To be honest, Resident Evil 5 had tough shoes to fill. Resident Evil 4 was seen as a watershed moment for the series, and its unprecedented critical and commercial success paved the way for the massive wave of hype surrounding the franchise’s 5th entry.
Resident Evil 4 shook the very foundations of the 3rd person action game and inspired many other games such as Xbox’s Gears of War to follow a similar blueprint. As the series’ debut on a newer generation of hardware, expectations were quite high.
The Day Resident Evil Ditched Survival Horror
Resident Evil 4 treaded a fine line between being an action game and a survival horror title. It managed to accomplish the feat masterfully. The game had a scary atmosphere and deliberately slow pace. Its combat was a big step up from previous games in the series allowing for precise 3rd person shooting and multiple enemies on screen.
Resident Evil 5, perhaps due to the success of action-packed 3rd person games like Gears of War, took a few massive steps away from the horror driven atmosphere and gameplay that had distinguished the series since its inception in 1996. The fact that Shinj Mikami (Resident Evil’s mastermind) was not involved in the development of the game certainly had a massive impact on Resident Evil 5’s poor effort as a survival horror game.
I always found it odd that Resident Evil 5’s developers attempted to go the Gears of War route, rather than to remain true to Resident Evil 4’s style of play. Ironic, when Gears itself was hugely influenced by Resident Evil 4’s over the shoulder perspective and its action sequences.
Resident Evil 5 was a Good Game, but did it Start the Series’ Mid Life Slump?
Resident Evil has seen a bit of a resurgence in quality these days thanks to the Resident Evil 2 Remake, Resident Evil 7, and Resident Evil Village. These games more closely resemble RE4’s careful survival horror/action act, rather than RE5 and RE6’s over the top action focus.
To be fair, when I first played RE5 I was impressed by its visuals. Capcom did well in designing Chris and Sheva. At the time, they looked fairly realistic in contrast to the game’s contemporary rivals. The fictional African setting was also bright, much brighter than any other setting in the series. Before RE5, as far as my memory can tell, most RE games took place during the nighttime, or in RE4’s case in foggy, darker environments.
Resident Evil 5 lost much of the series ‘horror’ factor due to these bright areas. While the enemies this time were faster and more resilient than the ‘ganados’ in RE4, the greater firepower at Chris’ disposal and his capable side kick (A.I. or friend controlled) made it a much different experience from the previous games.
Resident Evil 5 was a wild and largely entertaining ride, but it fell quite short of its predecessor, despite its gorgeous visuals and story continuity.
In terms of story, things did begin to fall off the rails here. The last 3rd of the game was quite a crazy ride, though again, the impressive visuals kept me playing even when at times I felt that both the action and the story had gone into the land of no return.
Resident Evil 6, which was a continuation of this frenetic action style, is in my view the worst RE game of all. Despite the fact that Resident Evil 5 remains the highest selling title in the franchise (8 million in its original form and 12 million units sold when its ports are factored in), I mark its existence as the start of a turbulent period in which the series lost much of what had made it one of the premier ‘survival horror’ experiences prior to it.
Resident Evil 5 was a blast with a friend, as the coop mode was well done. No, it wasn’t as fun or as Gear of War, but it was fun enough to keep me and friends busy until Gears of War 3. Perhaps, I am being a bit too harsh with RE5 by partially blaming RE6’s miserable existent on it. I did have fun with Resident Evil 5 and found some of its boss fights quite challenging.
The game just never approached the quality of its historically great predecessor.
Should You Play Resident Evil 5 Today?
That’s a hard question for me to answer because the response to the question would greatly depend on whether you played the game back in the Xbox 360/PS3 days or you never played it at all.
If you never played it, then yes. It is not a bad game and features Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine. The aforementioned two characters are very important to the series’ canon. In that sense, Resident Evil 5 does offer a sense of storyline continuity from the fourth entry. Apart from that, the game looks decent enough still and is a fun ride for a single play-through.
However, if you did play the game before, I would advise you to spend your RE playtime somewhere else, on other RE titles.
Out of all the numbered RE games, RE5 and RE6 are the only two titles that I have never replayed. I would much rather play Resident Evil 4 for the 8th time than I would RE5 for a second time. That should say it all in terms of how I feel about Resident Evil’s jump into the full action gaming scene.
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