Resident Evil 5

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Release Date: Oct. 29, 2019


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Switch Review - 'Resident Evil 5'

by Cody Medellin on March 4, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Resident Evil 5 revolutionizes the series by delivering an unbelievable level of detail, realism and control.

For longtime fans of the series, Resident Evil 5 marked the end of the horror element and the rise of the action portion of the mainline games. The formula was introduced in Resident Evil 4, but RE5 really ran with the idea, culminating in the very divisive sixth entry. If you were a die-hard Nintendo fan who never ventured away from the company's platforms, you never saw Resident Evil 5 until now, as the Switch entry marks the debut of the decade-old title on a Nintendo system.

RE5 is set after the fall of the Umbrella Corporation. In the game, you play the role of Chris Redfield, a former member of the S.T.A.R.S. task force and a current agent of BSAA, an organization dedicated to fighting bio-terrorism. Your latest assignment has sent you to the fictional African area of Kijuju to meet up with Sheva Aloma, the organization's local agent. Together, you're supposed to capture the black-market dealer Ricardo Irving before he sells a powerful bio-weapon. As expected, everything goes bad in a hurry, and this transforms from a simple arrest to a fight for survival as you try to stop things from getting worse while also plotting your escape.

The game mechanics in RE5 are similar to those in the series' fourth iteration. This means an over-the-shoulder, third-person viewpoint with a control scheme that doesn't mimic a modern shooter. You can't move and shoot at the same time, so attacking means standing firmly in place while you freely aim your shots. The usual standbys are present, like herbs for healing and a limited ammo supply, as well as some Quick Time Events (QTEs) to add some interest to the gameplay.

There are two things that make this entry very different from those that have come before it. The first is how action-oriented it is. Aside from activating a few switches, there isn't much for puzzle fans to do. A lot of time is going to be spent in shootouts or running away from monsters. Some of the sets pieces benefit from this, like a shootout where you're driving a jeep and having to fend off enemies on motorcycles. The game ends up being a really engaging experience, even though the mechanics don't feel natural for what is essentially a third-person shooter. As such, the game rides a fine line before Resident Evil 6 takes the action elements a touch too far.

Additionally, RE5 is a purely co-op experience. You have a partner throughout the game, and while you can't swap which character you're controlling, everything is designed with a partner in play. In some cases, this means activating switches with two people involved or opening doors where two people need to charge at the same time. In combat, this means you have an extra gun that'll help you take down a target or help with crowd control, so more foes can be downed at a time. The co-op element also means that item management is different, since you have to make sure that both you and your partner have the items that you need, since one person dying means the game is over for everyone.

If there's one thing that will hamper your enjoyment of RE5, it'll be your partner AI. For the most part, Sheva is great at not taking items unless you tell her to, and she immediately comes to your aid when you're under attack or need to open one of the many doors and switches that require two people. However, she's also prone to blindly walking into traps and using up more ammo than necessary. She's also not frugal about using healing items on herself if she's not at full health, no matter how minor the injuries are. Unless you're playing the game at the easiest difficulty level, you'll frequently be healing her while you're just trying to survive.

The easy way to mitigate this issue is to play the game with another human in tow, and the game offers up a myriad of ways to do that. The split-screen play places each of the player's viewpoints in smaller-than-expected boxes. It works well enough if you're playing on a television, but it's hard to do if you're using the Switch in tabletop mode. Local wireless play is the more expensive option, since you need someone else with their own copy of the game, but it works very well considering how much screen real estate everyone gets. Online play is also here, and it works well performance-wise. However, without a dedicated form of voice chat (except for your phone or a third-party app), it is the least ideal way to play, since communication is key in this game.

For those wondering, this is essentially the Gold Edition of RE5. Mercenaries mode and versus mode are available in this iteration, so there's some replay value after you've completed the story. The Lost in Nightmares DLC is also included, and it opens up sometime after the third chapter; it acts as a flashback to fill in some backstory before the campaign moves forward. Desperate Escape acts as the game's epilogue, since it doesn't unlock until you beat the game. One new thing is the presence of motion controls. As with the PS3 Gold Edition of the title, you can use your right Joy-Con to take care of aiming duties, and the tracking here is quite good. It is a puzzling addition when you consider that RE4 didn't have this feature in the Switch port and the addition was also praised in the Wii version.

Graphically, RE5 is a test of porting skills, as this was the first Resident Evil title to hit the previous generation of consoles. While the results here don't quite match up with Capcom's last port of a previous generation game, Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen, they're still good if you aren't comparing it to the PC/PS4/Xbox One ports. The texture work is fine, especially if you decide to play the game in portable mode, and the character models look nice. The environments are still gorgeous to look at thanks to the lighting, which tries to produce a horror setting in broad daylight. The animations and particle effects are also done well, but the biggest issue with the game has to do with the frame rate. Running without a frame rate cap, the experience becomes erratic, as the variance between smooth and stuttering is jarring in both solo and co-op modes. This doesn't render the game unplayable, but it is enough to be surprising when compared to the stable performance of the other Resident Evil titles on the system.

Taken on its own, Resident Evil 5 is a good game even though it isn't as strong as its predecessors. The more action-heavy slant will be a turn-off for those who loved the series for its puzzles, but the survival-horror elements, like limited ammo and the need to share items, retain the spirit of what made the series popular. The addition of co-op is welcome, but the lack of an easier voice chat system hurts the experience if you don't go the split-screen route. Your partner's AI is bad enough to make you hate the game if you're planning to go solo. RE5 is still worth checking out if you're a fan of the series, but you'll need to temper your expectations.

Score: 7.0/10

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