REVIEWS -- Resident Evil 5 -- PC
RE5 is a masterful PC port
by Lazare Gvimradze
Fun factor: Fun
Worth to: Buy
Polishing the RE4 formula to perfection, Capcom graces PC users with a quality port of 2008’s most anticipated Third-Person Shooter.
There were many thoughts and opinions regarding Resident Evil 4, introduced back in 2005, and all those new gameplay mechanics that came with it. Some thought that the sloppy controls and deliberate action were a betrayal to the series, while most others stated that the series have just got their best soldier. Regardless, one thing was absolutely clear: the popular franchise had gone through a major evolution, with no other option but to continue twisting the line and improve upon the successful adventures of Leon S. Kennedy. Understandably, Capcom gave the series a sharp turn in regards of setting and storytelling, but stuck with everything else that was good in RE4.
A coming of age story of zombie ass-kicking
Resident Evil 5 takes place roughly ten years after the devastating incident at Raccoon City. One of the series’ main protagonists, Chris Redfield, has been re-assigned to an elite military force, B.S.A.A, tasked with neutralizing the remains of Umbrella Corporation in order to minimize the risk of their infectious viruses going lose. The bio-terrorists, understanding the odds, are continuing their illegal activities in low-profile, choosing remote countries as their test field. However, B.S.A.A almost always eventually sniffs them out, and things get nasty. Sometimes, overly so.
A similar case occurred in Kijuju, Africa, where Chris was sent to sort the mess. After teaming up with a local B.S.A.A agent, Sheva Alomar, he soon discovers that the scale of Umbrella’s deeds have gone off the charts there, as practically all citizens turn out infected with a parasite transforming them into mindless savages, much like the villagers in the previous game. As the two fight for survival in the hopeless situation, the truth slowly unfolds revealing a deeper conspiracy leading to Albert Wesker himself.
Apart from returning an iconic character, the series seems to have gotten another one altogether. Sheva gets an impressively worked-through personality, never once showing that she’s some hollow, emotionless stone. The battle-hardened Redfield, on the other hand, is a complete and utter badass by now, not surprised by anything Wesker throws at him, though not completely cold-blooded, either. Emotionally tense moments arise eventually, and the story masterfully twists into something crazier, mostly without us even realizing.
A leaner, meaner RE4
Capcom has definitely put a confident tick beside the first task in the list of “What-to-do in Resident Evil 5“ -- a story rich with characters, intrigue, and an actual continuity to the series. Fans in particular will be pleased with the careful handling of their favorite universe.
However, the main question mark most definitely hovered over the gameplay aspect of the game. While critically acclaimed, the mechanics in Resident Evil 4 received quite the negative feedback from the casual public, and people demanded if not another major recreating, then a comeback of the nostalgic Resident Evil at the very least. Nope, said Capcom, and they were right. The Resident Evil 4 move was an experiment -- a deadly risk practically -- but the objectivity was merciful, giving room to expand. RE5 is, for many, RE4 with all screws tight in their places.
The rough navigation and aiming is back. The movement, as well as camera controls, move and rotate Chris. Specific buttons toggle run and aim mode, and there’s still no possibility to make a single step in the latter. However, minor changes like a proper strafing system and more practical and organic inventory erase the similarities between RE4. And then there’s Sheva, of course, continuing a recently-planted tradition of AI teammates who do not irritate and are actually USEFUL, and while you are free to test the theory, a handy Online Co-op will do better, putting your friend behind Sheva’s controls and guaranteeing for one hell of an experience.
Because being cooperative is the only way to survive in the harsh world of RE5. This time around, tiny farmhouses and narrow pathways are replaced with spacious villages in broad daylight, creating an incredibly gripping atmosphere. The foes inhabiting these lands possess nothing like a proper brain, and soon after beginning to play you’ll be grateful for that.
The basic scenario is as follows: Chris and Sheva are confronted with an objective, a door probably, located behind a maze of houses, tunnels, streets, and all kinds of diverse environment. Mindless zombies (lets agree on the term) pour out from everywhere, and while you can old-school barricade yourself in one house or another, the low ammo will force you to do lots of running instead, breaking barrels for precious bullets, turning around to bring the rain on the band of pursuers, and continue the fight. The new inventory system gives Chris and Sheva nine slots each, with the possibilities to swap weapons, ammo, and health sprays, but opening the backpack doesn’t pause the game, thus making the incredibly dynamic gameplay even more tensing.
Understanding that surviving in this new, open environment with those old mechanics would be a major pain in the side, Capcom gave us Sheva. Whether AI or controlled by a friend, the partner is almost equally just as valuable. Now, you always need to keep an eye on both health bars, carefully manage and distribute inventory items, constantly split up with one character giving cover fire to another, and so on. After the devastating fail of AI partners in Resident Evil 4, fans will be in for a real treat here.
We are, traditionally, graced with more than a few interactive cutscenes based on Quick-Time events, and there are several vehicular on-rail segments and countless inventive boss battles. The latter come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from simple citizens armed with something special (yes, the chainsaws as well) to bulging biomasses impervious to bullets. Another new feature is, in fact, the lack of any kind of merchant or dealer who used to stalk Leon. Instead, we just buy what we need prior to another level (a dozen different weapons to choose from, upgradable), and hit the road. Every element in RE5 is simplified and perfected, not exactly making it as bad as it sounds. There still are, for example, loads of fan-oriented unlockables.
Labored diversity at its finest
For me, the main mystery always remained in the pacing. While being sloppy in practically everything, once mixed up, Resident Evil 5 gives one of the fiercest and fastest action you’ll ever stumble upon, where esthetics and gameplay situations come in lighting-fast speeds, one after another. Just five minutes ago you were running from a maniac with a giant axe, and now you’re carefully navigating underground tunnels before being attacked by mutated dogs. Intelligently speaking, RE5 uses diversity as the new main element. Not a bad move at all.
Talking of bad moves, no worries, none are present in the audio/visual side of the game. Firstly and most importantly, Capcom capture the feeling and immersion of Africa’s deserted lands, and the warm, but deadly color gamma. Reinforcing the atmosphere come the incredibly detailed and sharp graphics, filling the villages with all those crucial minor details, producing polygon-heavy models and... animations, that needs its own separate paragraph.
They are mindblowing. All the slow, careful movements are in sharp contrast with the fierce combat and punches/kicks, amplified by incredible camera work. There are a dozen different moves present, and every gesture, even reloading, seems to drip with style and labor put in it. The facial expressions are on a whole new level for the franchise, shadowing most other titles present on the shelves by now, genuinely interpreting the palette of emotions Chris and Sheva would feel in a remote village filled with zombies.
A separate word must be said regarding the Capcom-traditional amazing cutscenes, where perfect animation, production work, and acting combine as a cinematic whole. The QTE-cuts are simply fierce and dynamic, while most others correctly portray the partner-to-partner relationship and all kinds of emotionally tense sequences.
A great port with masterful optimization
Nothing wrong with the sound, either. Every recorded bit seems, and FEELS real, even the sound made by just walking, with all the equipment dangling and soft sand crunching beneath boots. The background ambience, like wind, fauna and random zombie shrieks are just as organic and terrifying. Voicework is standard, distinguishing itself from time to time, with the main heroes being the entire pushing force of the acting. The setting-inspired score is calm, even meditative at seldom times of peace, and almost manages to calm the tingled nerves. Melodic and sharp beats erupt during the action, building up with every new wave of enemies and sometimes acting as a warning against sudden attacks.
There are notable differences with the porting quality, as well. RE4 was, originally, released for Nintendo Gamecube, ported to PS2, and only then glancing towards the PC, where it arrived at a terrible state, with poor optimization and, as some said, bad controls. However, in my personal opinion, the main suspenseful elements of games like Resident Evil are always the harshly limiting controls. And while fans wanted the Keyboard/Mouse support, the aiming definitely was more true to a gamepad with the complete navigation done by keyboard alone. Resident Evil 5 has mouse support, which really eases the gameplay and gives an unfair edge against the difficulty setting, and still the complains continue. It’s truly beyond my comprehension how mechanics this unique can be better ported.
Other than that, plainly speaking, the port is great. Masterful optimization, giving me a steady 40 FPS on medium-high settings -- a real feat for a 8600GT. Also present are the aforementioned full M/KB/Controller support, and you can even enable nVidia 3D Vision if you have the right display model and those goggles. It is a real gift for benchmarkers and high-end gamers, coming with enough additional goodies to compensate the fact that the game arrived a year late on PCs.
It has been a rough time for Resident Evil fans since 2005, with the unsuccessful movies and mediocre spin-offs helping little. Obviously, more than one reason was present for an enormous hype to be built around RE5, a game absolutely worth all that attention. A definite buy for any TPS/Survival Horror fan, this miraculous piece of software comes with a tense, immersive gameplay, outstanding presentation and masterful porting quality. It’s a shame that the generally unique gameplay will turn away the less hardcore audience.
Release Date: September 18, 2009
Review Date: 04-10-2009
Numbers of Players: 1
Players Online: 2
Rich artistic style and sharp visuals offer the best of MT Framework 2 engine, rounding things up with perfect optimization.
creating a symbiosis of sloppy movement and fierce action, Capcom shows us that RE4’s mechanics still have life in them.
An intensely fan-based storyline may leave newcomers puzzled, but will still continue the series with the correct chronology.
Great acting and music are crowned by out-of-this-world background soundwork and lots of secondary recordings.
Mixed gameplay will most definitely get mixed opinions - but RE5 is still your best bet for a quality TPS, let alone that it continues a legendary saga.