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Resident Evil 5
Score: 83%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1, 1 - 2 (Online/Offline)
Genre: Survival Horror/ Action/ Adventure

Graphics & Sound:
Resident Evil 5, much like Resident Evil 4 before it, looks simply beautiful - well, most of the time. The graphics are crisp and detailed and the player is able to see every little detail, from the red eyes of the infected Majinis you'll be battling against, to the pulsating flesh of the bad-ass bosses. Your heroes, Chris Redfield (from earlier RE games) and Sheva Alomar, are simply beautiful specimens of humanity. The residents of Kijuju, however, are downright eerie looking. Dusty, cracked skin on their faces, blood-red eyes and lots of anger are what you have here. Did I mention that almost all of them are black, at least until you get a good bit into the game? Although your partner (or "pahtner," as Sheva says) is African, she has very light skin, but your enemies are very dark-skinned and pretty damn crazy. Let's just say that the game feels more than a little bit racist for quite a while into it.

Your surroundings, however, look pretty realistic. As you enter the township, dust is billowing down the road, flies buzz around rotting meat and there are clothes hanging about, blowing in the wind. There's a group of men beating the living hell out of something or someone that appears to be wrapped in a burlap sack. It's disturbing to say the least. You'll first arrive at a meat shop to load out your weapons and it is pretty gross. As you progress through the buildings in the town, trying to meet up other teams, you'll see a variety of gore strewn about. Although I don't have a problem with gore in a game, I don't really recall that being a focus of Resident Evil and I'm not too crazy about it. Chopped up animals just seemed unnecessary to me. Once you delve deeper into the areas you'll be exploring, you'll see some water areas as you'll be traveling from island to island by boat. I did notice some weird graphical issues in the water spray, like little pixel boxes of water spray shooting up from the lake, but otherwise, the graphics were excellent.

As far as the sound department is concerned, voiceovers are more like normal dialogue, but honestly, I miss my Resident Evil cheesy liners! However, one of the enemies Chris and Sheva will be hunting is the aggravating crony Irving, with a really thick New York accent. He did have some cheesy lines, but they were more annoying than funny. Background music works really well for whatever situation you are in and the gun reports from the weapons you'll have access to all sound really good. Sheva's lilting British accent can get on your nerves and I found it really irksome when I asked her to pick up some ammo because I couldn't carry it and she'd say something stupid like, "Are you crazy?" or "I can't right now."

Chris and Sheva are tasked with discovering what evils Umbrella has been up to in Africa. Sheva has a grudge against them because she lost her parents in a test that Umbrella conducted when she was a little girl. Chris is just doing his thing, but is hung up on something that happened in his past and he has reason to believe that his trip to Kijuju could solve a long-standing mystery for him. Yes, I am being vague because you should discover the story for yourself.

Very early in the game, when their contact is executed in the town square and the Majini turn their efforts onto Chris and Sheva, they find themselves stuck in an area where they have to fight to stay alive as enemies come pouring in from every angle. This seems to be a trend in the game, where Chris and Sheva get in a tight spot and someone, whether it be another team or just a stellar member of another team, comes to rescue them. As you make progress exploring the town and eventually, Kijuju itself, which is a bit further on, you'll come to locked doors requiring keys and also puzzles that you must locate objects in order to solve. One particularly annoying puzzle was one wherein a goopy monster was chasing the pair and they were in a circular area, with an incinerator room on one side and the controls outside of the room. You'd have to lure the boss into the room, then run outside and hit the switch without Sheva getting herself stuck in the room in the meantime. I just felt like a mouse on a wheel for that puzzle.

There are times when you'll arrive at a spot where you'll have to team up with Sheva to bust through a door or throw her up onto a roof because it would be too high for one person to climb it alone. These always felt rather pointless in the single player game. At other times, during the game, you'd have context-sensitive events where you had to press buttons quickly to avoid being crushed or whatever. Still other times, when Sheva would get overwhelmed, she'd call for your help to get a Majini off her or save her life with a health pack. Similarly, when you were very low on health and were attacked, Chris would call for Sheva automatically and she'd give him a shot to give him a little life back, but always with the admonishment to be careful. Please, I wasn't trying to die. Sometimes, you'd encounter a switch and the other switch would be way on the other side of the map. Once, I tried to send her off to hit the other switch and it wouldn't prompt her to do that, so I had to trace my way across the wasteland. Since some of the areas are tri-level, it could get tricky figuring out where you were and where you needed to go. There were times when I was playing and all of a sudden, I felt like I was in Tomb Raider instead of Resident Evil. Breaking pottery, picking up gold and gems and working my way through dusty tombs just didn't feel very Resident Evil at all. Where's my spooky old mansion, I say!

In addition to the single player experience, you can also play multiplayer in either offline or online mode. Offline has you pitted against a buddy in your own living room and online obviously has you playing with someone remotely. You can decide whether you want to be available for random games using the matchmaker, or chose specific people to play with in online multiplayer. I found that when playing with a friend, I was more emotionally committed and didn't snap up all the ammo and gold myself. Also of note - if you are invited to play by a friend, if/when that friend resumes that game later on without you, Sheva's inventory will be empty, since you were playing as her and you were using your own inventory. Just something to pay attention to so you don't get burned. I'm not much for online play personally, so while this didn't appeal to me, I'm sure it has its audience out there.

I found the difficulty level in Resident Evil 5 to be far higher than Resident Evil titles of the past. I consider myself a veteran of the series, having played every game from the very first one and although I am not going to jump in on Veteran mode, I can easily play on Normal and really enjoy the game. When I first started playing, I was on Normal, but I just found the aiming so clunky and Sheva to be less than optimal in her help that I backed it down to the Amateur level just to get some enjoyment out of it. Of course, I had to delete my existing game and start from scratch, but I did it. It was a blow to my pride, but it was what I had to do to have fun with the game.

Something that definitely affects gameplay and difficulty is the option to select whether or not your partner's reactions are on or off. They ask you this each time you go into a new level to play. At first, I wasn't sure what this meant, but I determined its basically friendly fire. While Sheva may not lose health if you shoot or cut her, she jumps back and it slows down the works. I enjoyed the game far more when I turned this off.

Game Mechanics:
When you begin a level, you'll have the opportunity to organize your stock, which can come into play because your D-pad functions as hotkeys to the corresponding spots in your inventory. So you'll want to place your guns and perhaps grenades where you can get at them in the press of a button. You can trade goods with Sheva, but I often found her A.I. to be stupid when it came to combining herbs to save room, or loading up weapons with extra ammo to not only be ready to go at any notice, but also to free up space. Once you have organized both partners' inventory, you have the chance to upgrade your weapons to increase their firepower, reload speed, effectiveness and ammo capacity. I would try to keep Sheva loaded up with ammo for the Machine Gun or the Rifle, but invariably, she'd go back to the damn handgun. That was frustrating. As you come across weapons in the game, you may or may not have the storage capacity to snag them. Rest assured that you can always buy them when you begin the next level, assuming you have enough gold. Sadly, if you are playing online with someone and they are just starting out whereas you are loaded up with weapons, you can't give them one of your guns, which sucks.

As you kill Majini and destroy piles of fruit or random vases and boxes, you can pick up gold, trinkets and baubles or ammo/health. The gold comes in handy when you go on your shopping spree at the beginning of the levels, but the trinkets can be cashed in for money as well. Personally, I missed the merchant. He just had pizzazz. But anyway, at first, I found myself wondering if I needed to hold on to the heart-shaped blue enigma stone because in true RE form, I may need to use it to solve a puzzle. However, anything that shows up in the Treasures section is apparently just there for you to sell (or maybe for a trophy).

It took my quite a while to get re-accustomed to the controls once I popped the game in. Especially in the really early area that was also used as the game's demo, I just felt like I couldn't even catch a breather and didn't find it very much fun. After playing for a while, I grew used to them, but every now and then, when I tried to slash open a box in the hopes that I'd score some gold or ammo, I would end up shooting it instead of slashing it. While not bad, per se, I didn't find the controls intuitive, despite the offering of several control schemes from which to select.

A new functionality is the ability to press the (Circle) button to either call Sheva to come to you or to tell her to attack. You can switch between Cover and Attack modes, although the default is cover (where she comes running to you). To switch between the two, you press the D-pad button up, although mid-battle, I could never easily and effortlessly get it to work, so most times, I just let her stay in Cover made which worked well enough.

While the story is typical Resident Evil fare, this iteration just didn't drag me in like the games of the past. I had some fun playing, but I wasn't driven to solve the mysteries and get to the end of the story. Perhaps it all boils down to the fact that I am a lone wolf and like to keep it that way, but playing with a partner, either real or A.I., just took a lot away from the experience for me. Sheva wasn't completely useless, not by any means, but she was never the partner I really needed her to be. To sum it all up, Resident Evil 5 just wasn't my favorite Resident Evil title, not by far.

-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins

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