Resident Evil 5 has been gracing the shelves of retailers for almost exactly twelve months now. The re-release of the game, along with all of the currently available extra content is upon us and this “Gold Edition” has given us a chance to revisit the title.
The latest game in the Resident Evil series is by far the most action-oriented. A lot of the elements of survival horror seem to have been stripped back in favour of a more instantly gratifying experience. There are still some of the familiar survival horror staples though.
Ammo is in fairly short supply so there are often times when you have that fear of being left alone with an empty handgun and a corridor full of spade-wielding, red-eyed miscreants. The sound direction is strong, as is to be expected from this series, with scraping and shuffling noises to make you think twice before you turn a corner and sinister, grating music that is slightly unsettling. The little things to help increase the tension are still present but there is a bit more shooting around them.
The visuals are perhaps dating slightly now but the character models are still some of the best around and, despite the male protagonist’s over-muscled appearance, they are more human than most action shooters and more robust than most survival horror leads. There is plenty of variation in enemy models and the environments are strong with occasional glimpses of brilliance.
The gameplay revolves around a pair of protagonists (which can be played as co-op partners) who have been tasked with investigating biological weapons smuggling in West Africa. Things soon take a turn for the worse and then they get even further complicated via references to the original Resident Evil game. As a fan of the series this was joyous but to those who are having their first experience of Resident Evil they will initially fall flat, although that shouldn’t detract from the experience and things are briefly explained as the story progresses.
The movement of the main characters is the biggest concern here. Much has been said about the fact that you cannot aim your weapon and walk at the same time. Initially, this is somewhat strange to those of us who have been playing more than our fair share of third person action shooters and FPS games but within an hour or so the controls become natural and even add to the experience by providing extra tension when you’re becoming overwhelmed by enemies. An ability to blind-fire might have been nice but it may not have been wise given the fact that ammo-preservation is a big part of the Resident Evil gameplay.
Less easy to forgive are the fairly regular, albeit brief, obstructions caused by an A.I. controlled partner. Narrow staircases and gangways compound the issue but it never lasts for more than a second or two before you squeeze past or your partner takes the hint and moves.
The extra content available in this Gold Edition is a real treat. Initially only available to those who have an existing save from Resident Evil 5 (Chapter 3 or above to prevent storyline spoilers), part of the new content sees you playing through a level which re-enacts the former glories of the franchise. The two protagonists are travelling through a mansion which is extremely reminiscent of the Spencer Mansion first seen in Resident Evil and onto a section of underground prisons which are reminiscent of parts of Resident Evil 4. The tension is back, with creaking doors, lightning and blood smears all around the decaying environment. For fans of the franchise this is a stark reminder of just what we love about it.
The second playable element to the extra content is more action based and consists of three chapters of increasingly difficult waves of enemies to fight your way through. It is extremely difficult, even on a normal setting but it shows the other aspect of Resident Evil’s attraction well – the fear of running out of ammo. Supplies are very sparse and the tension is high.
With regular elements of exposition breaking up the often thrilling, occasionally suspenseful gameplay and some well implemented and rarely over-used quick time events to test your reflexes this is a varied and interesting package. It’s certainly not as tense or skittish as some of the previous games to bear the Resident Evil name but it plays well to the fully rounded fiction of the world and has a strong and motivating narrative which should be enough to keep you persevering through the cumbersome controls.
- Excellent sound design helps to build tension.
- Very good character models and likeable protagonists.
- Plenty of extra content for the bargain price.
- Controls are cumbersome for the uninitiated.
- A large proportion of what you pay for is last year’s game.
- Less “Survival Horror” and more “Action Thriller”.
The core gameplay of the Gold Edition is exactly the same as the original release almost a year ago but the added content in two reasonably sized playable sections and plenty of other filler like new costumes and figures for the extras menu makes this an enticing prospect. The fact that the retail price is set to be around a third lower than a new release should also pique the interest of those who missed this game the first time around or who fancy another bout of action-oriented horror with a bit more to get their teeth into.