Remade and Reanimated
Game: Resident Evil 5 (Remastered)
Reviewed on: PS4 (Review code provided)
Resident Evil is very much the grandfather of horror games, not only because it’s the longest running franchise but also because its stories start off fairly believably and wildly veer into the realms of nonsense about halfway through. Yes, without going into too many spoilers, this is another instalment that begins as ‘edgy survival horror’ and ends as ‘1980s Michael Bay directing an explosion in an explosion factory’. Resident Evil as a series has always had something of a problem with tone; never sure whether it wants to plant itself in gritty realism or Hollywood silliness.
Even at this point, so far along in the canon, the relevant authorities in the Resident Evil universe are yet to introduce any proper legislation or procedures for dealing with zombie outbreaks even though it’s happened FIVE TIMES SO FAR. Luckily, they have Chris Redfield and his inflated-wrestler physique to pop out to Africa and clean up the latest undead mess. That’s Chris Redfield, STARS operative and veteran combat expert who still hasn’t managed to master shooting while walking. Mate, we’ve all been paintballing. It’s not that hard. Anyway, he’s joined by fetching bullet-magnet Sheva, someone who treats the discovery of a walking dead outbreak in her country with the same indifference you might show when you find your milk has gone off.
Of course, the worst thing about Resident Evil 5 is that no one officially ever referred to it as Re5i. There are other, perhaps more pressing, issues too. If you play the game solo, with your partner controlled by the game’s AI, things are a lot harder. Sheva is seemingly not a huge fan of being alive or having all of her limbs, and continually gets herself killed whether you like it or not. This leaves you feeling something like an overly-muscular babysitter, a bit like Hulk Hogan in Mr Nanny, but less heartwarming.
This sadly isn’t the only issue with the AI. One of the most frequent, and baffling problems I had with my CPU-controlled partner was her insistence on standing behind me and trying to shoot through me while aiming at enemies. There’s no friendly fire, so this doesn’t affect your health, but it does mean she’s constantly wasting ammunition, a rare and valuable commodity in any self-respecting survival horror game.
This means the co-op mode becomes fairly integral to getting the most out of the game, and it is indeed the defining thing most people refer to when reminiscing on this part of the series. Thankfully, if you don’t have any friends then you’re offered the chance to get matched up with another human person online to battle through the campaign with. This is one of the game’s great strengths; teaming up to shoot zombies in the head is much more fun, and frankly easier, than doing it on your own with just some bumbling AI for company.
The game does also insist on throwing quick time events at you, perhaps one of the worst gaming innovations of recent times. This is probably a matter of taste, but I resent not being able to relax and watch a cut scene without fearing I might be called on to hammer R2 at some random interval.
Despite all this, this is a game worth the fairly reasonable price tag it’s being reissued with (around £15). Re5i was often seen as the slightly inferior twin of the lauded fourth in the series; imaginatively titled Resident Evil 4. Indeed, it even seems to ape it directly at points, substituting 4’s fantastic early-game siege in a house for an… early-on siege in a house. It does, however, do a much better job of having a unique look than it’s predecessor, doing the whole ‘zombies, but in DAYLIGHT’ thing long before Dead Island; it’s something of a novelty to be shooting walkers and getting a tan at the same time. Sheva, death-wish aside, is a great character, cool and interesting; something essential when you’re basing a story around Chris ‘My Personality Is My Biceps’ Redfield, a man who was presumably at the gym when they were handing out character traits like humour, wit or insight. Sort of like, y’know, most people at a gym.
The best thing about Re5i is that they retained the superbly hammy voice actor who says ‘RESI-dent EV-il!’ on the title screen like he’s turned up for a karaoke cover of Thriller but got drunk on the way. Also, in addition to this; it’s a series that has survived so long for a reason. Bloated Resident Evil 6 aside, it’s been a remarkably consistent presence on consoles, surviving longer than most of it’s bullet-laden brethren thanks to not being too scary to put off the action game crowd, and really being more of a decent all-round shooter than a horror trip. The puzzles are never challenging, more just a change of pace from all the blasting. There is nevertheless a decent sense of creepiness and unease through Re5i that Capcom have nailed throughout the series, but it’s never outright terrifying. Environments look queasy and grimy, the bright waterside setting doing nothing to detract from the atmosphere.
However, switching items is still pretty rubbish, unfortunately. Several times in a panic I found myself armed with a First Aid Spray in the middle of a boss battle when I was trying to select a grenade. There is a quick-switch feature, but you can only add four items to this. If you’re searching for anything else in your inventory, you’ll need to stop and make yourself temporary zombie fodder while you dig out whatever you need.
Essentially, this is Resident Evil 5 on the PS4. That’s more or less the whole review, to be honest, but I doubt I’d get many more games through from the gods of NGB if I just wrote that. Graphically, though, there’s been quite a nice step up. It may not look like a PS4 game, but the definition and frame-rate are polished and far tidier than its former incarnation. There’s also, however, flaws from the original that it would have been nice to see fixed, such as the way it feels like you’re gliding rather than walking, or Sheva’s insistence on trying to shoot through Chris constantly.
Whether this is the game for you or not will therefore probably depend on your previous experience, or lack thereof, of Re5i. If you loved it the first time around and cant be bothered to plug your PS3 back in then, hey, this is for you. Similarly, if you never bothered with Chris and Sheva’s African excursion the first time around but want to catch up before the seventh instalment appears early next year then this is a perfectly playable port, entirely faithful to the original, sometimes to its own detriment.
The Resident Evil franchise is surprisingly big. Aside from the 6 (and nearly 7) core titles, the number of remakes, side projects and additional games is pretty expansive. This is the latest to get the remake treatment, seeing as Capcom are marking the original game’s 20th anniversary by counting backwards from 6 downwards, for reasons best known to them. It’s arguable that we may see further jumps and noticeable differences the further we go back. Who could resist a revamped, HD Resident Evil 2? But for now we have a seven year old game, sort of revamped, sort of not. And it’s fine. That’s basically it. It’s the same game you played in 2009. But it’s lots more fun if you don’t do it on your own. Like a lot of things, I suppose.
Let’s just agree to call it Re5i.