If only Chris would yell Falcon Punch
Bad: With the exception of co-op and the improved graphics this is not much of an improvement for the series. The game has a decent length the first time through but it is shorter than Resident Evil 4 and after beating the game once you will be able to finish it much more quickly, especially with a good partner. Gameplay is either love it or hate it, much like how the Resident Evil series has always been. I miss Leon's knife fights.
The story follows Chris Redfield's, member of the BSAA and upcoming Strongman contestant, journey into Africa to stop a black-market deal and to investigate possible terrorist threats. You meet another BSAA member, Sheva Alomar, who becomes your partner for the rest of the game. The pair soon encounters a town full of angry Majini, who behave roughly the same as the Ganados from Resident Evil 4. The two later learn that the threat is far greater than either of the imagined once Chris finds out that his old nemesis Albert Wesker is involved. If saving the world was not enough Chris has a personal reason for his investigation, trying to find the location of his old partner Jill Valentine. Until recently he had believed that Jill had been killed in their last confrontation with Wesker.
I never cared all that much for graphics and, while I can appreciate when a game looks good, you will almost never hear me mention a games graphics when talking about it. That said, even I can tell that this game looks great. You will find yourself in large, detailed, and varied areas through the course of the game. In addition to the games excellent character models you will find that the games sound is also up to par with its great soundtrack, sound effects, and voice acting.
On to the actual gameplay of Resident Evil. You will either love it or hate it, as little has changed about the gameplay or the controls from Resident Evil 4. You still move from a third person view, with the camera positioned behind you, Chris always taking up the left of the screen and Sheva taking the right. You can walk by moving the directional pad, the game adds the great ability to strafe left and right, and you can run by holding A or by holding the stick in. To shoot you have to hold L, which will prohibit all movement, you then have to aim with the left stick and fire with R, and I recommended that you bring the aiming sensitivity to fast to give you ample time to react to enemies. Enemies will react differently depending on where you shoot them; they may grab their arm, drop their weapons, fall over, stumble backwards, etc. Whenever the enemy is stunned you are usually able to perform a melee attack, which is done by getting close enough to your enemy and pushing the X button. Chris and Sheva each have six different melee moves they can use against enemies, depending on how the enemy is stunned and where you are standing. Three that are done when in front of an enemy, two done from the back, and one done when the enemy is on the ground. Some of Chris' moves are a falcon punch….or straight punch, neck snap, or curb stomp. Sheva has a roundhouse kick, stabs downed enemies, and can cut their throat. Sometimes you will be able to interact with the environment by pushing things, climbing, jumping, grabbing, knocking something over, etc, this is always done with the X or B button. As you travel through the stages you are given checkpoints that you can restart at whenever you die. Some stage end with a boss fight, all of which are done really well and all of them have a different method needed to defeat them.
Quick time events make their return, or events where you have to push buttons during gameplay or cutscenes to perform actions. Resident Evil 4 surprised me with how well its quick time events worked; it made the gameplay more interesting. It made cutscenes more entertaining by putting them in at the perfect times and not in a way that the commands were almost impossible to get right your first time through or in a way that they took away from the action. Resident Evil 5 continues that trend. The commands show up in the gameplay at the perfect times, they allow you to dodge and counter attacks while giving you a cool animation and letting you feel like you earned the right to see whatever happened.
The game has a large number of weapons, over 20, and has a selection of Pistols, Shotguns, Rifles, Sniper Rifles, Magnums, a grenade launcher with six different types of ammo, rocket launchers, and even some special weapons, such as the bow and gatling gun. Almost all weapons are able to be upgraded; you can improve their damage, reload time, ammo capacity, and a weapons special ability. Special abilities vary from gun to gun and may include increased critical headshots, piercing, attack spread, or scope zoom. Each weapon is fun to use and sounds great.
The way that your inventory is handled is one of the biggest changes to the Resident Evil series. You no longer have to pause the game and go into a menu to change your equipment, nor do you have to sort through everything and place it in a way to give you more space, it is now all handled in real time. You are able to carry up to nine items, four can be linked to the Up, Down, Left, and Right buttons on the D-Pad by placing them in the middle up, down, left, and right spots in your inventory. You can open a small inventory menu by pressing Y and can sort items around by moving the left stick and pressing X. Items such as grenades, eggs, and mines now stack, giving you a better reason to carry them around. Your partner is also able to carry up to nine items and you can exchange items simply by bringing up both inventory screens and requesting the item that you want or that you want to give, this is preferably done away from enemies. At the end of each stage, every continue, or a retry you are able to buy new equipment and upgrade guns, all done with money that you find in game or get by selling treasures that are found in game. You also have access to your storage where you can move any unwanted equipment to use at a later time with either character.
This brings us to the games Co-Op Gameplay. Chris and Sheva are together throughout the entire game, although they may become separated or one of them may get trapped on certain stages, both characters are still in the same area and will need to help each other survive. If you are playing with the AI you will find that they are more than capable of surviving enemy attacks and that they have excellent aim with the machine guns and sniper rifles. If you give them healing items they will almost always use them at the right times. When you are looking to conserve ammo you can let your AI partner hold ammo to guns that they do not have, you also gain access to a stun rod weapon not to far into the game that does not need ammo and that they do well with. You are able to give your partner grenades and mines, but they will never use them. When playing with the AI all equipment can be traded freely, if you are playing with a human player it works pretty much the same way but you are not able to exchange weapons. This isn't much of a problem because people will likely take their favorite upgraded weapons anyway, giving you no need to switch. All progress is saved when in co-op, so you also wouldn't want someone to get your favorite upgraded gun and then leave the game anyway. When a player loses all of their health their partner is given a short amount of time to get to their dying partner's side to heal them before it is game over. If you take too long, if the dying player is hit again, or if both players are in a dying state, it is game over. The games already excellent boss fights are made all the more better when working together with a friend to take the enormous monsters down. All treasures and money found while playing co-op if given to both players, there is no need to fight over who gets what.
Co-Op can be played through split screen or through Xbox Live. If a player joins you for split screen all they have to do is press start, this will take you back to your last checkpoint and to the inventory screen. The joining player over Xbox Live will have to wait for the other player to reach a checkpoint or to finish the level before they can join. While this can be annoying, it makes sense. If a player was brought into the action right away over Xbox Live they would not know which character they are taking over and would not have the right equipment. If you were to join and use the weapons on the character at the time of your joining then you would be using the items of the other player, which would probably upset many players. If you only want to play solo and not allow people to join your game you are given an option to make your room open, closed, or invite only whenever you start a game.
There are four difficulty modes in this game. The first two will likely be too easy when playing with a live partner but the third one should be just right for a first time through on co-op, the same with normal when playing with the AI. To unlock the hardest difficulty mode, which makes almost all attacks fatal, you need to beat the one before it. If the game ever gets too hard you can always go back to past stages to get more supplies. If the game ever gets too easy, say if you are playing through the game a second time with upgraded guns, you are able to store your old equipment and buy your guns in their stock form to give you a challenge again.
One of my problems with this game, and with Resident Evil 4, was that there just wasn't enough areas like the one where you fight your first horde of enemies. Once you get passed the first part of the game you will never find survival as difficult, you won't be running away, barricading doors and windows, kicking down ladders, desperately trying to find more ammo and herbs in drawers or crates, etc. As I went through the game I noticed some actions I could have taken to make fights easier, for example, in one area you are able to climb a ladder and kick torches down below you, which will then explode and act like your incendiary grenades. It is a good thing that I found some areas like that but the problem is that I always found them after I killed all of the enemies. It was always easier to hold my ground and kill them instead of running around trying to find something I could use in the environment, which is a shame.
It is hard to say how long the game will take you the first time through, it depends on your difficulty, partner, and how much of the environment you want to explore. A little over 10 hours is probably a good guess, if that wasn't short enough, if you play through the easier difficulties with upgraded guns you can easily beat the game in under five hours.
A great addition made with this game is splitting the campaign up into chapters and giving the player a level select screen, allowing you to go back to play through your favorite parts of the game for fun, to improve your ranking, or to get money to upgrade your equipment. You are also able to choose your difficulty for each chapter. Are you sick of playing the games main story? Don't worry, the fun isn't over yet.
After beating the game, in Single Player or Co-Op, you gain access to some great extras. Throughout the game you will gain points, depending on how well you did in each mission and depending on what difficulty that you played on, these points can be spent upon choosing a bonus option in the main menu. Even before finishing the game you are able to purchase little action figures of the games characters, those figures can be viewed and you can play short sound clips with them, while they don't really add anything to the game they are still a fun little bonus. I've already mentioned how you can upgrade your weapons over the course of the game, something I have not mentioned is the ability to buy, through the bonus menu, infinite ammo for any of the guns that you have fully upgraded. This is a lot of fun and allows you to use the guns that you like most without worrying about having the ammo, if you just want to play a normal game you can turn infinite ammo on and off before starting each game. The last two things that you unlock in the bonus menu is the ability to buy different costumes for Chris and Sheva, two each, for use in the Single Player game and you will unlock different color filters to change the games look. The second costume for the characters looks a little weird but if you think that Chris should be wearing his old STARS uniform or if you think that Sheva is wearing a little too much clothing, the third option is for you. The characters will even wear their costumes during quick time events and cut scenes.
You will also gain the ability to play through the game as Chris or Sheva, whenever you start a new game or choose a chapter to replay you will be taken to a character selection screen. The two play the same, with the exception of their six melee moves, so the only differences are that two of the games weapons are unique to each character, the gatling gun for Chris and the Bow for Sheva. The characters are positioned on opposite ends of the screen for your view, the same as in co-op. Depending on who you play as, character positions in some of the quick time scenes and cut scenes are changed and a few lines of dialogue are changed during gameplay.
By far the most fun bonus that you get from finishing the game is unlocking Mercenary mode, which makes a return from Resident Evil 4. You start off with two of the possible ten characters, Chris and Sheva, both characters have their own separate load-out. You choose which of the eight stages you want to play on, you start with only one. If you get a B or better rank on a stage you will unlock the next stage, if you get an A rank or better you will get a new character, you will also be awarded with more bonus points depending on your ranking. The objective of this mode is to kill as many enemies as you can as fast as you can. You start with only two minutes on the clock but will be able to increase your time by hitting time bonus statues found in each level, the time can easily go up to over five minutes. One of my favorite parts of this mode is that every time you get a melee kill you get an additional five second bonus to your time, making melee attacks important and not a waste of time. In addition to worrying about your kills you will also have to worry about staying alive, no matter how well you do, you don't get a score if you die.
While there are 10 characters listed, there are really only four with different costumes, Chris, Sheva, Jill, and Wesker. Each character plays pretty much the same, the only difference being their six unique melee moves and Jill's stab move with the knife instead of a slash. Although this is one less character than the previous game the different costumed versions of each character all have different load outs, which gives the game five more characters than the last. The amount of stages have also doubled from the last game and most stages, besides just looking very different and having different enemies, have their own unique features, such as zip lines, ladders, spike traps you can activate, and rocket launchers found around the level.
Agree or disagree with including co-op in the main story, you should be able to say that co-op in Mercenary mode is one of the highlights of the game. You are able to play this mode by yourself, with no AI partner, through split screen co-op, or online through Xbox Live. You and your partner will have to work together to keep each other alive, if one of you dies it is game over. Do you stay close and protect each other, split up and try to get as many kills and time bonuses as possible, and will your partner even be able to survive if you get that last time increase? Working together to survive by sharing ammo and using the right gun for the job makes this mode one of the most fun extras I have played in years.
Multiplayer was also added through downloadable content but I have no desire to pay for multiplayer in this game, and I don't know why anybody would want to. I don't mind it if they charge for content but hopefully it will be something that people actually want next time.
While the Single Player is not as memorable as Leon's adventure in Resident Evil 4 they added just enough to this entry to make it a great game. Co-Op is a lot of fun and playing through the game on harder difficulties with infinite ammo and playing mercenary mode will make the game last. Not perfect, but still an excellent buy.