Resident Evil 5 ReviewGreg Knoll
Over the countless years I've been playing video games, I've anticipated the release of many titles. Most of them have been sequels - Shining Force II, Lunar: Eternal Blue, Bloodrayne 2. It's a long list. But never, ever, have I anticipated a game as much as I did Resident Evil 5.
I read every article I could find, watched every trailer that existed, played the demo more than I did any normal game I own. And when it was finally released, I waited out in the piercing cold for three hours to be one of the first in line to pick it up at midnight.
It was going to be worth it. I knew that much before I even peeled off the cellophane. 5 was anticipated as the be-all end-all of the series. It was an assumption, but after playing 4, a safe one. And in playing it, day after day, I realized one thing: It was the furthest thing from what I expected, but greater than I could ever hope for.
Because Resident Evil 5 is unlike anything that has come before it.
Yes, it is scary. Though 5 doesn't use the psychological method 4 did-Ganados chanting, sneaking up on you, or waiting patiently for you to jump from your safety perch to chainsaw your neck.
5 makes more use of the momentary jolts-giant insects suddenly rupturing out of random eggs, zombified mutts and hyenas rushing out from under train cars to leap on you and latch onto your throat, massive Majinis (Ganados) bursting through the walls and leveling you with a colossal hammer.
The game is riddled with those exciting scenes, but that's not to say the fear is there one second and gone the next. The jolts are simply a highlight. RE 5's real intimidation factor lies in the overwhelming, seemingly unending army of enemies. Almost every chapter contains at least one area that will leave you overwrought, low on ammo and outnumbered. Majini pile in by the dozens, busting out of ship containers, leaping down from catwalks and scaling over chain-link fences.
One scene found me at the end of a bridge. On the other side a two-story building with a set of large iron doors. After a brief cut-scene and a gun fight with an oncoming truck, a horde of Majini threw open the door, screamed something incoherent and charged. To my luck, the bridge was decorated with four exploding barrels-intricately placed. As soon as the undead mob was directly in front of one, I shot it. Using only one bullet, I dazzled over a dozen Majini in a flaming baptism.
Yet even before their corpses stopped smoldering, another onslaught ensued; shouting even louder, racing even faster.
Another bullet was embedded in barrel number two, and another crowd demolished.
Yet they came again, and again, each one larger than the last, storming across the bridge until I was out of barrels, and no choice but to put them down the old fashioned way. It wasn't long before I was overwhelmed, and drawing back to save my life.
A part of me still thinks they were simply waiting for me to foolishly dispense the gasoline containers before the real attack began.
Because the Majini aren't like the undead brain eaters seen in prior games. They can do things I would have never imagined: Drive trucks, ride motorcycles, fire AK-47s and drill through you with Gatling guns.
Now perhaps this derails from the strong formula of previous Resident Evils. Maybe it even goes against everything common of a survival horror game. It's possible 5 is just a really gorgeous shooter with a dark and gory ambiance.
I'm not going to argue that, because frankly, it doesn't matter.
It's hard to label RE 5 as any one certain type of game, because it doesn't come across as one at all.
Resident Evil 5 is an experience; An emotional, nerve-hammering, bond building journey that no game before it has even come close to emulating.
It unfolds from the first flawless cut-scene, where returning RE favorite Chris gives you a brief overview of his new life, and new job with the B.S.A.A.
From there, you're introduced to 5's second pivotal character, B.S.A.A.'s agent and newcomer Sheva Alomar.
Though their assigned as partners, at first Chris seems a little apprehensive. Mainly due to a very powerful, very tragic plot twist revealed within the first five minutes-one that drove me through the entire game searching for answers on.
Yet as each chapter unfolds, the more perils they endure and survive, the stronger the relationship between Chris and Sheva becomes. And that, is the most poignant and involving aspect of the game.
Because it actually works.
Rather than filling cut-scenes with useless, unending dialogue of them talking about how much they care about each other, and how strong their connection is, 5 demonstrates it through actions. For example, when Sheva shoots the chains binding Chris to a motorcycle to stop him from being dragged to his death, or where Redfield disregards his own safety and leaps out to catch the falling Sheva before she's dumped out of a plane's open cargo hatch.
In fact, I think Chris only says it once:
Remember. We're a team. Whatever happens, we stick together.
Truthfully, that's all that needs to be said. It allows the player to form his own opinion rather than having the game tell you how to feel. Maybe Chris and Sheva are just partners. Maybe there is something else going on between them. It's up to you to decide.
That magic is what develops the actual in-game experience.
Everything-and I do mean everything-in this game is done with your partner. There isn't a level you'll explore by yourself, or an enemy you must face alone. If they die, your game is over. If one of you loses all your health, only your partner can save you.
Strictly A.I. speaking, this formula works. The in-game's partner won't take ammo without you telling them to, they'll heal you or save you without you needing to ask, and when it comes to fighting the massive army of Majini, the computer is nearly flawless. It will rarely miss a shot, won't fling itself recklessly into danger or let the enemies get to close to you. It will use the best guns for different situations, and will never waste even one bullet.
Now if the co-op of this game were simply A.I., it would be only good; verging on great. But the true wonderment is found playing online, with anyone in the world.
Now, granted, you get the occasional hack. Players who ignore you, who will leave you trapped behind a gate while they take all the ammo, or constantly get themselves killed (typically by trying to destroy everything-including bosses-with the knife.)
Yet, every now and then, you'll find a keeper. Someone you get along with. Who you depend on. Someone who will give you ammo when you're out, distract Majini while you reload. A player who will rush to you-no matter what they're doing-to save you from "dying status". A person who you'll want to play the entire game with, because they look out for you, and help you enjoy the experience. One you will bond with while Chris and Sheva commit the same act onscreen.
And that changes the face of Resident Evil-forever.
I'm accepting of that. Hell, I'm amped about it. Because Resident Evil 5 is more than just a survival horror game. It's one of those rare gems like Super Mario 3, Street Fighter II or Final Fantasy VII. A game that breaks all the boundaries. One you can't stop playing long after you've beaten it, and one you can't stop thinking about long after you've turned it off. Resident Evil 5 is a rare experience that you may not find an equal for. Something phenomenal. Something unforgettable.
Something, that legends are made of.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.
May I have the strength to lead with compassion. May I have a resolve strong enough to inspire it in others. May my heart be true, my motives virtuous, my spirit valiant. And whether I fail or succeed, may I at least be brave in the attempt.
About the Author: Greg Knoll
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