By BRITTANY WALDER
Resident Evil 5 has a lot to live up to. When its predecessor came shooting its way onto the forefront of the industry in 2005, it was evident that series’ standards had been raised remarkably high. Resident Evil 4 revolutionized the Resident Evil franchise, incorporating improved controls, a revamped menu system that could increasingly be upgraded in order to hold more equipment, a new and collaborative breed of enemy, and an overall sleek and interactive environment. Its dynamic cut scenes also added a sense of thrill to the game by giving it more of an “action” feel. Protecting the president’s daughter, while at times agonizing, was enough to provoke drawing up a battle plan before charging into the core of the action.
Resident Evil 5 is a spin on these improvements. It capitalizes on the “action” aspect, requiring awareness at all times because it is impossible to tell whether or not you could be required to act on the spot. The survival-horror experience is significantly overhauled by giving series’ golden boy Chris Redfield a partner in the form of Sheva Alomar. Sheva is equipped with all of her own weapons, ammunition, and items, and is more than capable of holding her own in the heat of battle. She also proves to be more of an asset than a hindrance, unlike Resident Evil 4’s Ashley Graham.
The overall presentation is gorgeous. The environments are stunning, and the characters are positively real, right down to the detail in the material of their clothing. The lighting effects are absolutely striking, and for the first time in the series, utilizing light and darkness becomes a crucial aspect of surviving a vicious onslaught of literally dozens of enemies. Nearly everything around you can be interacted with, and the game makes a monumental advance by placing much of the action under the glistening heat of broad daylight instead of simply having the player wander around alone in the dark. The co-op element is perhaps the most superbly executed addition to the franchise. The ability to collaborate with another player by setting up traps, solving puzzles, distributing weapons and ammo, and resuscitating your partner (or your partner resuscitating you) when your health is critical breathes new life into a series of games that have stagnated over the years due to repetitive solo game play. While having a colleague in action to help you blow enemies away may take away some of the stress involved in navigating the African terrain amid a viral outbreak, it also ups the amount of critical thinking and camaraderie needed to actually survive. If one player is impaled by a vicious Axe-man, it’s game over for everybody. The strategic use of your limited inventory space to become absolutely necessary. Watching your back will be hard enough. Watching Sheva’s becomes another matter. The A.I. of the enemies themselves is particularly impressive. The majini come at all speeds, strength levels, sizes, ethnicities, and occupations, and are packed with enough hardware to easily make your chances of survival slim to none. Hordes upon hordes will often come barreling at you at once, and each one will work with everyone else to maximize their ability to take you out. Unfortunately, while the enemies have gotten stronger and faster, Chris and Sheva have not.
While Resident Evil 5 is a tight, fast-paced, and often eerie experience, it takes a few steps back in innovation. While the game improves upon many of its predecessor’s advancements, it lags in that it refuses to add unique attributes of its own. The boss battles are engaging, but the bosses themselves are not particularly new. Once again, many of Resident Evil 5’s innovations are recycled, brutally at times.
Resident Evil 5 is an intense and blazing marathon of nonstop action, collaborative game play and transcendent, breathtaking environments. It is fluid, swift, and finely engineered, taking the best aspects of the greatest games and allowing them to perform with all of the potential that the Xbox 360 has to offer. Resident Evil 5 is a pivotal chapter in the Resident Evil story arc, and should definitely not be missed.