Resident Evil 5 (Gold Edition) (2009)
I've got strong memories about how I felt about RE5 when it was released. After 4 proved to be the absolute best thing ever, it's fair to say that a few people were quite interested in a sequel. But as more details were released, lots of slightly concerning details came out. Most notably, Shinji Mikami left Capcom. Could the game thrive without its creator or would it just limp on like a soulless zombie? We started to see screenshots and were perplexed by Chris' big muscles. Then there was the racism controversy, where we all pointed out that obviously those weren't really men in the videos, they were monsters controlled by parasites, so it was all fine and racism wasn't an issue. Then it turned out the game was co-op only, co-op having become a big thing at this point in time. Maybe because of Gears of War and Halo 3?
Personally, when 5 came out I was massively disappointed and decided that the “real” Resident Evil series was over. That said, I definitely played it quite a lot, so I must have gotten some enjoyment out of it. I'm sure that this time I can just set my expectations low and enjoy it for what it is, and settle down for some stupid slightly frustrating fun.
But oh no, we're off to an appalling start. I am outraged to find the game is trying to install games for windows live, a horrible service that died about a decade ago because everyone hated it. I can't get around it, the game just won't launch. I have to resort to installing a dodgy looking patch from a link in someone's steam comment. It works fine though and the games starts.
Welcome to Africa! It's war-torn, the government is destabilised, and there are terrorist hotspots everywhere, obviously. I immediately remember that this is the game where the radio constantly farts obnoxiously.
The controls are a stark change from RE4. This ime I've decided that I'm going to try and get used to the default controls instead of changing them immediately to RE4 style controls. I give up after 5 minutes, they're dreadful and make no sense. Tilting the left stick left or right is either strafe or turn depending on whether you're running. It's baffling. I change back to the RE4 style controls, which means I don't get to strafe at all.
The graphics are quite nice but there's a nasty green/brown filter over everything. It's quite cinematic I guess. The interface is pretty ugly. The two fonts are one that looks like a typewriter and one that looks a bit like papyrus (see the bottom right corner of screenshots).
The item management is much worse than previous games. There's no combining treasures, there's arranging the items tetris-style in a case. The player and the partner both have only have 9 slots for items, throughout the whole game. My inventory was constantly full and it was a constant pain managing everything. I often just didn't have the right weapon for the job. The game doesn't pause for the inventory, which seeme like a deliberate decision so that it's a lot more stressful to use items. Oddly, though, you're back to being able to reload weapons by combining ammo and weapon on the inventory screen, meaning it's possible to cheat and reload very quickly.
The merchant is sorely missed.
The dialogue is awful, it's po-faced and serious, and fails to be funny or dramatic or cheesy. You shout “RELOAD!” every time you reload. Chris says things like “Zombies! I'm always fighting them!”
The music is often really annoying. It's repetitive and tries too hard to be tense.
Some of the enemy designs are pretty boring and feel uninspired. Some of them are pale imitations of their RE4 counterparts, and some of the new enemies aren't interesting. There's one guy who is just a bald shirtless fat guy. There's a man who is really big (but not that big). A lot of these enemies are real bullet sponges too, which feels cheap. A lot of the combat, to me, feels either too easy or too difficult.
There's the welcome return of the lickers, which creep inexorably down corridors this time. It's a fun dynamic. Then there's the new “reapers”, bug things with cool sight obscuring effects and big bulging weak-spots. I like these.
Several of the bosses are absolutely dreadful, and it's very unclear what you're supposed to be doing and if you're succeeding.
The level design of the first few stages really disappoints me. It's a lot of cramped areas with right angles, little labyrinths where I'm endlessly walking around corners.
For the first half of the game I feel like I enter an empty area, then oh no, enemies appear. We kill them all and move on. It's quite repetitive. It's not like resident evil 4, which was just a series of brilliant and unique set-pieces.
I remembered liking the swamp bit. And ohhh dear. This sort of thing looks quite bad.
There's a diary entry that says they've started dressing up like their ancestors, but I'm not buying it. I feel like the devs just wanted spear chucking grass skirt tribal savages and thought of an excuse afterwards.
This is, however, the area where we get access to eggs. The game allows players to ask their partners for an egg. They say “gimme an egg”. It's a great game mechanic that I really appreciate.
I enjoy the later levels a lot more than the earlier ones. The lost city is really fun, even if it feels a bit weird to loot archaeological treasures.
The ship is good too, despite looking quite ugly.
There's a weird bit later on in the game where it turns into a cover shooter, and starts to feel a bit gears of war. I get a sense that gears had an unreasonably big influence on this.
I strongly dislike the focus on co-op, which feels like it comes and goes. There are a few bits where I felt like I was missing out by playing alone, and a lot of time where it felt totally like a single-player experience. The AI is often really frustrating. You have two options for AI behaviour – Cover and Attack. Cover means your partner sticks to your side and never uses anything but the handgun. Attack means your partner runs away, wastes a lot of ammo and is then killed. AI partners will never, ever use explosives as far as I can tell. If you're playing as Sheva, your view is switched (which is very disorienting) – but I also think the AI was programmed to stand to your left side. Which means they're out of the way if you're Chris, but block all your shots and gets in the way if you're Sheva.
There's one particularly aggravating boss where Sheva suggests that we attack from both sides, sandwiching the enemy in a sort of pincer movement. It's a great idea, which makes it frustrating that she absolutely won't do this and just runs around uselessly.
I do remember having a good time when I played through in genuine co-op with a friend, but that was a long time ago, and who has friends willing to play through re5 with them now? Or friends at all for that matter?
There's quite a long section that's an on-rails shooter. It's quite depressing as you slaughter lots of men and destroy lots of motorbikes.
I often feel like the game taunts me with things I'm not going to do. The best example is a bit where you meet a giant (el gigante from RE4). The first time I was really excited to fight it, and then was appalled to discover you don't fight it at all, but just get back on the car to shoot at it with the mingun.
Story wise, it's OK but there's a lot of retconning and unnecessary detail. Like the file that explains how Umbrella needed to buy irrigation pumps. There are also unlockable files where you can read backstory. Far too much of it. 30+ pages of this shit for each entry. We learn shocking facts like how Sheva used to do the shopping. Or there's this dreadful shit that tells us medicine is now an integral part of medicine.
Wesker's back, and yes, he's full of shit and constantly drones on about nonsense. There are some other people being mysterious and conspiratorial, like this weirdo who sounds like Meowth.
Wesker talks far too much, and is in far too many boss fights. There's one where he says “Seven minutes. That's all the time I have to play with you”, which always amused me at how blatantly it exposes the game mechanics.
The final fight with him is horrible, though I do like it when he shouts “Chriiiiis!” Again the AI is really unhelpful, it's unclear what you're supposed to do, and there's lots of instant death and unskippable cutscenes.
The game is over quite abruptly really. I didn't want more, just the story and gameplay arc didn't feel like it went anywhere. There was a beginning, middle and end, but I didn't really feel like I was invested in any of it or that anything was developed much.
Once the main game ends there's a lot more content.
There are 30 BSAA emblems in the game to find and shoot, like the blue medallions in 4 or the handprints in revelations. You absolutely will not find most of them without a guide even if you're looking for them.
There's a great version of mercenaries, and the mercenaries reunion. If anything there's too much here. Many character loadouts and stages. I feel a bit fatigued having already played this extensively and the mercenaries 3d on the 3ds which was very similar. If you haven't already had enough, it's a very good version.
I try desperate escape, which was originally paid DLC. I have no memory of whether it was any good. You play as Jill, which means horrible men flirt with you all the time.
It's fairly challenging, with some fairly normal combat punctuated by intensely difficult choke-points. You're constantly getting knocked off your feet, which is very annoying. The scenario culminates in a timed survival showdown (which feels a bit mercenaries). I perform terribly and die several times but am awarded an S rank.
I try Lost in Nightmares, which I remember being fun. It's set in a mansion that is very similar to the one from RE1. There are door opening animations, and even a hidden static camera mode, which is fun but impractical and ends after the first section.
The best thing about this scenario is that it's reminiscent of RE1. The worst thing about this is that it's entirely reliant on being reminiscent of RE1. There's moonlight sonata again. There's a copy of the keeper's itchy tasty diary purely for nostalgia's sake. How and why could that have possibly be brought here?
In more exciting news, Lost In Nightmares marks the return of the mysterious urinal with toilet roll dispenser beside it, previously seen in RE4.
The main story beats were covered by the main campaign, but there is some more detail here, mostly told through some excruciatingly dull diary entries from a boring butler.
There's not much combat. There is one kind of enemy, which is pretty creepy, but slow-moving and another bullet-sponge. I get killed and am shocked to discover there are no continues. Later I discover that there are continues and I must have been mashing the wrong button.
This scenario feels a bit padded out, when there's a puzzle that's repeated 4 times.
It ends with another utterly dire boss fight with Wesker. Again he just dodges all your bullets and zooms about and kicks your ass. At least he's quiet this time.
I have another go at the campaign, as Sheva, to see if I've missed anything much and if I'm less disappointed when I know what to expect. Yes, I guess so. There's a lot of good stuff in here. Mainly that it's trying to be more of Resident Evil 4 and uses the same engine. But I'm always impressed at the amount of stuff they've managed to fuck up, and how many obviously wrong decisions they seem to have made.
I think, in the end, it's about one third brilliant game, one third padding, and one third stupid shit.
Next, a game I know nothing about.