It is here that stories begin to merge. Chris pairs with Sheva to find what is going on in Africa where he discovers that Jill, who we have not seen since Resident Evil 3, may still be alive. As they trek deeper into the mystery surrounding the parasite-infected citizens of the African town, Leon’s story from Resident Evil 4 begins to show its relevance – a new and more terrifying form of Las Plagas has emerged. And Wesker, seemingly stronger and more filled with vengeance than in Code Veronica, has a new destructive plan up his sleeve to recreate the world to his liking.
The first couple of acts had me dreading the game. The combat felt odd as if it were trying to mix the slow-paced survival and the upgrade system of Resident Evil 4 with the up-and-coming FPS games like Call of Duty. The story also felt strange – almost as if the plot was easing away from the layered conspiracy of the previous games and going for a more straightforward zombie survival. Once I started to get in the groove of things, certain aspects of this original feeling were verified and others were proven completely wrong.
To begin with the good, the story really did progress into something amazing (if a bit absurd; but hey, it’s Resident Evil). The trek into Africa feels, as I first said, normal. The parasites are proving to be a much faster-paced and aggressive variant which leads to some hints at the origin. Then everything begins to to expand. The discovery of the flowers in the ruins of an ancient city being the origin of the viruses that have been plaguing the world for the past few games. Walking into the secret labs only to discover Wesker’s plan all while Chris has flashbacks to what happened the day Jill disappeared at the Spencer Mansion. And the final events on the boat where Ouroboros is first unleased and the last battle in the volcano.
All of this proved that, despite the attempt at making Resident Evil more accessible from a gameplay perspective, they are still willing to keep pushing the story to these limits all while keeping that same campy dialogue and sometimes laugh-out-loud moments. The story really does take us into the mindset of an insane world with equally insane conspiracies that keep unravelling into answers that only ever lead to more questions.
While the story was great, the gameplay did not impress me as much as previous titles. I don’t think it was bad as it really did begin to grow on me after a few acts; the problem was, it felt like a slow paced style of combat that was asking you to act quickly and make decisions on a moments notice. These issues of pacing worked against each other completely and led to some frustrating moments especially with the larger hordes of strong enemies. The weapon upgrade system also did not work nearly as well as in the previous game. Whereas in Resident Evil 4 I could feel the weight and power of each new upgrade, this one left me wondering if they were ever doing anything at all. The lower amount of money also led me to only want to upgrade a few specific weapons that I started with so I could actually notice a difference. And there was never much incentive to use some of the later game weapons as they were far weaker than your upgraded varieties and there was not nearly enough money or treasure to bring them to that same level.
Finally, the item trading with Sheva was truly the worst part of the game. You could never exchange when you wanted and sometimes had to discard items to accept a trade in your newly opened inventory spot. However, occasionally it would let you just exchange which made it frustrating that the discarded item was now gone forever. The inability mix herbs on the ground with those already in your inventory also led to many wasted items. There were also a few times where Sheva would just give me back the item I had just given to her. A lot of this could have been avoided with a more intuitive and well-made inventory as in the previous games, but nonetheless, this one could have been kept as it is and still been improved in numerous ways.
Overall, Resident Evil 5 was one of the more polarizing games I have seen in the series yet. While I did find the story amazing (and it honestly was one of my favorites) the moments in between cutscenes and plot points were filled with frustration and a wish that I was back playing as Leon in an actual survival horror. The inventory system, the upgrades, and the combat itself all were probably some of my least favorites in Resident Evil, with possibly only Code Veronica taking a lower spot. I guess I cannot say they were truly bad though, and with a story that made me excited to continue playing and to discover new revelations (and that also seems like the starting point of a series-wide story convergence), Resident Evil 5 is still a game I am very happy I played through.
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