As in the previous games, you can’t move while firing, aiming or reloading. These restrictions can be frustrating, but also keep the pressure on you even when you’re armed with heavy-duty weapons. So when a cluster of 12 bears down on you and your most powerful weapon loads only 6 rounds at a time, you start sweating. You can make one magazine go a long way, however, by shooting attackers in the kneecap and, when they stumble, get close enough to jab the melee attack button, resulting in a satisfying and extremely powerful punch or roundhouse kick (if they’re completely downed, you can dispatch them with a sick boot-stomp to the chest).
Alomar’s presence at your side through practically the entire game also limits the horror aspect of the game while dialing up the action. Playing co-op with a friend (split-screen or over GFW Live) in Alomar’s boots is the most brilliant and exhilarating addition to the Resident Evil series since it broke out of Raccoon City. There’s little to complain about Alomar’s AI if you play solo. In her more aggressive mode she’ll tend to rip through ammunition too fast, but if you order her into “cover” mode, she’ll stay behind you as much as possible and back you up with potshots from her pistol. She’s never, ever in your way, and when you’re mortally wounded, she can revive you if she can get to you in time.
By the time you’re about two-thirds of the way through the campaign, it becomes clear that RE5 abandoned something of its predecessor’s over-the-top wackiness in favor of more logical, sober and ultimately predictable approaches. The weird Merchant and his flasher trenchcoat have been replaced by a more sensible and convenient inventory system accessible between each level; there are no more shooting galleries concluding in inexplicable laughter and applause.
To those who appreciate a slightly more coherent game these are positive tweaks, but to a longtime fan like myself it’s a slight letdown. RE5’s campaign is also much shorter—shut-ins could finish the story mode in 10 hours - but the story mode is really only the beginning. You could easily double that time hunting for treasure throughout each level and shooting down often cleverly hidden BSAA emblems to unlock costumes and other extras.
Finish a game with a weapon’s upgrades maxed out and that weapon has infinite ammo on your next play through, where you can also choose to play as the lithe Sheva instead of lumpy musclehead Chris. And after that, you can take on the levels again in Mercenary mode, alone or in co-op, as you try to survive wave after wave of enemies in timed trials - an experience that’s far scarier and more enervating than the story mode.
You can play Resident Evil 5 with a gamepad, but I left it behind after the first level in favor of the superior aim of the mouse. Capcom’s default mouse and keyboard scheme works beautifully; the mouse isn’t gimped, and controls are intelligently mapped. (The inventory, on the other hand, is primitive and clunky by design. It’s not only fiddlier than RE4’s, but the game also no longer pauses while you’re in it. So while you may find plenty of ammo by smashing crates and amphora, swapping between guns and grenades or healing yourself during fisticuffs can leave you extremely vulnerable - Capcom clearly wants you to stay in the game with no time-outs.)
You can swap from the mouse and keyboard to the gamepad or vice versa at any time just by picking up one or the other, and the HUD will instantly reconfigure itself to display the correct prompts. That’s what Capcom means when it says it’s taking PC gaming - and everything its fans stand for - seriously. If only they’d also switched out the consoleish checkpoint save system, you’d think this was a natively PC game.
Resident Evil 5 isn’t just a port - it’s of demonstrably higher quality than its source. The definitive edition, if you will. There are no overworked textures, no controller miscues, the game never crashed, and it performed at a sturdy 30 frames per second on an older AMD FX-60-based machine. It’s an extremely fine-tuned thriller that stays fresh and exciting through multiple playthroughs in both single-player and co-op modes. It tortures completists with hundreds of collectibles, and the Mercenary mode in co-op is on its own worth the price of the entire game.
The pride taken in its production shows up in details large and small. In fact, even for gamers who have never been interested in the Resident Evil series before, there’s never been a better reason to drop your assumptions, forget what you think you know and check out Resident Evil 5 with fresh eyes.
PC Gamer scores games on a percentage scale, which is rounded to the closest whole number to determine the GamesRadar score.
PCG Final Verdict: 93% (editor’s choice)
Sep 16, 2009