Resident Evil 5 takes place in 2009, six years after the destruction of Umbrella and eleven years after the destruction of Raccoon City. You play as Chris Redfield, who has been sent to investigate possible smuggling of bio organic weapons in Africa. Upon arriving in the autonomous zone of Kijuju, Chris teams up with Sheva Alomar, an agent in the same alliance as Chris.
Together, they attempt to rendezvous with another team who went missing while investigating suspected smuggler Ricardo Irving. As Chris gets deeper and deeper into the region, however, he’ll realize there’s much more that meets the eye to the small little village of Kijuju and that the stakes are more personal than he could have ever guessed.Resident Evil 5 really feels like the “end” to story arc that the Resident Evil franchise had built up to at that point. As such, it feels suitably “epic” in its scope and presentation. For Chris, the stakes are personal. For players, the battles you’ll fight throughout the story of Resident Evil 5 are the things of a fans fever dream. The writing and the pacing of the story would have you forgiven for thinking that this was the final game in the franchise.
It’s still over the top schlock, but it’s well choreographed and well-presented schlock and really isn’t that what any aspiring Resident Evil title should be? Don’t expect a killer story or any revelations to blow you away – many are predictable – but the story here ties back to previous games much more than Resident Evil 4 did, which many long time fans will appreciate. And as melodramatic and predictable as it is, it’s still great fun to watch unfold.Resident Evil 6’s port to the new wave of consoles was an amazing effort. Everything was carried over well and everything was slightly improved to make the game run much smoother. Resident Evil 5 is not as a triumphant success as Resident Evil 6 in this regard, though it’s still a very solid-looking title. Almost seven years old now, the game still looks modern enough to stand up to some titles today but is definitely starting to show some signs of age. It’s not all bad news, however.
First off, the game itself now runs at a full 1080p and wherever possible runs at a very smooth 60 frames per second. It’s not quite as flawless a transition as Resident Evil 6 was as some cut scenes have clearly been haphazardly up scaled and run at a lower frame rate. It’s admittedly quite jarring but it is not too regular an occurrence. Similarly, during more intense moments, the game does experience some frame rate drops when there’s plenty of enemies on-screen. Nothing ever drops below what the original game was offered at – 30 frames per second – but those who are sensitive to such things should keep this in mind as it can be noticeable but rare.Perhaps this issue is so easily forgone owing to Resident Evil 5’s strong art direction, which manages to perfectly encapsulate the look, feel and intensity of a sun-scorched Africa-inspired locale. From the opening scene to the closing credits, every locale you’ll visit in Resident Evil 5 feels lived in. They feel authentic (if not slightly culturally insensitive). It’s just an all-around more impressive looking game than Resident Evil 6 – employing effects like heat wave distortions and blaring sunlight to help sell the tone and atmosphere of this hot, arid wasteland.
The biggest thing most players will appreciate about Resident Evil 5 is just how much more care and effort has gone into putting it together. Cinematics are choreographed and directed to imitate film rather than Resident Evil 6’s sloppy approach to throw as many explosions and projectiles at the camera. This precise cinematography is complemented by an absolutely stellar orchestral soundtrack which ratchets up the tension and the fervor of the many set pieces you’ll play through.Resident Evil 5 follows more in Resident Evil 4’s footsteps, providing a single storyline for players to play through from beginning to end – eschewing the multiple storylines presented in Resident Evil 6. You’ll play as Chris primarily and be permanently accompanied by Sheva, who acts as a support character or can be played by a second player co-operatively. A contentious issue throughout the fan base is that this removes the horror elements from the game – but we’ll touch on that a bit later.
When Sheva is being controlled by the AI, she is prone to damage and also must manage her own ammo. The downside to this is that the AI is very frivolous with all consumable resources, meaning it’s possible for her to chew through all your stash all too quickly. There were times when we’d see the AI blindly step out into an open field and be gunned down by a turret, use some healing items and then repeat the same issues until all healing items were gone. It’s just frustrating.The addition of a second character who must be essentially “babysat” is one of the more controversial design choices with Resident Evil 5. Sheva’s AI is tolerable on lower difficulties but as soon as high level play enters the equation everything falls apart. She’s bearable if you give her a sniper rifle, tell her to scout out an area and then watch her work her magic. But as soon as enemies close in on her, she becomes more of a burden more than a benefit. Some might argue she does her job effectively – and she largely does – but on the higher difficulties this simply is not the case.
For that reason, it’s really recommended that you play through Resident Evil 5 with someone, be it online or split screen, as the game is really designed from that perspective. Each player has nine slots for items but these are managed in real-time and it’s invaluable to have someone competent looking over you while you combine herbs or want to equip certain items. Similarly, if faced with the brink of death, it’s especially helpful to have a competent partner who can bring you out of it with the press of a button. The AI Sheva can do all of this too, of course, but she’s less street smart about getting to you, which can often be the difference between life and death.Resident Evil 5 is the awkward middle child of the redesigned Resident Evil games where it’s not quite as tense as Resident Evil 4 but not quite as ridiculously action packed as Resident Evil 6. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a very over the top action game but it’s much more restrained than Resident Evil 6. Closer in identity to Resident Evil 4 than Resident Evil 6, it features a return to the “old style” of combat, where characters must stop and shoot enemies rather than have full control over their character no matter what they’re doing. This system feels slightly archaic given where action games are today but the entirety of the game is designed around it, though players accustomed to modern controls may struggle.
Capcom have clearly been aware of this and have made a few changes to this port from the get go to help more modern players get into the game a bit better. Firstly, the game’s control scheme (by default) is now one that allows strafing and weapon switching much more easily. Secondly, the camera has been customized and pulled out to provide a wider field of view. While we appreciate these changes, we recommend those wanting a more tense experience to change these settings to mimic the original release (and Resident Evil 4) more closely.The biggest question that comes with a game set in a parched, sun drenched locale with a support character is whether it’s scary or not. Resident Evil 5 isn’t a game you’d call traditionally scary, but rather, it overwhelms players with relentless waves of enemies to create tension. It’s not psychologically taxing at all and besides the implications of some of the grotesque things you might find scattered throughout Kijuju, there’s not many things that’ll stay in players’ minds long after the game is switched off.
Resident Evil 5’s rerelease brings with it an assortment of content that players may not have experience if they’d never picked up the Gold Edition rerelease. Desperate Escape is a mini campaign that chronicles the escape of two side characters from a Tricell facility. Mercenaries has been retooled so that all content is accessible from one mode rather than two different modes – though dedicated Mercenaries players will be disappointed to hear the newer Reunion based scoring method and enemy layouts (considered to be largely inferior) is the only option here. Finally, all costumes from previous editions of the games are rolled into this almost definitive package.Lost In Nightmares is the big standout here as it does it’s best to emulate the classic horror feel of the original Resident Evil but in the context of Resident Evil 5’s advancements. In it, you play as Jill and Chris as they investigate the whereabouts of Albert Wesker, the long running villain of the franchise. Taking place before the events of Resident Evil 5, Lost In Nightmares offers a change of pace from the run and gun style of the main game. You’ll explore a mansion together and get immersed in the atmosphere as you discover pieces of information that fill in gaps in the series’ convoluted storyline. It sets up the events for Resident Evil 5 quite perfectly and is an inclusion that should not be missed.Coming right off the back of Resident Evil 6, Resident Evil 5 is an experience that really should not be missed. While it does take some pretty liberal inspirations from its predecessor in Resident Evil 4’s set pieces, creature design and level design, it still manages to improve upon everything that made Resident Evil 4 great. While the pacing isn’t as strong as other Resident Evil games, Resident Evil 5 is still not afraid to put players through quieter exploratory moments after the big bang spectacles. It helps that Kijuju is one of the most memorable and well realized locales in the franchise thus far.
Without a doubt the biggest question mark above Resident Evil 5, both historically and today, is whether the co-op partner inclusion was worth it. If you’re playing by yourself, definitely not. But If you’ve got someone to play it through with, you’ve got one of the most well-crafted co-op experiences of the last generation available on a new generation of consoles. Grab someone to play it with, we really recommend it.
The Xbox One version of Resident Evil 5 was primarily tested for the purpose of this review.