Resident... Pew-Pew?

Capcom continues the Resident Evil series' slide into action over horror with seriously mixed results in Resident Evil 5.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: March 12, 2009
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I love the Resident Evil series. I love it so much, I've actually tried to make sense of the whole convoluted, obviously hacked-together "storyline," and, perhaps more embarrassingly, actually like a lot of what it's tried to do. I happily consumed Wesker's Report, I've tracked the lineage of the T-Virus, the G-Virus and the Progenitor strain that started it all (and serves as Resident Evil 5's main story linchpin). I've studied up on the Spencers, the Ashfords, the Marcuses, learned of the genesis (and, ultimately, the exodus) of the Umbrella Corporation and the rise of replacement companies and their unholy scientific machinations that would serve as the foil for the actions of the latest game in the survival horror series.

If you aren't the kind of person who enjoys hurting themselves by subjecting their poor, tired brain to a meandering origin story, and a handful of new characters sometimes partially related to the old ones, then you're in luck: you don't need to play the previous games, nor their re-releases with extra content nor their re-re-releases with even more goodies -- it's all here for you to digest in one handy dandy timeline. In fact, as you play through the game's six chapters, you'll unlock lengthy files on the main characters to help make things as crystal clear as the series in its current form is likely to get, and there's always the game's exhaustive timeline. No, this is not a game without a considerable lack of effort to unite and ultimately consolidate the whole of the game's lore into one final, conclusive version of the "facts."

In truth, there's almost no area of Resident Evil 5 that doesn't share the series' trademark attention to detail, ridiculous amount of polish and sense that it's been tested and re-tested to ensure that it all comes together as it should; cutscenes feeding into Quick Time Events feeding back into the action and all of it pulled off with an incredible amount of flair. It's not unfair to call this the most cinematic and impressively shot Resident Evil of the entire series. The camera movements and angles during some absolutely epically choreographed fight scenes in the game actually out-class some of the stuff seen in Devil May Cry. They're that awesome.

Okay, so we've established that Resident Evil 5 has the potential to be the kind of AAA experience that one expects from a series with this kind of pedigree, right? It is arguably Capcom's biggest cash cow at this point, so it behooves them to actually do the series proud as it moves to the next generation of hardware, no? Perhaps, then, you'll understand my frustration with a game that's actually a step back in many ways from the insanely high watermark that was established with Resident Evil 4.

RE4 wasn't just a great continuation for the series; it almost single-handedly redefined everything about what an RE game was -- zombies were non-zombies now, the controls finally broke out of the basic tank movement and shifted to the now-standard over-the-shoulder perspective nearly every major action game has adopted since. The old, protracted back-and-forth of burning the painting to get the jewel to put in the lion's head to open the drawer to get the key to open the door leads to the next sequence of ridiculous daisy-chained tasks was largely dropped. Inventory management was largely mitigated and you could actually shop for upgrades or sell off unneeded items mid-mission.

Let me be clear before I start ragging on the game just in case the last few paragraphs didn't really hammer it home: I love this series, and was looking forward to what the follow-up to the best game of 2007 would have to offer as it moved to more powerful hardware -- especially after all the good that was done with RE4. But it's like Capcom looked at all the praise that game got and went "sweet, let's just ditch all this and focus on this stuff!"
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