Oh, Resident Evil 5. I remember lining up at midnight, intensely excited to get you. There was a crowd of fans, one dressed in impressive zombie make-up, and all of us gathered to watch an animated Resident Evil movie to get pumped up; the hype was joyous!
We went home, popped in Resident Evil 5, breath baited and…were immensely confused. It looked nice, it started out with an odd sort of tension, but coming down after Resident Evil 4, my partner and I had no idea how to feel about the new addition to the horror legacy.
The game featured some pretty nice visuals in certain areas. It tried to call back to the bleak, muted colours of its predecessor, but this only served to work against some of the more realistic textures and areas. Getting up close and personal with a few of the zombie villagers broke, not only any anxiety we had, but any semblance of illusion of being in the world. Those were lesser offenses that got lost in the action, which is pretty much RE5 in a nutshell; pure action. The beginning to Resident Evil 4 absolutely trumped Resident Evil 5 because it was paced much better. The first ten minutes of Resident Evil 4 built up a sense of mystery and dread, culminating in an adrenaline-fuelled stand-off with the inhabitants of a small village. The first ten minutes of Resident Evil 5 hits similar story beats, sort of, except the climax features a giant man swinging a Pyramid Head style cleaver through a wall.
Yeah, I can’t believe it either, buddy.
Sure, a guy wearing a potato sack on his head and swinging a chainsaw in a Medieval styled village is silly. Yet, there was no partner to save your sorry ass in RE4 and chainsaw-man could be a one hit kill if your health was low enough. He was at least more believable than the Silent Hill reject. And therein lies the first big issue; Resident Evil 5 takes no time to let the tension build and dives right into action-packed, ridiculous shenanigans. I personally remember feeling more bewildered and frustrated than scared.
That isn’t to say that it doesn’t have its moments. I call eternal bullshit on the massive, albino crocodile dodging mini-game and the few fights with Uroburos’ wriggling mass of gross were pretty nerve-wracking, but they are giggle-worthy in comparison to a battle with a Regenerator. There are some callback monsters to earlier games – we still have chainsaw men running at us, lickers hugging the walls and an angry El Gigante fight. Those are nice but they’re somewhat overshadowed by raw confusion. Even Wesker’s “seven minutes” bit doesn’t feel as awesome as it should.
Recounting the issues so far, we have poor tension, laughable pacing, odd atmosphere and some janky textures and art. We haven’t even gotten to the story, have we?
Speaking of which, did Resident Evil 5 even have a story? Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar partner up in Africa to track down more dastardly Umbrella activity. Throw in some heavy Chris angst over the implied death of Jill Valentine via Albert Wesker, an Italian bombshell prodigy named Excella (erm…) and you have…something? The setup is standard Resident Evil. The Umbrella Corporation is doing its thing, good guys have to fight through zombies to stop the thing, stuff happens, profit! The main issue with the story presented is that, while the setup is decent, the execution is absolutely muddled by the game not knowing what it wants to be. Action? Lots of shooting, battles and adrenaline-fueled boss fights! Horror? An attempt at claustrophobic hallways and helplessness that fails in most areas. In between all of that is this Indiana Jones meets zombies meets a story of betrayal and chemical warfare and mopey angst and maybe love. It’s a bloody mess.
Resident Evil 4 excused itself for its ludicroussettings, such as a castle, underground caves and even a high-military facility. In Resident Evil 5, however, it feels exceptionally odd to move between a small village, militant facilities, a weird cluster of African tribes out in a bog and an underground temple. Reaching the temple was the point when my suspension of disbelief checked out. The first portions of the game make some sort of sense, but that temple just comes right out of nowhere. It feels like they needed an excuse to shove more puzzles in somewhere because the game almost forgot it was Resident Evil.
Chris’ story arc is pure mopey-dopey town, featuring his inability to accept a new partner after Jill. Good setup, but it seemed especially shallow given how things unfold. His blind fury to reach Wesker is believable, sure, but Sheva is happy to tag along. Sheva’s story arc is, I suppose, proving herself? For someone who can take down zombies with a godamned bow, it doesn’t seem necessary nor does it make sense considering that Chris shows up with a new partner in Resident Evil 6.
We’re, like, tortured, or whatever.
Now, here’s the thing that stuck in my craw the most. This is a personal complaint but it is one that still irritates me: the final showdown with Albert Wesker is how this game ends. Albert Wesker, the villain built up in all the preceding games, the big bad guy pulling strings, destroying innocents, turning his maybe lover into a mass of black goo and generally being a massive douche. How does this grand climax play out? Volcano fight of course!
Any of you remember the part before that when it was just you and your partner going head-to-head with him while he caught rockets and mercilessly kicked your asses? Yeah, me too. That portion of the battle was pretty fun and I’d hoped it’d build into something even more exciting; a grand battle worthy of the build-up. I got boulder punching. For me, that left a bad taste in my mouth and made the journey of getting there feel even more pointless.
Do I hate this game? Do I think it’s a bad game? No, not really. The action is pretty fun throughout and the manner in which you work with your partner was an interesting, if not flawed, dynamic. Resident Evil 5 looked fairly nice and it certainly came out swinging its weight as an action game.
Rest in peace, you horrible ex-human being
Even still, when I think back to the Resident Evil legacy, this is the game that I barely remember. The characters brought nothing, the story was messy and poorly paced, the horror aspect was essentially non-existent and everything just felt rushed and lazy. It’s fun to play with a friend and its decent enough as a casual romp in African zombieland. After replaying it, I still came away with all of the same feelings I had first time round. Resident Evil 4 still absolutely destroys it in almost every aspect, which really is a shame. With all of that build-up, all of the effort to set the bar exceptionally high, Resident Evil 5 is a sad, desolate end of the legacy of Albert Wesker.
Join me next time when I’ll be sharing my thoughts after replaying the often derided, Resident Evil 6.