torstai 27. lokakuuta 2011

REVIEW - Resident Evil 5 (2009)

GENRE(S): Action / Survival horror
RELEASED: March 2009

Capcom announced Resident Evil 5 only six months after the release of Resident Evil 4. The game's development lasted for four years, and long-time fans of the franchise - me included - were losing hope of the game ever being released. Franchise creator Shinji Mikami was no longer around to oversee the project, and his former co-workers, all the way from the very first game were trying perhaps a bit too hard to prove themselves and create the perfect Resident Evil game - that would not only beat its predecessor(s) in every way, but also implement elements from each game in the series, and finally bring closure to the story. They ended up with a game very reminiscent of Resident Evil 4, but with a lot of twists, both good and bad ones. In some ways, it's even better than its masterpiece of a predecessor, but in the end, the general gameplay lacks similar comfort and the game is really not that much of a step forward Resident Evil 4 was. What was the question, again? Is it great? It IS great. Especially if you've got a friend to back you up.

Maybe the plague's down in Africa

Roger Craig Smith : Chris Redfield
Karen Dyer : Sheva Alomar
D.C. Douglas : Albert Wesker
Patricia Ja Lee : Jill Valentine
T.J. Storm : Josh Stone
Nina Fehren : Excella Gionne
Allan Groves : Ricardo Irving
Adam Clark : Ozwell E. Spencer
Jim Sonzero : Daniel DeChant
Chris Mala : Kirk Mathison

Bioterrorism has skyrocketed after the fall of Umbrella. At the request of the U.S. Government and with official support from the U.N., the Global Pharmaceutical Consortium has founded the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance (B.S.A.A.). Over a decade after the destruction of Raccoon City, which brought Umbrella's secret bioweapon research to light, Chris Redfield - now an agent for the B.S.A.A. - travels to Africa to investigate a lead on a black market deal involving a new global threat, as well as his arch nemesis.

I didn't pre-order Resident Evil 5, instead it was the first game for which I actually set the alarm clock to wake me up at 5 A.M., so I could get to the nearest video game store by eight, with a tank full of coffee and a keen mind to start blasting right when I got home. Four years prior, Resident Evil 4 had completely blown me away, and all I had heard about Resident Evil 5 didn't really get me all fired up about the game, but I knew it was going to be great, at the very least - even if Mikami passed on all involvement with this game, probably still irate about Resident Evil 4 being released on other platforms than the GameCube against his wishes, I trusted the team of Evil veterans to do one hell of a job. Also, Resident Evil 5 marks the return of my favourite Resident Evil protagonist; yes, even if his portrayal in the original game was nothing to tell your children about. Also, it finally brings the story I started following when I was twelve years old to its much anticipated, but inevitably sad end.

When it comes to the storyline, Resident Evil 5 is perhaps the best stand-alone story in the bunch and it's highly cinematic - its cutscenes make it feel like a part of the Resident Evil movie series (the animated one!), although more Hollywood-ish. However, the pacing's somewhat off. It starts with a huge, yet surprisingly subtle bombshell that will leave many long-time fans gasping for air and going "nooooo...", but that bomb is disarmed way too fast, and the game continues on quite stale for quite some time, having just a few climactic moments, until it suddenly blasts into full, non-stop motion during the last four hours or so. Surprisingly, the awkward pacing applies to the game itself as well. During the first 20 minutes of the game, there's not one, but TWO epic shootouts (one's optional, though), and even some seasoned players of the game still have trouble with the second one, like me and my friend. During the first hour, there's a boss fight that has a simple strategy, but it's almost as challenging to play as some of the later boss fights in the previous game. This is all OK, Capcom shows no mercy to beginners, that's good... but then, the game gets all breezy and remains so for the duration of several chapters, until switching to hard mode again, occasionally really hard, and remaining so until the end of the game. Chapter 5-3 is not fun on Professional, I can tell you; there are two boss fights, and one sequence that's worse than any of the boss fights in the game.

I think we got 'em.
Stylistically, Resident Evil 5 is a very cruel game that holds nothing back, but it might take some time, even some complete playthroughs from the player to see what's really going on in the game. In Resident Evil 4, we had a whole countryside full of already religious freaks who followed the wrong guy; it was like Guyana, but in this version the ones who drank the proverbial Kool-Aid survived, to serve as their master's deadly puppets. In Resident Evil 5, the prime evil is more of a real virus, rapidly spread to innocent, vulnerable people by its crazed carriers - its real origin is unknown for the longest time, in the beginning we're just after the people who are sick and twisted enough to sell or otherwise push the product, were they responsible for the actual production or not. Teenagers living on the street, soldiers tasked with peace preservation, natives, tourists... no one is safe from the plague. Sadly, the only way to cure their disease is death, and even more sadly, we're the doctors. It's a cruel and tragic story... but one hell of a synopsis for one hell of a video game.

After giving it a lot of thought, I decided to practically review the Gold Edition of the game, which includes two extra mission packs, the Versus pack, Mercenaries Reunion, as well as other minor extras. I do not own the Gold Edition, but the only feature exclusive to it is PlayStation Move support; I bought and downloaded all of the other stuff from the PlayStation Network before the Gold Edition's release, and I just couldn't bear not reviewing the two extra missions by some length. So, this review will be a little different from every review that I've written before.

Resident Evil 5 might not be the most beautiful and graphically refined game of the current generation, as it seems Uncharted is the standard of pure visual satisfaction when it comes to action games - but make no mistake about it, it looks very good. The worst part in my opinion is that it's a little "bloodless" - imagine that - I mean, headshots don't pack the kind of yowza I expected from the game, and the death animations are child's play compared to ones in Dead Space, while already in Resident Evil 4 there were some really gruesome ones, like those damn acid-spitting insects melting Leon's face off - and we got a good close-up of his burnt mug to boot. Character design is good; it's good to see Chris in such a buffed up state even at the age of 35, Sheva's butt is absolutely magnifico, and the whole army of plagued African misfits looks even more intimidating than Los Illuminados in the previous game, not to mention the non-human (or once human) enemies encountered on this little field trip. The level design is also superb; I thought this game would be all about wandering on a desert. Glad I was wrong about that, very wrong.

When it comes to voice acting, we've come a long way in 13 years; it's still not perfect as there are a few bad apples that are way over the top, but in general the voiceover work is so many lightyears ahead of the work in the first few games, that it has to be lauded. Roger Craig Smith butts in as the new voice of Chris Redfield in his first starring role, and as you might know, the very same guy went on to voice one of the top characters in video game history, Ezio Auditore da Firenze of the Assassin's Creed series, as well as Sonic the Hedgehog. A promising lead to the show, to say the least. He makes Scott McCulloch from the first game sound even more of an ass than he did. That's an awful lot. The musical score is like it's taken straight out of an action thriller. It reminds me of some of my favourite TV shows like 24 and Prison Break, some better war flicks, and games like Uncharted and Metal Gear, with a more serious and aggressive tone, though. I like it.

Sorry, man. It was your seven-foot spear up my
ass, or a ton of lead in your gut.
Resident Evil 5 is what happens when you slam elements from EVERY Resident Evil game that came before it - including the spin-offs, most of which sucked by themselves - in a bowl, stir it all up a little, and then pour in cartons upon cartons of Gears of War. Considering the fine quality of the final dish, let's say Gears of War 2. Resident Evil 5 is by all means optimized to be a captivating co-op experience - of course, player two controls Sheva. After beating the game once, you (both) may choose your character(s). Judging by my latest playthrough, the game simply does not feel the same as a single-player experience after you've conquered it with a friend, either by playing on split screen, or online. It's got good level design, it's a fun and addictive single-player experience from all standpoints, but once you have had a taste of the co-operative game, you'll notice just how damn dumb your partner is. Without any exaggeration, combat sequences that might've taken you three minutes in co-op, might take up to 30 when you're playing alone.

You see, your partner can't even run straight. Regardless of which tactic out of the potential two (Attack / Cover) they're using, they run in circles. There's a door with a lever on each side, both of them need to be pulled at the same time in order for the door to open. You're already at your lever, while your partner is out somewhere, collecting some damn random Red Herbs (s)he can't even use, or running in even more pointless circles, making you wait. It's like asking a cat or a dog what's so damn interesting when they start staring or chasing a random object. In the single-player mode, you can call for your partner to come over, but very often, his/her response is something along the lines of "you've got to be kidding me". Look who's talking.

Secondly, there are many enemies with specific weak spots, just like the Regenerators in Resident Evil 4 - the seemingly immortal, heavily breathing guys with the growths that were invisible to the naked eye. Your partner just won't shoot at them, not without you pinpointing the weak spot to them by using your crosshair. Even if you do that, there's one more problem: even if your partner is fully loaded with superior firepower, whenever there's ammo for the handgun available, they pick it up, they use the handgun and that ONLY, as long as a handgun is in their inventory. They NEVER use grenades or proximity mines, nothing out of the ordinary; even if they have a hundred grenades cluttered up in their pockets, they yell for more ammo. In tactical boss fights, friends going at the game in co-op always know their responsibilities and most of the boss fights simply won't take long because of that. In the single-player mode, it's extremely hard to command your partner to take care of their responsibilities, and even harder to make them do that at the appropriate time. So much in this game is based on teamwork - which is a word the central processing unit simply does not understand as well as a human player. One thing the A.I. partner does better and moreover, executes faster than a human player, is healing. When your partner's loaded with health items, you can be quite the kamikaze squirrel you want to be. When you're on the brink of death, your partner usually abandons everything else to save your life... assuming they're not inside a building or on a higher ground level than you. That just makes them run in circles again.

I'm glad I returned to the single-player mode to pick up these flaws, 'cause up until I took on and completed Resident Evil 5 (and the DLC) together with a trusted friend, and afterwards went back to the single-player mode again, I pretty much thought the game was right on par with its predecessor. It's still one hell of a trip, even for those who haven't got friends, but the biggest thrill just isn't there once you've beaten the game by yourself something like four times, then once with a friend, and then return for a sixth round, alone, to come up with a conclusive review of the sumbitch. That being said, I'd be glad to take another co-op round of Resident Evil 5 any time, even if I've seen everything there is to see, several times at that.

Wesker's back, and he sports some killer
I said general gameplay in Resident Evil 5 lacks comfort, but it's not the A.I. of your non-human partner - their general behaviour just demands tolerance and adjustment. If you've played Resident Evil 4, you can adapt quite quickly, since the gameplay's so similar. The main differences are the button scheme, which is updated to the current-gen standard, and the fact that at least your partner's doing SOMETHING, unlike Ashley who just stood there absorbing swings from axes and power tools, and was practically begging for some guy in a hood to show up and carry her away. You wouldn't survive this game without your partner, as dumb as they are, and even if they can't shoot at the right targets OR use proper weapons, they do have good aim, and they're irreplaceable when it comes to regular shootouts, which there are a-plenty, all due to their aim and constant readiness to heal your reckless ass. Love your retard of a partner. It should come as no surprise to regular Evil-holics, that the worst part of the game is item management.

Grabbing Mikami's torch, Kenichi Ueda and Yasuhiro Anpo, both experienced contributors to the series ever since the beginning tried to come up with a whole new, real-time and teamwork-based item management system that would dwell on the tension of the gameplay, and at the same time, borrow something from every Resident Evil game that came before. They succeeded in their attempt, but I guess they failed to visualize how the system would actually work. Active item management is simply a fucking chore, in both the single-player and co-op modes. Here's how it "works": you both have nine inventory slots. Four of the slots can be accessed by simply pressing a button on the directional pad, so those slots are best reserved for weapons. The others are (very quickly) filled with ammo, and health items, and nearing the end of the game, if you're smart enough to buy one, even your protective vest takes up its own slot - which is just ridiculous. Like in Resident Evil 4, ammo stacks only up until a certain point. If you're in a hurry, like you usually are, you might accidentally pick up ammo for a weapon you don't have. If your partner has a suitable weapon (which, again, they never use in the single-player mode), you can give 'em the ammo, through a real-time menu toggle. Since all item management is done in REAL TIME (caps on purpose), adding a million options of what to do with an item obviously makes you the duck in Duck Hunt, and your annoying partner the dog.

In single-player, the practical problems in item management come in numbers as huge as the plagued bastards in this game. You see, it really bothers the A.I. partner to have a full inventory on their hands. If you're both full, and you downright discard something - any item - to make some space for something more useful you stumble on to in the field, be sure to be away from your partner, because they will very likely force an item from their inventory into yours, to replace the item you just discarded. In a combat situation, you simply cannot stop to think things through, and you will very likely miss a lot of useful items. Also, if your partner needs something like ammo, they're usually very close to one or more enemies. Just try to avoid being hit yourself while running up to your partner and navigating through the options to give 'em the ammo they need. Which, once more, is handgun ammo, if you're playing alone. Everything else is out of their grasp, something they will use only if they absolutely have to. Sometimes, the damn retard picks up everything that is meant to be picked up by you, for example herbs; although they're great healers, they know nothing of mixing herbs. That's always your responsibility.

In co-op, it's very essential for both players to seek out their own vantage points and remain near each other, but still at a distance that allows for a quick sweep of the whole wide area. It's tedious to have to reunite every 20 seconds, when the game suddenly decides to not have fallen enemies yield any useful items - it happens, very often, and lasts for lengthy periods of time. It's not very smart to overload your character with weapons just in case, since the inventory limit is so unforgiving. There are over 20 portable weapons in this game, and you can certainly own them all at the same time - if you're going for Trophies, it's even recommendable to have them all in your inventory. Well, how is that possible with such a limit? Issue a warm welcome to the returning item chest - the only thing about the item management system that truly works.

Taking it to the road. And off it.
Your equipment, items and all other stats are carried over from playthrough to playthrough, but you can certainly collect every treasure, item and piece of equipment on each one if you want, with the sole purpose of selling this excessive loot and getting one step closer to unlocking everything in this game. The item chest is there to conceal everything you don't need during active gameplay, and you can access it from the main menu, each time you load your saved game, each time you finish a chapter, and even after each time you die - the main purpose of this being that if your strategy doesn't work, you can browse through the chest for a more suitable weapon for the situation. You can also reorganize all of your and your partner's items in peace, reload your weapons, mix herbs, whatever you can think of. You can also visit the store to buy weapons and items - this store never runs out of First Aid Sprays like the merchant very often did in Resident Evil 4, and they sell for a reasonable price. Too bad the treasures aren't as valuable as they were in the previous game, and they can't be combined with each other for higher value. They're tougher to find, though, and finding them all results in a fair amount of money, a Trophy/Achievement, and good spirit.

Now that we got to the system-specific achievements, it's good to point out that what Resident Evil 5 lacks in terms of gameplay, it compensates for a whole lot of it with incredible lifespan. Like I said, the single-player experience changes for the worse when you've completed the game in co-op mode just once, but if you're a Resident Evil fan and you've got, say, a room mate or a domestic partner who's seriously into gaming, you're in for prolonged periods of walking on clouds. This game is incredibly rewarding and replayable, and it has tons of stuff to unlock, not just the Trophies or Achievements for your friends on the network to be jealous of, but also, within the game itself, ranging from harmless extras such as graphical filters and hilarious alternative outfits for both Chris and Sheva, to more characters to use in the multiplayer modes, and figurines, which are equivalent to Resident Evil 4's bottle caps; only these require some real challenges to be conquered instead of just being consistently great with a gun.

Your performance in each chapter is rated, with S being the highest rank, as in the games of the classic franchise. Your conclusive ranking for a chapter is based on four things: shooting accuracy, enemies killed, character deaths, and the new factor, clear time - which is extremely difficult to nail in any chapter on the higher difficulty levels. The rankings aren't just for show; you gain a certain amount of points from each finished chapter. The higher the rank, the higher your points. Also, the higher the difficulty level of the game, the higher your points. You can return to any single chapter - on any difficulty - after beating the game once on any of them, to take care of loose ends, whether you're doing it for a better rank, some treasure you missed, or one of the 30 B.S.A.A. Emblems hidden all over the game. Why should you go for any of this stuff, you ask? It's simple, these points work as currency for buying stuff unlocked by some other criteria, like getting all those Emblems and beating the game on a certain difficulty level. If you were looking for the famous "bang for your buck", Resident Evil 5's got it. Again, it's just too bad it isn't QUITE as comfortable to play as its predecessor.

I saved further information on the Trophies and Achievements up until now, for a reason. Many people have complained about multiplayer exclusives. It's good to complain about them, it's just that the original retail version doesn't have any - the multiplayer exclusives don't have any effect on your hunt for the Platinum Trophy... which ain't gonna be easy, and Professional Mode will show you why. The multiplayer exclusives came along with the downloadable multiplayer deathmatch pack dubbed Versus. By the time I tried Versus for the first time, there was already a whole gang of campers and Trophy Whores who had the audacity of sending me PM's and calling ME a pussy if I left a game in midway, 'cause I could not stand their pussy ways of playing a game, OR some Russian dudes with headphones that could not stick it to their numb skulls that I could not understand shit of what they were saying, or that I didn't have any way to talk back to them anyway. So, I can't really comment on Versus or how addictive it is. When it comes to minigames, I'll stick with Mercenaries, especially Mercenaries Reunion, and brought in some old pals. There are no Trophies to be had from Mercenaries, though - what a pity.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love sniping?
There's one Trophy exclusive to single players, and one Trophy exclusive to co-ops, which is very fair and reasonable if you ask me. A lot of the Trophies are based on simply making progress, but there are a lot of tricky challenges in there - some are random and I think they were just thrown in for the game to offer up the standard amount of Trophies, but there are cool, amusing challenges even among the random ones, for example trying to block an enemy arrow with your knife, or trying to kill an enemy by throwing a rotten egg in his face.

I can safely say that in all my years as a critic, whether I was reviewing music, movies or video games, I've never been this torn in half about giving a single item in review a conclusive rating. When it comes to smooth gameplay, Resident Evil 5 does not stand up to its predecessor, or at least it fails to exceed it like every good sequel should, and even the satisfaction brought on by new, convenient elements, such as the ability to strafe and having the option of sticking a minimap on your HUD, is nearly anulled by the hardly tolerable real-time item management system, and the occasional sheer idiotism and trolling tendency of your computer-controlled partner. In turn, Resident Evil 5 is among the best, most addictive co-op games ever made, and it packs more in terms of sheer lifespan than 95% of games of its kind. Yes, including Resident Evil 4. This contrast leaves me just one choice: the absolute average between all of the game's rated qualities. 

SOUND : 9.0


Lost in Nightmares was the first downloadable mission pack for Resident Evil 5, and it was released in February, 2010. Besides the extra chapter, the pack includes two extra characters for free use in Mercenaries Reunion.

Three years prior to the viral outbreak in Africa, Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine break into the mansion of Umbrella founder Ozwell E. Spencer to question him of Albert Wesker's whereabouts. They are faced with eerily familiar challenges.

Lost in Nightmares gives a long-time fan a juicy taste of what the first Resident Evil game would look like if it ran on the MT Framework engine. It's a puzzle-driven piece, with very few enemies - their exact amount depends on the difficulty level - and one boss fight. Even one of the fights is a puzzle in itself, since you have no access to weapons during the sequence. The Spencer's mansion interior is almost an exact replica - in storyline, it's the other way around - of the mansion in the Resident Evil remake.

The mission pack comes complete with a set of five additional Trophies/Achievements, which are very similar as some of those in the retail - the same completion criteria, etc. Completing the mission takes from just a couple of tens of minutes to an hour, depending on the player's skill level.

Since this downloadable chapter strictly focuses on doing long-time fans of the Resident Evil franchise some serious service, and makes the player fetch stuff and solve simple puzzles, it might not satisfy a customer just recently gotten acquainted with the series; I've heard of plenty of people that never played the games of the first generation, and not because they might have not been there to actually see them emerge, but because they don't like zombie games.

I, on the other hand, enjoyed Lost in Nightmares quite a bit on the first time around. It has a very cool atmosphere and there are some truly eerie moments in it that remind us all what 60-70% of true survival horror used to consist of back in the day. But, after one more playthrough, perhaps with a friend, mostly just for missing Trophies, it hasn't got much left to offer. It's a nice, nostalgic experience with tons of easter eggs for someone who was there to witness the beginning to giggle at, and well worth its former price.

RATING : 8.0


Desperate Escape was the second downloadable mission pack for Resident Evil 5, and it was released in March, 2010. Besides the extra chapter, the pack includes two extra characters for free use in Mercenaries Reunion.

The story begins after Chris and Sheva succeed in removing Jill's mind control device. After Chris and Sheva depart to give chase to Wesker, Josh finds Jill collapsed from where they left her. Josh tells Jill he's got a helicopter on the other side of the mountain range, and convinces her to join him in his escape from Kijuju.

Desperate Escape is interesting because it provides a similar alternative perspective on things as Separate Ways did for Resident Evil 4; it's basically the last three chapters of the game from Jill's point of view. Gameplay-wise, it's the polar opposite of Lost in Nightmares. While the first add-on's main focus was on fetching things and fitting them together, Desperate Escape is ALL about killing. Serious fans of action in the style of the retail will love it.

Regardless of whether you're going at it alone or in co-op, Desperate Escape is quite hard, especially if you're going for all five Trophies/Achievements that come with it. Desperate Escape on Professional Mode is the toughest Resident Evil challenge ever issued, and surely the most frustrating one. Me and my friend were almost literally at each other's throats during the last few big shootouts, and we were playing on Normal! Completing the wretched thing takes about an hour.

The fanbase of Resident Evil is surely divided into equal halves when it comes to which add-on's their favourite one, with a lot of more recent fans turning to this one due to its abundance of straightforward action. I think they both serve their purpose in their own ways, and balance each other out, but if I'd have to pick a personal favourite, I'd have to go with the first one. This is like an ultra-charged version of the retail instead of something completely different.

RATING : 7.7



a.k.a. Biohazard 5 (JAP)

Resident Evil 5: 86.29% (PC), 87.11% (PS3), 86.19% (X360)
Resident Evil 5 - Gold Edition: 85.67% (PS3), 87.00% (X360)
Lost in Nightmares: 78.90% (PS3), 78.95% (X360)
Desperate Escape: 74.50% (PS3), 77.58% (X360)

None of the downloadable content was released for the PC, except for the costume packs, which were originally exclusive to it.

The new character model of Jill Valentine is based on that of Fiona Belli, the young protagonist of Demento, Capcom's experimental and obscure survival horror game from 2005.

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