corridor you’ll often find yourself cornered and outnumbered. The slow, slightly imprecise aim and movement of 4 doesn’t translate well into what is a more action oriented game, especially in the vehicle segments where your aim almost doesn’t matter because everything is moving so much already.
The bosses are the main highlight, with their interesting designs being obvious. They also give the co-op reason to exist, even if their weaknesses are very easy to spot and exploit for the most part. Licker’s also make a welcome return, being one of the few enemies that are relatively frightening compared to the rest of the enemy cast, though you’re better off just avoiding them entirely.
The game finds itself at odds with trying to establish itself as an action title, while still trying to hold onto its horror roots. For the most part, it’s fun and engaging, but lacks the finesse that its predecessor had. It’s probably unfair to constantly compare it to its older brother, but unfortunately it likes to stop and remind you of it at every corner. Resident Evil 5 isn’t a bad game; it just wishes that it was something that it’s not. As much as it tries, the game never really sets the groundwork for what it wants to be, and by the time it does the experience is over.