Sheva’s value lies in the fact that she’s available to play as a second hero in online and offline co-op modes. This isn’t just a feature tick box thing. Capcom has found some ingenious ways to make RE work as a co-op title, using broken ladders and lever puzzles to separate you, and forcing you to cover, guard and heal each other in ways that make Army of Two’s efforts to do the same seem dull and unimaginative. Even playing single-player, I’m struck by how much thought has gone into this, and if you have a friend with the same console or you have a screen big enough to share, then RE5 can be considered pretty much essential.
What’s more, RE5 shows that Capcom hasn’t lost its way with the great art of the set-piece – a fear that will have been shared by anyone who played the mediocre Lost Planet. RE5’s best bits are very, very good indeed, mixing up different strains of Majini to keep you on your toes, then blindsiding you with a surprise assault or some big brute that you never expected. It might not be all that innovative, but RE5 is never boring. It’s the sort of game that’s very hard to stop playing, because you just have to see what’s coming next.
Finally, RE5 is a fine example of how good Capcom is at handling artistic style and mood. Visually it’s hugely impressive, perhaps not on the same technical level as, say, Killzone 2 or Gears of War 2, but using lighting and post-processing effects in a range of subtle ways that make the game and its characters look totally convincing, even when the plot and characterisation is – in typical RE style – utterly hatstand.
The character art and modelling is particularly stunning, whether we’re talking about Sheva’s gorgeous, endlessly watchable curves or the hideous, pulsating organs of some vile, unnatural beast. Chris might be another gun-toting beefcake, but he’s an awful lot more solid and believable than your usual Marcus Fenix clone. And while the storyline is faintly ridiculous, making a heroic but doomed attempt to tie the events of RE1 to 3 in with the events of RE4, there’s still something horribly compelling about it. As our hero’s journey pushes on to the inevitable, overblown conclusion, it’s hard not to get caught up.
Is Resident Evil 5 a classic? No, and that’s why we’re holding off on the awards and dialling down the hyperbole a jot. Yet I can’t help feeling that it’s a brilliant game, and one that any fan of the series will want to see through to the end. I wouldn’t rank it up there with the high points of RE2 and RE4, but I’d certainly put it above RE3 or RE Zero. There’s no doubt that EA’s Dead Space was a scarier and more imaginative game, but I couldn’t say that RE5 is any less enthralling. Let’s hope that Capcom will shake things up next time and fix the series’ remaining antiquated features, but there’s no reason to get too angry or too downbeat about this episode: RE5 is still very good as it is.
Resident Evil 5 plays it safe and a little too close to RE4’s established formula and slightly dated play mechanics, but Capcom’s assured handling of atmosphere, style and action makes it an experience that’s just too good to miss.