- Beautifully detailed graphics and character animations
- Having a partner enhances the fun and excitement while adding tension
- Real-time menu system keeps you immersed
- Plenty to do once you've beaten it.
- Frustrating hurdles to leap when joining an online game
- Slow, deliberate movement and gunplay may not appeal to everyone
- Can't swap weapons with a human teammate online.
Thirteen years ago, Capcom helped revolutionize the action-adventure world with Resident Evil, a game that would define an entirely new genre dubbed "survival horror." In the years that followed, the series continued to build upon the standards set by the first game, until 2005, when Resident Evil 4 radically departed from its predecessors and broke new ground as a more action-oriented game. Resident Evil 5, the latest offering in the long-running series, expands on the action-heavy formula of its forerunner and is built from the ground up to support cooperative gameplay. Though it can no longer be considered a survival horror game, Resident Evil 5 manages to retain and effectively translate the most important aspect of that genre--tension--into its new mechanics, crafting a fun, collaborative experience that will keep you on your toes the entire time.
Ten years after the destruction of Raccoon City, former S.T.A.R.S. Alpha team member Chris Redfield is an agent of the B.S.A.A. This paramilitary anti-bio-organic weapon organization travels the globe to seek out and destroy Umbrella's creations, which have fallen into the hands of terrorists following the collapse of the multinational pharmaceutical company. When Chris gets a tip that a known weapons dealer will be making a big deal in the remote African nation of Kijuju, he heads there to put a stop to it and learn what he can about the mysterious doomsday project known only as Uroboros. Chris is joined by Sheva Alomar, a local B.S.A.A. agent, and together they battle wave after wave of infected villagers, horribly mutated monsters, and even series archnemesis Albert Wesker.
The core combat mechanics haven't fundamentally changed since Resident Evil 4--the action still unfolds from an over-the-shoulder perspective, certain battles or cutscenes are accompanied by brief quick time events, and you still have to stop moving to fire your weapon (though you gain a bit more mobility thanks to your newfound ability to walk sideways). Resident Evil 5's slow movement and gunplay take some time to get used to, and folks expecting a run-and-gun game may find the action too sluggish for their tastes. Fortunately, this slowness isn't really an issue within the game, because enemies are deliberate with their attacks and are better handled with a cool head and steady aim.
Regardless of how similar the combat in Resident Evil 5 is to its predecessor, the addition of a second character makes encounters feel quite different. Teamwork is necessary to take down more-powerful enemies and bosses, and having someone there to watch your back goes a long way toward keeping you alive. Furthermore, there have been radical changes to the inventory management system. The immersion-breaking briefcase from the previous game is gone, and enemies no longer politely wait for you to rummage through your things because bringing up your armory doesn't pause the action. At any given time, you can store up to nine items per character, four of which are bound to the directions of the D pad for easy access. This new system works extremely well and successfully conveys a sense of urgency whenever you go through your gear. It's often necessary to trade items with your partner, and keeping track of who has what at all times is crucial, because rummaging through your things while a boss beats on you is painful.
Sheva's artificial intelligence makes her a competent companion, though her degree of skill seems to rely more on her armaments than anything else--she is extremely good at using burst fire with a machine gun, for example, but tends to waste ammo when equipped with a handgun. That said, at no point does she feel like extra baggage that needs babysitting (unlike some of the series' previous companions), and she can hold her own in a fight. Sheva really shines when there's someone else controlling her. Resident Evil 5 supports both split-screen and online co-op play through Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, and exploring Kijuju with a friend greatly enhances both the experience and the fun factor. Every game has the potential to go multiplayer, since split-screen is as simple to initiate as hitting Start on a second controller, and other online players can join in on a free-for-all or invite-only basis if your game session is set up to allow this from the get-go.