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Review: Resident Evil 5

Resident Evil 5 (Res5) is the latest installment in the long-running survival horror franchise and was recently ported to the PC. The game features faster paced action compared to its predecessors, but what really sets it apart is the fact this game is built from the ground up to support cooperative multiplayer. Other big changes include an increased emphasis on action thanks largely to the fast-moving infected (called Majini), which greatly speeds up the pace of the game but sacrifices a bit of the "survival" aspect from the genre. Although the game initially looks like an action shooter, there are a number of features that clearly distinguishes it as Resident Evil game. These include grotesque monsters, solving puzzles and conserving ammunition whenever possible. The PC version offers upgraded graphics in comparison to its console counterpart, along with streamlined controls and a few other extra features. Although the console version has been out for quite some time now, the PC port offers an excellent game experience that easily competes with other PC action games.

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Years have passed since the events of the original Resident Evil game. Umbrella Corporation has collapsed, but its deadly toys are now scattered around the globe, and terrorists are itching to get their hands on them. The game features Chris Redfield, one of the main characters of the first game, who is now part of the BSAA, an anti-terrorist group dedicated to removing all the biological weapons Umbrella left behind. His latest mission takes him to the African town of Kijuju, where a big arms deal is happening. Joining him is his new partner, Sheva Alomar. Despite the new setting and some new characters, there are plenty of references to prior events. Even the game's main villain, Albert Wesker, is from the first Resident Evil and returns with a look completely lifted from The Matrix, including the trench coat, sunglasses at night, and bullet dodging action. Knowledge of previous games is helpful but not altogether necessary since the game has plenty of information available to get people familiar with what's going on.

The game also comes with a number of quirks that makes sense to experienced Resident Evil players, but can be off-putting to newcomers. Mainly, the fact that the character cannot fire unless the character is standing in place and aiming takes a lot of getting used to. This mechanic also applies to the knife, which is used more for breaking open objects than as an actual weapon, since it cannot be equipped by itself as the primary weapon. That means that in order to wield the knife to conserve ammo, players need to stand still and pull it out as they need it, which often leaves the character looking like a complete moron that can't do two things at once as a horde of infected close in. The signature over-the-shoulder camera keeps up the tension by making it impossible to see things that are sneaking up on you, but can also be quite dizzying and disorienting when a creature knocks you down.

Headshots are extremely important, especially in the early parts of the game when weapons, ammunition and health are extremely limited, but players will have to adjust to the fact that not every headshot counts as a critical injury. So, there are some circumstances when normal Majini will survive a point-blank shotgun blast to the face. Fortunately, stunning an infected with gunfire leaves an opening for the player to run in and deliver a melee punch or kick, which do significant damage while saving bullets. It also suggests that perhaps the Resident Evil developers have been spending way too much time with the Street Fighter team. Majini that are knocked flat to the ground can be finished off with a swift stab or face stomp, assuming you can reach it in time. When all combined, it can be quite a jarring experience for players who are used to much less deliberate action games.

Players will also have to manage a nine-slot inventory system that can't be expanded. Unlike the console counterpart, the PC version of Resident Evil 5 assigns the item of each slot to a number key, so players have access to their entire inventory at any given time. Characters can trade equipment and ammunition with each other, but accessing the inventory screen doesn't stop the action, so they have to work quickly. However, the system comes with some notable limitations. With the exception of ammunition and grenades, items do not stack on top of each other, so these slots tend to fill up very quickly. Also, for some strange reason, body armor takes up inventory room. Equipping a melee armor in addition to a bullet proof vest takes up two slots, leaving players with a measly seven spots to hold weapons, ammunition and health restoratives. Furthermore, players can't temporarily put anything on the ground. They'll either have to use or discard items to make room for more things.

In a contradictory way, Res5 demands that players move around a lot to keep from being overwhelmed, but at the same time, requires them to say in place to defend themselves. Yet, once the player becomes accustomed to these quirks, the game plays fairly swiftly and soon begins to grow on you. In our experience, the response and accuracy of the mouse made the Res5 experience much more enjoyable than using a controller. There's also a nice variety of Majini, ranging from common infected townspeople coming to beat you down with a wrench to gigantic monsters. However, we experienced some major annoyances with some of the gameplay, particularly with the quicktime events that are littered throughout the action. Quicktime sequences are generally tolerable in scripted sequences, but players are sometimes given a split second to hit a pair of keys to dodge an attack. Furthermore, when just as players grow accustomed to hitting a specific set of keys (like A+D) to dodge, the game arbitrarily changes things up and requires a different set (F+V) to dodge, all in the middle of the same boss fight. The last thing a player should be forced to do is play guessing games with the controls when battling a creature. In multiplayer, the issue gets compounded, since both players have to restart sequences if one isn't good at reacting to quicktime events.


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