Resident Evil 5

June 9th, 2009

Man, what with the house move, and the baby, and the book promoting, I’m so behind on everything. I played this what feels like fifteen years ago, and only now am I organising my thoughts.

I was a big fan of the first Resident Evil when it was released on the Difference Engine in 1892, but the series did rather wane over the hundred years that followed. Resident Evil 4, however, was a brilliant, brilliant game. Mind-blowing in many ways, and had that rare feeling games sometimes have of everything working really nicely, all the rough edges being smoothed. Number 5, like a less gifted younger son living endlessly in the shadow of a far more famous brother, suffers by comparison. It’s still a very accomplished game but, for me, it just doesn’t push things on far enough to make its own mark.

It’s been generally spruced up, particularly (as one would expect), in the graphics. It looks great, especially the characters’ faces, which have a slightly uncanny sweaty sheen about them. But the overall content of shooting lots and lots of zombies is largely the same, and the ham-fisted control system is more or less identical, and less and less forgiveable as the years roll on and more fluid over-the-shoulder shooting games like, say, Uncharted, make it look ludicrously slow and laborious. Lots of time spent running from corner to corner of a game area so that you can have time to turn round and raise your gun to fire for a bit from a standing position, before lumbering off again.

The plots of Resident Evil games have long been a little on the silly side, but 4 at least ignored most of what went before and started afresh, making some kind of crazy sense viewed on its own. 5 tries too hard to cobble together and unite all kinds of ill-conceived bits of previous games and ends up a jumble, not helped by creaky script and voicing. There’s too much bibble-babble and not enough drama.

In some areas it seems to have taken rather baffling steps back. Resident Evil always left you with only just enough equipment to do the job, and ammunition preservation was elevated to an art form in number 4. Number 5 would seem to do the same, until you realise that, due to its strangely clumsy saving and checkpointing methods, you can play a stage on easy setting collecting ammunition, then simply carry it across to a stage on hard setting and blast away with impunity.

The most disappointing thing, though, is that it just isn’t very scary. Partly it’s that many of the sequences (attack by chainsaw-wielding, bag-headed freakoids, for example) we saw already in the last game. Partly it’s that where the game does innovate, it occasionally tends towards the silly (motorbike riding zombies, now? Are you sure?) Partly it’s that you always have your trusty partner alongside you, and they’re actually, perhaps for the first time ever in a computer game, reasonably effective and resilient, so you always feel someone’s got your back. And partly it’s that the hero, Chris Redfield, has evidently been working out. A LOT. He’s about the size of Lou Ferrigno if the man had, you know, taken the whole gym thing a bit more seriously. He looks as if he could crush a zombie between his eyebrows. It’s simply hard to believe that a small African country full of hideous mutants could put him down.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a highly enjoyable game once through – there are some great moments and blasting zombies’ heads off with a shotgun will never get entirely old – but it feels nothing like the leap forward for the series (never mind gaming in general) that its classic predecessor did, is oddly rough round the edges, and in its gameplay already feels a little dated. Resident Evil 4 was so good that a rerun is no bad thing, but you feel they’ll need to step things up a bit with the next outing.


Posted in games by Joe Abercrombie on June 9th, 2009. Tags:

18 comments so far

  • Jason H says:


    If you get the chance try 'Infamous' out.

    I admit I've been collecting comics for way to many years so I was always going to have a soft spot for this game. But it actually suprised me how much I enjoy it.


  • inFamous is sitting on my desk right now, waiting for a spare moment…

  • marky says:

    I've been playing infamous between reading BSC for the last couple of nights, and they are both superb.

    Res5 is good, but I'm enjoying infamous so much more.

    Oh, and half way through BSC, and it kicks ass in so many ways….But I'll leave that for the ass licking email I'll send after I finish it.

  • enjai says:

    I almost bought an Xbox360 just to play res5 but decided to wait as I don't have time for it. Res4 is still one of my favourite games (GTA is great too) and I still fondly remember the intense panic of pausing to reload when surrounded by zombies, only to remember it had real time loading. This usually led to me and my flatmates have a war-room meeting before unpausing the game.
    Maybe I'll quit my job and leave my girlfriend when the next Final Fantasy comes out and catch up on all the games i've missed…

  • Martin Keamy says:

    I thought RE4 had plenty of ammo, but I guess I'm just better than you.

  • marky,
    It does, indeed, kick ass.

    Absolutely. The job and the girlfriend are negative life choices.

    Of course you're better than me.

    Then you woke up and realised it had all been just a crazy dream…

  • enjai says:

    Martin: Plenty of ammo? 2 words. Survival mode. That should have come with a warning for people with weak hearts.

    Joe, it is a cruel catch-22 when I work so I can buy games only to find I don't have the time to play them.
    As for significant other, I did point out that my packing skills have sharply improved since completing Res4. There is also a two player mode on Res5, so I could try and sell it as "together time". Uniting against hordes of Zombies and saving the world can only strengthen a relationship (Unless one of us fails to shoot the "correct" zombie).

  • pcallaghan says:


    Your opinion on RE5 is spot on. Pretty good fun, especially in co-op mode. But very little in the way of tension or plot.

    My game of the year so far is Demons Souls on PS3. It's a an old school, hardcore, medieval hack and slash adventure game.

    Only available on chinese import at the moment (although text and voices are in English).

    You must check it out.

  • Susanne says:

    Oooh, please, play Infamous! I'd like to know what you think. Wired had a great piece on the sound design the other day:–beans–infamous-music/24993155001 Astonishing, I thought. Makes me want to buy it.

  • Charlie says:

    You have good taste in videogames. I agree almost entirely with what you said about RE:5. I just wanted to say, with all the controversy about the game being maybe racist, I had a laugh out loud moment where I was puttering along thinking, "This isn't so bad, I don't know what all the fuss was about."
    And then a tribal warrior "zombie" threw a spear at me while screaming in what sounded like the "language" they spoke in Ghosts of Mars. And I said, "OH."
    (If the Zulombies were screaming in an actual language, allow me to apologize in advance for my insensitivity)

  • Ah, is this the same "Infamous" where "..Cole can climb virtually anything, almost automatically – marquees, exposed girders, modern art – everything except chain link fences, something any normal person could climb."

    Still looks good though..

  • Yaseen says:

    Uncharted 2 is coming soon. Also named by a few gaming websites as best of E3 overall.

    How's that for praise?

    I am also gee'd for inFamous, gonna get that soon. Also Heavy Rain. and GT 5. and Agent (Rockstar north exclusive). and God of War 3 (this looks so amazing).

    Oh the joys of owning a ps3.

    And Dragon Age, and mass effect 2 (hopefully for pc), bioshock 2, assassin's creed 2, the list goes on.

    now i just need time and moneh. oh wait, neither are available. 🙁

    Also, can't wait till I can get Best Served Cold here in Aussieland.

  • Yaseen says:

    ^Holy moly I sound like such a fanboi…

    My apologies to all.

  • marky says:

    Just a quick heads up. Prototype is out today, and it looks pretty good.

  • nick says:

    First Law trilogy would make a good game. Screw Tom Clancy, Ninefingers would shove Fisher's head up his ass and punt him back to Nintendo.

  • marky says:

    First Law trilogy would make a good game. Screw Tom Clancy, Ninefingers would shove Fisher's head up his ass and punt him back to Nintendo.
    Ha! Quality post, Sir.

  • Ben says:

    Dead Space is all things that Rezzy 5 is not. It's mega spooky, has a good story that isn't an awful campy hodge-podge of random characters, and most importantly you can stomp bodies into pieces after you've killed them.

  • Volgin says:

    I like Resident Evil 1. THAT'S a scary game. Nr 4 is a great game, but it's not Resident Evil. It's a new game type using a good old franchise's name. D:

    It isn't even zombies you get to shoot, just hordes of Ganados. In Res1 every zombie was a dear old friend (except for those pesky runners, that is), and it almost hurt shooting them down. Only almost, since you never had the ammo to do it.
    For Res6 I want old Resident Evil back! :I

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