Resident Evil 5 review

Can one of 2009's biggest games live up to its groundbreaking predecessor?

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Following in RE4’s footsteps, part five offers several damn good reasons to keep playing even after the credits have run their course. There’s The Mercenaries mode, which has you selecting a character and running through an area of your choice with a time limit, racking up combo kills for a high score (more or less as it was in RE4). It was supremely addicting four years ago and still retains that “just one more time” appeal, and now that your various records are (allegedly) trackable online, there’s even more incentive to squeeze every last second out of your timed assault.

Now here’s the utterly confusing bit – Mercenaries does not support online multiplayer. It has to be played split screen with someone sitting next to you. The entire campaign is co-op, so it’s correct to expect a simple shooting gallery mode would be online as well. Comparing scores on leaderboards is one thing, but we want to hook up with friends from all over, not force them into the same room. Stranger still is what the split screen actually looks like. Take a gander:

Above: Wha?

Several otherPS3 games offer split screen play, but none we can think of shrink the screen and present each player in an off-center window. It’s a little distracting at first and doesn’t make any sense at all, but at least it’s not horribly distracting.

Update: We have confirmed with Capcom that Mercenaries mode will be online at launch via a free downloadable patch. Also revealed are other newmultiplayermodes. These additions do not affect our 9/10 score, but do remedy one of our concerns. See you online!

Then there’s the densely populated Library, which is packed with ultra-detailed, Smash Bros.-style figurines and hundreds of pages explaining every character, every virus, every company we could think of. It’s a wonderful tome of knowledge for anyone enraptured with RE’s labyrinthine story, though the presentation is dull as can be – just text on a bland, boring background.

Above: Content!

Add in the requisite silly costumes and hidden weapons (which we dare not spoil, that’s half the fun) and there’s definitely more to do than wade through the surprisingly straightforward story. But, as we’ve alluded to throughout the review, it’s all stuff RE4 did quite well, so ultimately…

From top to bottom, RE5 is a copy of its groundbreaking predecessor. The enemies animate similarly, some of the bosses are clearly one-upped versions of RE4 favorites and the weapons are pretty much identical. Trouble is, the moments meant to pay homage to RE4 lack weight, because there’s no mystery, no suspense at all. Compare fighting the fish boss in RE4:

Above: Leon on a leaky boat, with hand-thrown spears

With the aquatic boss in RE5:

Above: Chris and Sheva on a cruiser with machine guns and rocket launchers

It’s the same general idea, but ratcheted up to high hell and stripped of surprise. There’s no spooky “why are the villagers acting this way?” atmosphere, your partner is a highly trained specialist instead of a helpless girl and the story exists only to give Chris and Sheva a reason to strap on more ammo. It’s still damn good fun, and extremely recommended for co-op, but feels like a Hollywood-ized take on the RE4 experience with a few (much appreciated) control improvements and admittedly gorgeous visuals.

Then there’s the matter of the alleged “racism” that’s followed RE5 since its African setting was revealed. Amidst all the screens and videos you may have noticed Majini enemies wearing grass skirts, brandishing tribal masks and giant spears. In-game excuse or no, they could be the subject of much discussion, far more than the images that’ve already caused a stir. If you’re dead set on pursuing this topic, consider this article on the subject.

Gears of War 2? It’s on par in overall excitement, with plenty of bloody spectacle and gleeful ways to annihilate your enemies. Neither are scary, yet are populated with nightmarish creatures that, in a proper horror setting, would have us reaching for the light switch. Multiplayer belongs to Gears though.

? It borrowed heavily from RE4, but not as much as RE5 – Dead Space was at least filled with a few cool new ideas that made it stand as its own game. Plus it’s a lot more forgiving with aiming and attacking, unlike a certain sequel we happen to be reviewing right now (you still can’t walk while holding a knife!). These two are very close, but we can agree that Space’s solo is stronger, while RE5’s co-op makes it just a bit better.

? We’re only putting this here because these two series used to be bitter rivalsand comparisons are bound to be made. But it’s just not applicable anymore, as Silent Hill embraces its clumsy horror background and strives to provide a genuinely unsettling, disturbing story, while, as we’ve mentioned to death, RE5 is more like Gears with a few switch puzzles.

Resident Evil 4 taught the industry so much, and in turn we expected RE5 to at least learn from what others have since added to those accomplishments. Instead, it jams the series full of gasoline-enriched testosterone, keeps outdated inventory and control ideas and refuses to admit the franchise is now more action-adventure than survival horror. Don’t let the negatives fool you though – it’s still one of the best balls-to-the-wall co-op excursions you can buy.

More info

UK censor rating"18+","18+","18+"
Franchise nameResident Evil
US censor rating"Mature","Mature","Mature"
Platform"PS3","Xbox 360","PC"
Alternative names"RE 5","Resident Evil V","Resi 5"
UK franchise nameResident Evil
DescriptionHas just enough changes, including the amazing online co-op, to keep this feeling new while drawing heavily on all the good in RE4. A Gold Edition that includes DLC content will be available in 2010.
Release date1 January 1970 (US), 1 January 1970 (UK)
Brett Elston

A fomer Executive Editor at GamesRadar, Brett also contributed content to many other Future gaming publications including Nintendo Power, PC Gamer and Official Xbox Magazine. Brett has worked at Capcom in several senior roles, is an experienced podcaster, and now works as a Senior Manager of Content Communications at PlayStation SIE.