Resident Evil 5 – Review (XBox)

April 29, 2009

About a week ago (or was it two? Days…blurring together…), I had the opportunity to hang out with a buddy, sip a little Courvoisier (yes, I am now classified as a mature gamer with refined tastes 🙂 ) and play the latest in one of my favorite survival/horror series, Resident Evil 5 by Capcom.  The only problem with this was the lack of horror.

If someone doesn't oil my massive arms IMMEDIATELY, it's going to get messy around here.

If someone doesn't oil my massive arms IMMEDIATELY, it's going to get messy around here.

A brief setup for the game: you’re Chris Redfield, the continuing protagonist for most of the RE games. You’re in Africa where terrorists have seized the T-virus and mutated it. You and your new partner, Sheva Alomar, are 1 of 3 teams trying to find a certain terrorist when things begin going wrong…zombie wrong.

I remember the nights working at Hollywood Video and closing the store at 1am, coming home and popping in Resident Evil 2. I remember those nights because they were damn near sleepless. Every door you walked through had it’s own creepy cut-scene (albeit, giving the Playstation just a bit of time to load the next scene) and you never knew what to expect in the next room. The lighting and music lent itself perfectly to the genre and enhanced the tension. I’ve been talking to a lot of colleagues about “moments” in games; the small scenes in a game that stand out and stick with you long after you’ve forgotten the name of the main characters or how the game ended. There was a “moment” in RE 2 when you walked down a certain hall with boarded windows, in fear of one of the Lickers attacking you, when suddenly zombie arms burst through the window boards and tried to kill you on the spot. I remember literally jumping out of my seat when this occurred and it has stuck with me ever since.

Fast forward to RE 5…no such “moments” and plenty of opportunities. In the first village, you walk around and witness someone being beaten in the street and a bit of tension rises as the members applying the beat-down slowly turn to look at you (all in-game). You walk a bit further down the road and a voice comes across a PA system. Suddenly, the town seems empty – again, a bit more tension. In hindsight, this would have been a perfect opportunity to secure the “horror” element for the game with something simple like a chicken popping out at you on a forced turn. Seriously. Something little that makes you jump and feel a bit embarrassed about doing so. Sprinkle several of these “moments” throughout the game, mixed in with actual times that the player does need to start firing to save their lives and you’ve got a winning combination that will have your audience punch-drunk, the way they want to be.

Visually, RE 5 is stunning. The motion-capture used on the zombie hoardes (and I mean hoardes…no more 2 or 3 zombies per screen) and protagonists alike is spot on. Even the textures in the walls of run-down buidings and villages look incredible.

Unfortunately, once you’re past the glitz and glamore of the graphics, you’ll notice a fairly weak storyline made worse by choppy, unbelievable dialogue. Gone are the days of ammo conservation (which set this series apart in a good way), so feel free to run and gun. And lastly, the first boss fight is much harder than anything you see throughout the majority of the game. Granted, I haven’t finished the game, but 5 hours into playing, I had not discovered a bigger challenge than the level released as a demo. Hmmm…I’m not saying false advertising, but…

In all, the game is fun but I don’t feel it lives up to its namesake. If you’re making a survivor/horror game, make sure it’s a struggle to survive and, for Pete’s sake, make sure there are moments of horror. C’mon, Capcom, you know this. Or at least, you did.

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One Response to “Resident Evil 5 – Review (XBox)”

  1. Kenneth S. said

    Spot on review. RE 4 is probably my favorite 360 game – 5 definitely didn’t have the same terror level. Thanks to the original RE, I have a hard time walking down a hallway without assuming crows are going to burst through the windows.

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