Ten years ago, Capcom took one of their most popular franchises in a different, short-lived direction. Resident Evil 4 may have been a little more action-oriented than its survival horror predecessors and gave the publisher the idea, but Resident Evil 5 is the one that threw almost all of the series’ creepiness out the window in lieu of a co-op action romp. Even though it wasn’t scary, I loved my initial playthrough of Resident Evil 5, along with my brother (although we were never able to beat the very final boss), and it was one of my favorite cooperative experiences in gaming. Now, one decade and console generation later, I decided to see if Resident Evil 5 is as great as I remember. For the most part, it is.
Special thanks: I vividly remember that the partner AI in Resident Evil 5 was pretty terrible back in the day, so I asked a friend of mine who’s a huge fan of the series (seriously, he got every single trophy in Resident Evil 7 in less than a week) to join me this time. Unsurprisingly, we beat the game fairly quickly. Shout out to Khiry for helping me get through Resident Evil 5 in time to celebrate its tenth anniversary!
Resident Evil 5 follows one of the series’ most popular protagonists, Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance agent Chris Redfield on a mission to stop a deadly bio-weapon from falling into the hands of terrorists and find out what happened to his partner, Jill Valentine. Accompanying Chris is a new partner, Sheva Alomar, another BSAA agent who for some reason hasn’t been in any other RE game.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much more to the game’s narrative. Aside from a of couple surprises and returning characters, Resident Evil 5’s plot is mostly forgettable. There’s a bit of exposition to be found on scraps of paper and other kinds of notes strewn about the game, but I read barely any of them because A) I was playing with a friend who I didn’t want to keep waiting over and over, and B) I honestly didn’t care enough to learn about the game’s lore.
However, the gameplay more than makes up for it. The tank controls (which have certainly aged, but not too badly) prohibit moving while aiming or shooting, creating palpable anxiety in most of the campaign’s battle sections. Managing that delicate balance of moving just far enough away to shoot at/kill something before it can grab you while coordinating with your partner who’s doing the same never gets dull. None of the monsters in Resident Evil 5 are truly terrifying, but fighting against them can get pretty intense thanks to the old-school control scheme and classic RE item/ammo conservation… Until the last few levels, where I had over 80 shotgun shells at any given moment.
Even better than the more traditional encounters in Resident Evil 5 are its boss battles. From an axe-wielding humanoid executioner that’s only slightly larger than the comically jacked Chris to a B.O.W (Bio-Organic Weapon, I think?) the size of a building, almost every boss in the game is a terrific blend of fun and challenging, and most require a unique strategy to defeat. My personal favorite is one where we hid until the boss went away because he had a schedule to keep. Resident Evil is one of the only franchises I know that can pull stuff like that and still be taken seriously when it wants to.
The game’s out-of-battle puzzles are a little lacking though. Maybe I’m just too spoiled by the crazy ones in newer entries like Resident Evil 7, or nostalgic for the classic ones I was reminded of while playing the Resident Evil 2 remake, but the puzzles in Resident Evil 5 felt more like chores or padding than anything else. I imagine my opinion was affected by running through the game with someone who solved them multiple times before, so there’s that too.
With all said and done, Resident Evil 5 is still a strong, easily enjoyable co-op experience. It’s not the survival horror gem that Resident Evil fans were probably hoping for at the time, but it was and still is, even all this time later, a damn fine action game that emphasizes teamwork and communication without working your brain too hard most of the time.
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