Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Resident Evil 5

Thirteen years ago, Capcom helped revolutionize the action-adventure world with Resident Evil, the game created the entirely new genre "survival horror." In the years that followed, the series continued to build upon the standards set by the first game. That is, until 2005, when Resident Evil 4 radically departed from its predecessors and broke new ground as a more action-oriented game - an unwise decision. Resident Evil 5, the latest game in the long-running series, expands on the action-heavy formula of the previous game and is built entirely round cooperative gameplay. Though it can no longer be considered a survival horror game, Resident Evil 5 manages to retain and effectively translate the most important aspect of that genre – tension - into its new style, crafting a fun, collaborative experience that will keep you on your toes the entire time.

Ten years after the destruction of Raccoon City, former S.T.A.R.S. Alpha team member Chris Redfield is an agent of the B.S.A.A. This ‘anti-bio-organic weapon’ organization travels the globe to seek out and destroy Umbrella's creations, which have fallen into the hands of terrorists following the collapse of the pharmaceutical company. When Chris gets a tip that a known weapons dealer will be making a big deal in the remote African nation of ‘Kijuju’, he heads there to put a stop to it and learn what he can about the mysterious doomsday project known simply as ‘Uroboros’. Chris is joined by Sheva Alomar, a local B.S.A.A. agent, and together they battle wave after wave of infected villagers, horribly mutated monsters, and even series arch nemesis Albert Wesker, who first appeared in the original ‘Resident Evil’.

The combat mechanics haven't changed since Resident Evil 4 - the action still unfolds from an over-the-shoulder perspective (very different from the set camera angles in the first three games, which added atmosphere), certain battles or ‘cut scenes’ are accompanied by brief quick time events, and you still have to stop moving to fire your weapon (though you gain a bit more mobility thanks to your new ability to walk sideways). Resident Evil 5's slow movement and gunplay take some time to get used to, and folks expecting a run-and-gun game may find the action too sluggish for their tastes. Fortunately, this slowness isn't really an issue within the game, because enemies are slow with their attacks and are easily handled with a cool head and steady aim.

Regardless of how similar the combat in Resident Evil 5 is to its predecessor, the addition of a second character makes encounters feel quite different - teamwork is necessary to take down more-powerful enemies and bosses, and having someone there to watch your back really helps towards keeping you alive. Furthermore, there have been radical changes to the inventory management system. The Tetris-like briefcase from the previous game is gone, and enemies no longer politely wait for you to look through your things, because bringing up your armoury doesn't pause the action. At any given time, you can store up to nine items per character, four of which are bound to the directions of the ‘D pad’ for easy access. This new system works extremely well and successfully conveys a sense of urgency whenever you go through your gear. It's often necessary to trade items with your partner, and keeping track of who has what at all times is crucial, because rummaging through your things while a boss attacks you can be extremely irritating. However, there is no ability to request items from your partner – very annoying when she has something you need.

Sheva's artificial intelligence makes her a competent companion, though her degree of skill seems to rely more on her weapons than anything else - she is extremely good at using burst fire with a machine gun for example, but tends to waste ammo when equipped with a handgun. However, at no time does she feel like extra baggage that needs looking after (unlike some of the series' previous companions, such as Resident Evil 4’s Ashley Graham), and she can manage alone in a fight. Sheva is even better when there's someone else controlling her. Resident Evil 5 supports both split-screen and online co-op play through Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, and exploring Kijuju with a friend greatly enhances both the experience and the level of fun.

Resident Evil 5 isn't a survival horror game, but that doesn't mean it hasn't learned a great deal from the genre. Tension is the central element of survival horror games, and in the past it has been conveyed by the gloomy settings, the sense of isolation, and the frustratingly clunky camera angles and controls - all Resident Evil 5 does differently is convey this feeling through other outlets: Having a partner introduces new types of tension, because you're forced to rely on each other's support, find ways to manage both of your inventories during battles, and cover larger areas since enemies can appear from almost anywhere.

On the first play-through, Resident Evil 5 lasts about 12 hours, which is considerably shorter than its predecessor. Once you're finished, though, there's still plenty to see and do: There are hidden B.S.A.A. badges scattered throughout most levels to find, you can try to get better scores or times in each chapter to show off on the online leaderboards, and there are three initial difficulties available with a fourth unlockable difficulty to play on. In-game money can be spent on collectible trophies of various characters and enemies, on additional costumes and graphics filters, and on special infinite-ammo versions of guns that you've fully upgraded. Finally, the Mercenaries mini-game returns in a format very similar to its last version in Resident Evil 4 but now with co-op.

Resident Evil 5 successfully builds on the foundation of its predecessor while taking it in a completely different direction. Having a partner introduces new degrees of gameplay depth and dramatic tension that make the game that much more exciting to play. Though the slow, deliberate movement and shooting may not appeal to everyone, this new sequel’s frequent large-scale battles and co-op play still offer a fun and exciting adventure.

Lots of love WolfGang Bruveus


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