RE5: High level of polish saves the game from woeful mistakes.

A review of Capcom's Resident Evil 5.
At long last the anticipated next installment of the Resident Evil franchise has arrived from Capcom. In the longstanding tradition of all Resident Evil properties the hero from a previous RE game has now found himself progressing the ever growing RE storyline. The culprit this time is Chris Redfield, originally from the very first Resident Evil. The years have been kind to Chris. But, evidenced by his hulking frame, he has clearly spent some time in the gym and maybe utilized a few horse steroids. The cookie-cutter, incipient and eager newcomer helper character is, of course, a sexy female. Sheva is her name and she is a local agent working for the same organization you are affiliated with, the BSAA. The BSAA has made its job the policing and prevention of biologically based terrorism. Sheva is with you for the entirety of the game, working hand and hand with you to attain your goals. This is by no means a new mechanic for a video game, but one that had never been utilized by the RE franchise until now. Let it be clear, there is absolutely no Survival Horror to this Survival Horror game. The presence of a full time, combat capable friend along with the plethora of army stopping weaponry and ammunition that would make Rambo blush has completely pushed the RE series into the action genre.

RE5 is set closely after the RE4 storyline and you are once again dealing with the “Las Plagas” infection versus an undead infection. Of course, some evil corporation has gotten a hold of the infection and refined it for biological-military usage. As a result the enemies are no longer mindless drones motivated by base instincts, in fact because of the machinations of the new “evil” corporation Las Plagas is even more refined than it was in RE4, and so the enemies are pretty much fully autonomous and capable, just bolstered with physical abilities much greater than an average human. They are very cogent, and this fact will be readily obvious throughout the game as enemies regularly undertake complex actions like utilizing vehicles and firearms.

The game-play is extremely similar to RE4, the only difference being that the player can now “strafe” instead of having to turn in a particular direction and then walk forward to change one’s position. This makes you much more combat efficient, which, once again further unshackles RE5 from any semblance of the survival horror genre game-play staples. The A.I. for Sheva is capable, although far from flawless, which I will get into later. She is normally fairly competent in combat and you can issue her two commands – either, be defensive and cover you, or go on the offensive and leave you to handle yourself. I was fairly happy with the way she conducted herself when told to “cover” – she seemed to dole out the appropriate amount of pain without draining her ammunition reserves. This was not the case if she was ordered to “attack.” In that case she would use ammunition with reckless abandon and soon find herself sans ammo. Overall though, she fires true, and stays out of the way (for the most part).

The gun-play mechanic in the game is tried-and-true Resident Evil game-play. You must stop and stand to fire, bringing up your weapon to aim and use the helpful laser sight introduced in RE4 and then fire. A lot of complaints abound with this mechanic as players wanted to be able to run and fire weapons, but for me this mechanic works perfectly in the game. Although realism is an extremely slippery and relative term when applied to video games, it does not hurt for them to strive for it. The fact of the matter is that, “realistically” one cannot run, jump, turn and strafe while ripping off a perfectly accurate head-shot ala Quake or Halo. This is not a first person shooter nor do really marksman ever fire in this way. Just look at any military or police training. They are taught to fire predominately from a static position, not to run and fire. That would just be spraying and praying. So with regards to the shooting element of the game the static firing system is just right. The upgrade system for the weapons is generic enough. Earn money by collecting it in the levels and selling treasures found in the levels. Use the money to make the weapons better. Simple.

Enough praise. There is a glaring flaw in the game-play of RE5 and that is the inventory system. In general the inventory system in RE5 is the most counter-intuitive, jacked-up system for storage and usage that I have encountered in a video game. Sheva and Chris are both locked down with nine slots to place items, regardless of size, meaning that a rocket-launcher will take up as much space as a hand-grenade as far as this system is concerned. Furthermore some items will stack, like grenades, while similar sized objects like health sprays, will not. The inventory slots are not upgradable, so you are stuck with these nine slots from start to finish. As you progress through the game you can acquire two armor upgrades: A vest that reduces melee damage and one that reduces projectile damage. They are vests. They are vests that you wear on your person. Vests that you wear on your person and use to hold items, as evidenced visually on your character model. These vests take up an inventory slot. So, you are effectively using up an inventory slot provided by the vests by wearing the vests. As I said: Absolutely no intuition whatsoever, but still not the worst part of the system.

Inventory management in RE5 is an absolute abortion. First and foremost, and this is a real doozy, you cannot simply “use” an item if your inventory is full. So, if I come across a healing item, I must discard an item (destroying it forever), place the aforementioned healing item in my inventory, and then select it for use. This becomes a huge headache if you are in a tight spot and need to quickly switch out items, to the point that it is often impossible to do so. Furthermore, managing inventory between Chris and Sheva is a time-consuming nightmare. Sheva’s A.I. falls woefully short, to the point of seeming broken, in this aspect. First of all, she shows no discretion in what she picks up. She will fill her inventory with useless items – say, ammunition for a weapon she doesn’t have, instead of say, ammunition for the weapon she has. To clear her inventory of these items you must ask for them, or if you both have full inventories, you must first select an item from your inventory to “exchange” and then select the item you want from her. Also there is no item mitigation between the two. It is all or none. If Sheva has three grenades and you request one, she gives you all of them. If you want to split the wealth you must ask for all of them first and once you’ve received them you must now dole them out to her. Often this works only half the time, as the A.I. maintains your request command and as soon as you give her the grenade the computer remembers that you just asked for grenades, maintains that command, and immediately hands you the grenade back. Atrocious. The inventory system in RE4 was perfect. The rest of RE5’s gameplay mechanics are almost a mirror image of RE4’s, why Capcom? Why did you not simply transpose this as well?

While we are on Sheva’s inventory management A.I., let us go into further egregious errors. The computer A.I. does not have any ability to differentiate between the strength of weapons. In fact, I could not figure out what the priority of usage was. If I started Sheva on the level with a fully upgraded machine gun and later in the level picked up a new weapon, Sheva would immediately equip this new weapon, despite the fact that it was tremendously weaker and, oh yeah, she has no ammunition for it. Also, for whatever reason, she has a serious love affair going on with the initial handgun you start the game with. If it was in her inventory, I found her eagerly returning to it no matter the circumstance. As a result, the only effective way I found to arm Sheva was to make sure she only had one all around weapon in her inventory at any time. Do not even think that you can have a rifle for her to use regularly and then a shotgun for backup in case enemies get close. She will not switch, or if she does, it won’t make sense. She’ll stop using the shotgun and switch to the sniper rifle as soon as enemies are closing in. But, in my opinion the biggest problem with Sheva is her health item mitigation. While one would think it a nice backup for a partner to be able to heal you, Sheva will waste valuable healing items at the drop of a hat. If I so much as had a scratch she would be rushing up to me wasting a health spray. As a result one must keep all the health items out of her slippery grasp else they would be drained well before they were needed. So, when I earlier said that Sheva was a competent combat partner I was not lying, but these glaring idiocies in her A.I. make it a chore to make her effective, and she is, many times, just as likely to be useless in a lot of situation.

The voice acting is actually pretty strong, even if Sheva sounds much more British than African. But, all the voice talent in the world cannot make up for the massacre that is the RE5 dialogue. It is horrendous and trite, which really ends up being a result of the horrendous and trite storyline. In general, without giving any spoilers, you can expect a contrived mess of a story that tries to tie together everything that has been going on in the past half dozen or so RE games. The attempts to make Chris seem tortured and mysterious are terrible and the attempt to show the “growth” of Chris and Sheva’s partnership is unbelievably juvenile and uninspired. Like, Star Wars Episode II, Anakin and Amidalla bad. The story arch is, by itself, so overdone that you wonder what happened to the steps made in RE4. While, RE4’s story was a little silly and hokey in places – the kidnapping of the President’s daughter, at least it was engaging and motivated the player. This story does no such thing, whatsoever. The character’s motivations are muddy and confusing and the “twist” is so obvious that if you don’t have it figured out an hour into the game you probably have the comprehension skills of a repeat kindergarten student. And that, to me, is the biggest sin of the game. This is not a Team Ninja game where the story is just an excuse to beat ass – the RE series has been a story driven series, which admittedly fell off the horse a bit during the myriad of RE2/RE3 iterations, but seemed to have new life breathed into it in RE4. All that is wasted, and so badly, that RE6 will require a similar restart like RE4 to avoid the same crapfest that assails the player in RE5. In fact, Capcom, it is time to reinvent the series completely. No more retreading former heroes like Leon or Chris into badass special ops soldiers finding themselves, yet again, trying to derail some new scheme by Wesker or Umbrella Corp. It is time for some new protagonists. Maybe a prequel? Another person who survived Racoon city? Just food for thought.

Visually, this game is stunning. The character animations are fantastic, particularly the facial animation. There is an NPC character named Josh who helps our intrepid heroes out throughout the game. Do yourself a favor and really look his model during the in-game cut scenes. The disparity Capcom showed in the story certainly did not find its way to the graphics of the game. The level of detail is impressive. Weapon models are strikingly true to their real world counterparts. All in all, one of the best looking games out right now.

The first play-through on normal difficulty should take about 10-12 hours. The difficulty settings in the game are pretty disappointing and bland affairs. There is no noticeable increase in enemy A.I., they just do more damage and take more damage. But, the difficulty is really moderated by upgrading the weapons. Some of the guns are just godly, requiring only one or two shots to dispatch enemies, even on the hardest difficulty. After the story is completed one unlocks the fan favorite Mercenaries mode. This is an arcade style game where the player is dropped into various locales (some from the story and some original) with a certain weapon set, where they must dispatch as many bad guys in a time limit that they can. Mercenaries is a blast to play and sends the replayability through the roof. Based on your performance on the Mercenaries level, one unlocks new locations and new characters (with their own unique weapon sets).

The game is a blast to play, once you get past the infuriating inventory, but multiplayer is when the game begins to shine. Playing over Xbox live with a buddy is one of the most rewarding multiplayer experiences I have engaged in. Gone are the issues with Sheva’s A.I. and about half of the inventory issues. The multiplayer is really the biggest reason to play the game and exponentially increases the fun factor of the game. It is obvious that Capcom made the game with this in mind.

Overall, RE5 is a good game and a lot of fun to play. It is extremely polished, as one would expect from a big-name property and between the co-op, Mercenaries mode, and unlockables you will find yourself playing plenty and getting your money’s worth. If it weren’t for the glaring and head-scratchingly obvious mistakes, RE5 could have been one of the all time greats.

Graphics: 9.5 – Astounding character animation and polish. Astute attention to detail. Probably the best character models in a console so far.

Game play: 8.0 – Even though Capcom pretty much invented the over-the-shoulder third person game with RE4, the game-play is starting to show its age a bit. More of a result of so many games following the formula between RE4 and RE5 than anything Capcom did.

Storyline: 4.0 – Hot Garbage. Just a contrived cesspool.

Mechanics: 6.0 – Worst inventory system ever conceived. Experienced absolutely no bugs or glitches. The game never slowed down. The high level of polish is the only reason I rated it this high.

Overall: 8.0 – The game is good, not great. Its blemishes are prevalent, but the core is very strong and allows you to get past the problems.


Latest Jobs


Playa Vista, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Senior Level Designer (Zombies)

PlayStation Studios Creative Arts

Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia
Lead/ Senior Asset Artist


Playa Vista, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Senior Gameplay Systems Engineer - Treyarch

High Moon Studios

Carlsbad, CA, USA
VFX Artist
More Jobs   


Explore the
Advertise with
Follow us

Game Developer Job Board

Game Developer


Explore the

Game Developer Job Board

Browse open positions across the game industry or recruit new talent for your studio

Advertise with

Game Developer

Engage game professionals and drive sales using an array of Game Developer media solutions to meet your objectives.

Learn More
Follow us


Follow us @gamedevdotcom to stay up-to-date with the latest news & insider information about events & more