Resident Evil 5 Xbox 360 review

We take a look at the Xbox 360 version of Capcom's Resident Evil 5...

Alongside Street Fighter, Resident Evil is one of Capcom’s longest running franchises, which isn’t really surprising given the masses of money the series has generated, leading to its inevitable (if shockingly bad) move to the silver screen. But, while Capcom has, for various reasons, decided to take Street Fighter back to its 2D roots with the latest instalment, Resi has continued to grow and evolve over time.

Leon S. Kennedy’s award-winning outing in Resi 4 is certainly the largest leap forward in evolution the series had ever made, seeing Capcom ditch George Romero-style zombies and fixed cameras for a far more fluid game that featured Las Plagas-infected villagers who moved fast and possessed much more intelligence. This move from shuffling zombies, which greatly limited the type of threat the player was under, to the faster, more deadly zombie-free enemy lineup, launched the game into the next generation, and allowed the developers to create a title that featured the same atmosphere as previous games, but added the kind of tension only an out and out action game can deliver, as players were often thrust into epic battles against multiple foes. Of course, RE‘s staple boss battles also returned, in even more titanic proportions than ever before.

With Resi 4 garnering so much praise, Capcom has set the bar very high indeed for Resident Evil 5, but luckily, rather than take the easy route and simply release another RE 4 in a different skin (which was arguably the case with the older RE games), some steps have been taken to ensure the latest gore-fest offers something new (as well as something borrowed, but maybe not blue).

Chief amongst these new additions to the mix is the much vaunted co-op play, allowing two players to tackle the new nightmare together, and at the same time, hopefully putting the terrible Resident Evil: Outbreak firmly in the shade. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Ad – content continues below

First, just what’s going on in the increasingly dangerous world of RE this time?

Keeping up the trend of the almost time-share-based approach to major characters in RE games, Resi 5 sees the return of Chris Redfield, not seen since his second-half substitution in RE: Code Veronica. Teaming up with newcomer Sheva Alomar, the duo’s adventure takes place in Africa, a very different setting than we’ve seen in a Resi before, even more so than the rural Spanish countryside setting that featured in RE4.

Now a member of the B.S.A.A. Special Forces (Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance), Chris is sent to meet up with Sheva, and the pair are then instructed to meet a local contact, from whom they will receive further directions about an illegal arms deal taking place in the area, as well as get their weapons and supplies. Observant gamers will no doubt notice the sneaky nod to Silent Hill during a cut scene prior to meeting the contact, as an air raid siren can be heard in the distance, presenting an unmistakable indication that things are about to go very wrong as the pair look around to see the previously bustling area now void of life.

True enough, no sooner have you’ve picked up your weapon and headed out into the now silent town, than you stumble upon your first infected foe. It quickly becomes apparent that these infected people, while similar, are certainly not the same Ganados that featured in Resi 4, and something different is at work here…

Just as RE4 didn’t take long to throw you into the action, this outing also takes great glee in dropping you firmly into the frying pan, and about 10-15 minutes into your mission, you’ll find yourself in a large scale, intense battle against what seems like the entire population of the town, plus a rather large foe with an axe as big as a small elephant. This initial ruckus serves to highlight what you can expect to see throughout the game, and RE5 clearly aims to beef up the action, even more so than RE4.

Indeed, when it comes to sheer tension and intensity, RE5 aims right for the jugular. Almost every fight is a strategic challenge, and while ammo is far more plentiful than in any other Resi game (even RE4, which had ammo in abundance), you’ll still find yourself trying to save every precious round or grenade. This means going for leg shots, causing foes to topple over, letting you finish them with your trusty knife, or using the environment to tackle foes, with such things as explosive barrels and electrical transformers spread around to help deal out death.

Ad – content continues below

To help even the odds we come to the aforementioned co-op. In single-player, the game’s AI will take control of your partner, and anyone who’s played RE: Outbreak will recognise some elements here, though, thankfully, not in the AI itself, which is far ahead of Outbreak‘s downright terrible efforts.

Here, your AI partner is actually pretty useful, and while they do have a habit of getting in your way from time to time, on the whole, you’ll be thankful they’re there. They help in combat (quite effectively too), free you if foes grab onto you, will run and find items, give you ammo if you need it, heal you and more. Of course, as this is Resident Evil, the AI also helps solve some rudimentary puzzles.

To make the most of your partner, you’ll need to ensure they have plenty of ammo and supplies, and you’ll need to instruct/let them grab their own gear as you progress. Hog all of the ammo, and your partner is going to be about as useful as a snow shoes in the Sahara. They’ll also have a life expectancy of a fruit fly, which is bad, because if your partner dies, it’s game over.

The co-op system also introduces a new inventory system, which has been taken directly from the Outbreak games. Each character has nine inventory slots in which they can hold items, including weapons, ammo and herbs. The usual RE actions can be performed here, such as examining and combining, and you can also move items between characters by giving or requesting them. The inventory runs in real-time too, so while you’re moving items around, or requesting ammo from Sheva, for example, foes will still (and will) be able to attack, so you need to make things quick. To help here, Capcom has built in a shortcut system, in which four items can be bound to the up, down, left and right d-pad buttons. This lets you quickly switch weapons on the fly, something RE4 didn’t allow. You can also use quick buttons to give items to your partner.

This system may seem restrictive at first, especially after RE4‘s luxurious system which allowed a plethora of items (which I miss a little, to be honest), but it all adds to the survival horror feel, and forces you to think tactically, deciding which weapons and items you’ll bring with you. For any surplus items, you’ve got a storage that can be accessed in between chapters, at which time you can also sell unwanted items and treasure, and buy and upgrade weapons. As with RE4 however, you cannot buy ammo, so finding supplies while in the field is law.

I can guarantee that many will not like the inventory system though, and in the midst of battle, fiddling around with your items, or trying to give your partner much-needed ammo may lead to plentiful deaths, and bouts of frustration will no doubt set in.

Ad – content continues below

Controls for all other actions are spot on though, and interacting with the world is straightforward, with a context sensitive use button and a partner button that comes into play when you need to interact with your buddy (opening heavy doors, boosting your friend to a high ledge etc).

There’s always a downside, though, and once again, you’re unable to move and fire at the same time. As soon as you draw a weapon or ready your knife, you become firmly rooted to the ground, wide open to attacks. This isn’t a major issue, and does form part of the challenge, but when games such as the recent Dead Space let you move freely, with or without weapons drawn, you have to wonder why Capcom is so pig-headed when it comes to freedom of movement.

Graphically, RE5 is stunning stuff, and it’s certainly one of the finest looking games to grace the 360. The attention to detail and animation are spotless, especially the enemy humans, who stumble, shuffle, run and lunge at you with frightening realism. And, when you see some of the larger, more elaborate creatures, you’re in for a treat, if one that’s covered in gore.

The game’s story isn’t as lengthy as RE4, so some may find that they can complete it in a relatively short time. To offset this, there are some extras to be had, including the return of RE4‘s Mercenaries mode, which throws you into a Smash-TV style battle against an endless wave of foes. There’s also unlockable documents that cover more of the back story, new costumes for the characters, and the usual secret weapons Capcom likes to shove in as a reward. These features, and the obvious replay value afforded by the co-op mode makes RE5 a game you’ll revisit, if only to improve upon your earlier efforts in order to gain better ratings for each chapter.

I admit, I’m a big Resident Evil fan, and I’ve been looking forward to RE5 for a long time. But, with expectations so high, I was prepared to be disappointed. In particular, I was ready to be let down by the AI, surely the game’s biggest new feature.

This an area that many developers, not just Capcom, have struggled with before. So, I was shocked to see that Capcom had managed pulled its ambitious plans off, with an AI partner that functions as a help and not a hindrance.

Ad – content continues below

That said, as good as the AI is, the real fun comes with a human partner, either on the same console locally, or via Xbox Live. With two people playing through the story, the game really opens up, and the tactics you can use, and teamwork that can be employed elevates this outing of RE to a whole new level – the goal I strongly suspect Capcom had with Outbreak, but were unable to deliver.

Behind the stunning visuals, clever AI and tense combat, RE5 is more of the same, there’s no denying that, and nothing revolutionary is brought to the table to elevate it above RE4. In fact, of the two, RE4 probably still has the edge overall, but RE5 is an excellent game that’s an essential purchase for Resi fans, and a game that I’d strongly recommend to anyone else.


4 out of 5