Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Beaten : Resident Evil 5

The old phrase about a book being so good you can't put it down certainly applies to Resident Evil 5, Capcom's latest entry into the legendary game series. A brand new Resident Evil game (not counting remakes, spin-offs, and rail/light gun shooters mind you) is a once-in-a-generation videogame event, and this generations's Resident Evil continues the high standard set by its predecessors.

The gameplay is the same as Resident Evil 4 (Gamecube, PS2, and later Wii), with the over-the-shoulder view of the zombified mayhem coming at the player. What's new is the pairing of returning character Chris Redfield with a new partner, Sheva Alomar, who is the new hotness (sorry, Lara Croft), and is with you throughout the game. She's also a playable character that you unlock after beating the game, and available in both local and online co-op modes, which I've yet to try.

Sheva backs you up, and you control the inventory of both characters. When low on health, she'll come to your rescue, and she'll help with the item gathering (ammo, gold, etc, found in crates and such). Sometimes she'll need rescued, too, and there are lots of puzzles (mostly doors) that require both of you to activate in some fashion. Her AI is pretty good, although certainly not perfect, but not blatantly stupid either.

Resident Evil 5 lags behind the current console generations's big hits in some gameplay areas, like the whole move-and-shoot thing. Yes, you still have to stop to shoot, and if you need to turn around, you do it slowly. They've added a cover mechanism, too, where your player will pin against a wall for protection, but there's no moving left and right once you're doing it. You have to exit cover, move along the wall to the left or right, and re-establish cover.

A funny thing happened to me on the way to cover while playing this game. I had just picked up a rotten egg left behind by a fallen foe, and the option presented itself to eat the egg (press X) or give it to Sheva (press B). I was close to a wall at the time and wanted cover, but instead I ate the egg, and puked. You'd think a modern game would know to prioritize seeking cover in a firefight over eating a rotten egg.

The inventory is kind of clunky, too, but at least four items can be quick-selected using the D-pad. Getting to the other things in your inventory in the heat of battle can be an intractable mess, though, so you'll have to learn to do this cautiously at best, desperately at worst. Saving is done automatically at certain checkpoints, and was never an inconvenience, although I miss the typewriters found in previous games.

The thing is that Resident Evil 5 is so good, and rides in on such a long history of gamer good will and nostalgia, that these gameplay anachronisms can be easily forgiven. The graphics are certainly state-of-the-art, the weapons (and the system of weapon uprgading) are a joy, and the story is decent, too.

The cinematics are so enjoyable that I was contantly unprepared for the "quicktime" events, where players suddenly have to press X to dodge and the like, but didn't mind. I normally loathe games with quicktime events, but this game gets them right and again, it's all good.

Beating the game was quite a challenge for this middle-aged gamer, but I'm betting that those young whippersnappers who comprise the majority of the gaming public might find it to be a short game. I started playing on Friday morning, played a little more Saturday morning, played a lot on Sunday and Monday, and finally finished it off on Tuesday morning before work, just in time to head off some serious pauking from the usual suspect.

It was a helluva ride, though, and a very satisfying conclusion that was years in the making. Beating the game unlocks all sorts of stuff, including Mercenaries mode. There are all sorts of things to spend your accumulated points on, like alternate costumes, figurines, and making your weapons have infinite ammo. There's a great library that's also unlocked with huge entries detailing the history of the game world and its characters.

Resident Evil 5 is just plain fun for players who are willing to overlook some design anachronisms and clunkiness, and offers lots of replay value, too, making the total package well worth the price.

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