Resident Evil 5 Review
Stiff controls and archaic gameplay design prove problematic but enjoyable in coop modes, amazing looking and great running game.
Posted by Ben Thomas (nutcrackr) on Oct 17, 2009 - 7:22pm EST (Oct 17, 2009 19:22)
As somebody who has never played any of the Resident Evil games I was anxious to finally try the game on the PC now that Capcom had put some real effort into a decent port. On one hand I’m pleased to report that this indeed is quite a good PC port, the graphics are outstanding and it runs superbly on mid range systems. There is mouse support and aside from some mouse sway it’s fairly easy to get headshots. However I feel that there are just too many flaws related to the basic game mechanics that I cannot ignore them even under such a polished exterior. Many of these relate directly to the design decisions that come into play heavily around the high action segments. Fans of the series will probably be perplexed at why these are a problem and indeed they may not be to some. However as a new gamer to the franchise I felt constantly at battle with the stiff controls rather than the zombies I should have been focusing on. I was cautious of the game restrictions rather than the world restrictions and this pain was barely alleviated once I had a good handle of the controls. In short I wasn’t scared of a zombie running towards me holding a chainsaw; I was terrified of reloading at the wrong time knowing my neck would be a victim because I couldn’t disengage that reload. These stiff controls / gameplay decisions are illogical choices in my mind that hamper greatly the rest of the amazingly well designed game. Many will argue that this game is a heavily strategic, slow paced third person shooter; I’ll argue that it’s simply flawed to make it harder. The good news is the game is basically designed around co-op play, so while I strongly recommend against single player those who venture online might enjoy it quite a bit.
The basic action elements during the story are pretty straightforward, the Majini are red-eyed zombie like humans who use weapons and their own teeth to try to kill you. Most of the time this just means going along a fairly linear path and meeting these zombies at set places along the way. Other times you will be presented with an open layout scattered with huts or rooms that will hold ammo and health goodies. A trigger will then cause a mad zombie rush and you must hold your ground or maybe defeat a bigger boss-like foe to progress. This happens a few times and it breaks the game objectives down pretty simply. Your job is to find ammo, because there is very little of it, and get some distance between you and the slow moving zombies.
In these open regions you’ll have a few choices to move around in different directions to position yourself. You’ll get in a position to attack then unload a few rounds; kill a few guys then run away to do it again. You might mix in a melee attack if the enemy is staggering. While the normal zombies don’t kill you instantly you will be damaged badly by a few hits and won’t really want to be cornered by half a dozen of them trying to bite your face off. The big guys amongst the action take a lot of damage and require quite a lot of resources. You can’t afford to focus all your attention on them though, the smaller guys can mess you around if they are left unattended. This running and shooting open gameplay element contrasts with the general progression where you come across a few zombies along a confined path. Many of these situations the spawn points are quite predictable and at times I felt tired of having to put up with another group of mindless red-eyed aggressors after a short entrance cut scene. Later in the game, you will be dealing with these semi-mindless Majini wielding assault rifles and rocket launchers. They have pretty good accuracy so you need to use cover a lot more and juggle Majini so they don’t unload rounds into you. The basic combat mechanics used throughout the game have some serious game mechanic problems however.
The problems I have with Resident Evil 5 are that I just cannot forgive many of the game mechanics, or design decisions for this game in single player. As a new player to the series I feel confused about why these archaic and frustrating mechanics might be used to enhance tension or make the game harder. One example is not being able to move while you shoot / aim, this has been used in a few games so it’s not something I’m greatly opposed too although I think being able to move a little bit would not drastically hurt any of the gameplay. The next problem is not being able to move while reloading; now this seems the first step too far. In many of the open areas you will be running around and will need to reload as you restock, but you need to stop and reload which makes you run away constantly from groups. Perhaps the final annoyance is the very fact that you cannot turn around when reloading. This does not seem to enhance tension, if you could turn and face your incoming attackers while reloading you have a visual timer, instead you just get attacked from behind. These controls also seem to make the game terribly static. None of these features offset the difficulty, the enemies are very slow and if you run and gain enough distance these features don’t usually get you killed. I’d rather be able to turn while reloading, move while reloading and move a little while shooting. To offset they could simply increase the speed of the Majini, then the frustration is solved and you are under a bigger time pressure.
There are other problems too, commanding your AI partner cannot be done while doing another task. You cannot buy ammo directly from the “store”, only through weapon capacity upgrades. The reason for this lack of purchasable ammo is pretty simple – the game revolves around the fact that you will have next to no ammo for the majority of the game. Some of the sections are more about ammo hunts than shooting galleries especially early on. The combat makes this game feel like a turn based third person shooter, that’s how slow and cumbersome it can be. The real reason for many of these mechanics becomes clear when you play coop with somebody in mercenaries or story mode. Since there is very large movement restriction you must cover your partner from attacks to the side or behind. It was quite common for me in the Mercenaries mode to be aiming around my partner while they did the same, looking toward each other. To top off these gameplay problems is the difficulty I had with the partner AI that stays with you the entirety of the game.