Nestled between the genre-defining Resident Evil 4 and the incoherent, Frankenstein’s Monster that was Resident Evil 6, the fifth numbered entry in Capcom’s venerable survival horror series represents perhaps the apex of Resident Evil’s emphatic transition to full-blown third-person action. While pretty much eschewing any remnants of classic Resi that its predecessor offered, Resident Evil 5 still manages to carve its own identity as a solid co-op driven adventure; no less bombastic than a Michael Bay flick, but mechanically solid and packed full of content. And it runs and looks even better on PS4 than ever before.
Set in the fictional African zone of Kijuju, Resi 5 reunites us with Chris Redfield, now a muscle-bound BSAA agent who could give Marcus Fenix a run for his money in the mountainous biceps department. The former S.T.A.R.S. operative teams up with newcomer Sheva Alomar; ostensibly Capcom’s attempt to address lack of racial diversity in earlier trailers, though in reality part of the package from the early concept stages of the game’s development. Regardless, the nimble gunslinger is an intrinsic part of Resi 5’s gameplay, serving as your AI-controlled/second player companion for the entirety of the African excursion.
Functionally, Resi 5 has stood the test of time admirably well. Sure, the combat feels a little incongruous when compared to modern action-adventure games, particularly since you’re still rooted to the spot when you aim your weapon. However, it’s undeniably a pretty neat way of upping the tension, especially when you have half a dozen blood-crazed Manjini encroaching on your position. Capping foes in the head and following up with a meaty right hook to the noggin’ still feels satisfying, as does the punch of your diverse lineup of weapons, ranging from pistols, shotguns, rifles, machine-guns and more.
While the linearity of the game design affords little excuse to venture off the beaten path as it were, Resi 5 keep things speeding along like a freight train. Locations never outstay their welcome, be it the dusty, dilapidated village, creepy mines, sprawling marshlands, or underground labs. Meanwhile, the bread-and-butter action is punctuated with various puzzles that dip into the co-op aspect nicely, even if they’re not exactly the most cerebrally challenging head-scratchers you’ll find in the 20-year-old franchise.
While Resi 5 is tailored for two-players, the AI nevertheless does a competent job at covering your backside. During my playthrough, Sheva was quick to batter any foe that managed to grab hold of Chris, while also providing sufficient firepower when required. Yes, her penchant for spraying you with copious herb supplies if an enemy even so much as looks at you still remains, but it’s more of a slight annoyance than a deal-breaker.
Still, there’s no denying that for pure strategic value and sheer enjoyment, having a mate partnering up with you is the way to go. There’s a surprising amount of depth to the combat when you are able to coordinate attacks together, stringing together bone-crunching melee strikes and taking advantage of strategic points on the map to lay waste to enemies. Indeed, this is no better demonstrated than in the game’s epic boss fights, which boil down to succinct, adrenaline-pumping gun battles where careful planning and teamwork result in some of the most gratifying combat Resi 5 has to offer.
Sadly, the bog standard enemies that make up much of the fighting can prove incomprehensibly daft at times. The fact you are often required to eliminate dozens of the buggers at a time means it isn’t that noticeable, but it’s still an eyesore when it does happen. Thankfully, the Quick-Time Events are less intrusive than the likes of Resi 6, mostly popping up in a few cutscenes to keep you on your toes.
In terms of content, Resi 5’s PS4 debut cannot be beaten. Aside from the meaty campaign, which is packed full of hidden treasures and other unlockables, there’s also two DLC scenarios in the shape of Lost in Nightmares and Desperate Escape. Both are co-op equipped affairs, with the former giving off a nostalgic whiff with its creepy atmosphere that harkens back to classic Resi; it’s a more methodical, narrative-based offering than the main game, and offers ample lore to soak up as Chris and Jill investigate Spencer’s posh gaff while fighting off the odd hulking mutant. Desperate Escape meanwhile aligns itself much more with the action-oriented side of Resi 5, and sees BSAA agent Josh Stone teaming up with Jill for some fast-paced combat that really takes advantage of the brilliant co-op aspect of the game.
If that wasn’t enough, the ubiquitous Mercenaries mini-game once more returns, this time combining an all-star cast that lets you step into the boots of everyone from Chris and Jill to fan-favorites like Wesker and Barry Burton. Whether it’s solo or with a buddy, Mercenaries is brilliant fun where you’ll gun down legions of foes in an effort to chalk up the highest score possible. Though arguably, the co-op element really adds to the longevity and you’ll have a blast working together as you plough through the various stages on offer.
Despite its age, Resi 5 is still a fine-looking game by today’s standards, even if the odd flat texture and dodgy lip-syncing rears its ugly head from time to time. The fact it runs at a silky-smooth 60fps makes it all the more pleasing on the eyes to boot. The plot is typical Resi nonsense by this point, with Wesker seemingly taking wardrobe tips from Neo and adopting an almost caricatural performance that belies his previous stance as a genuinely enigmatic and interesting villain. The voice acting is competent enough, although by this point the characters are too one dimensional and much of the intrigue bubbling underneath the plot has all but withered away for the sake of ostentatious cutscenes.
Still, Resi 5 never pretended to be anything it wasn’t back in 2009, and that’s still very much the case here. With solid combat combined with fantastic co-op play and heaps of extra content to keep you plugging away for a good while, Resident Evil 5 on PS4 comes highly recommended for action aficionados and fans alike who perhaps missed out on the game first time around and at just over fifteen quid, it’s a no-brainer.