Released in 2009, Resident Evil 5 and its successor are the black sheep of the legendary survival horror series. With an increased focus on action, shoehorned, mandatory co-op, and a ridiculous story to top all ridiculous stories, RE 5 garnered a fairly negative reception from fans a decade ago. This Switch conversion, for better or worse, is a warts-and-all replication of what we first played on seventh-gen consoles all those years ago, and, while it still won’t win over Resident Evil purists, it’s a decent experience made all the more accessible on Nintendo’s hybrid hardware.
Resident Evil is perhaps the most inconsistent video game franchises of all time. Spanning titanic highs and abyssal lows across the past four console generations, few intellectual properties have experienced such unprecedented success or survived such extended turmoil. While the first four mainline installments pioneered the survival horror genre and are regarded as classics, later entries dragged the name through the mud, and, for every RE 4 or RE 7 to enamor players, there’s a Resident Evil Survivor or a Resident Evil Revelations 2 to infuriate them.
That said, Resident Evil 5 is something of a middle-of-the-road entry, as, though it was hated by many when it first came out, it has since garnered a bit of a cult following. Unlike its 2012 followup, RE 5 retained the survival horror DNA of its progenitors, and, despite its silly plot threads and hilariously bad partner AI, it’s actually worth checking out now that it has been ported to the Switch.
Taking place in a nondescript impoverished African country, Chris Redfield, now a part of the BSAA — an organization created to stem the threat of the Umbrella-made bio-weapons — is tasked with capturing a black-market arms dealer suspected of bioterrorism. Joined by a woman named Sheva Alomar, Chris ventures down a metaphorical rabbit hole which sees him cross paths with Jill Valentine, his ex-partner whom he believed to have been killed, and, toward the end, the treacherous Albert Wesker, an ex-STARS member now hellbent on using Umbrella’s experiments to rule the world. It’s a goofy, strange plot that wouldn’t even hold much water as a Saturday-morning cartoon, but it has an endearing charm to it and serves as a decent vehicle to string the missions together.
Good Enough Horror Amongst Slipups
When it comes to traditional survival horror, Resident Evil 5 is just about as close as it gets for a game made in the last decade. Replete with third-person over-the-shoulder shooting, a major focus on inventory management, and a swarm of Las Plagas zombies just begging to be headshot, it's true to the series roots, to say the least, and feels suitably faithful to RE 4, which is often regarded as the franchise's highpoint.
One major downfall, however, is the game’s overall design and structure. While previous Resident Evil games largely took place in set locations and featured tons of puzzle-solving and backtracking, RE 5 is an outright linear experience that is broken up into missions. It gives the overall experience a decidedly Call of Duty-esque feel, and it's doubtlessly one of the many gripes fans had with the title when it first launched.
Another infamous slip up is the implementation of the game’s co-op features. Playing solo would have been a tense, difficult experience, but watching as Sheva roundhouse kicks a zombie in the head and then immediately wastes a healing spray on herself is both immersion-breaking and outright annoying. While keeping tabs on Chris’ inventory may add to the tension, babysitting an AI partner and ensuring that they have enough equipment to keep fighting gets to be a bothersome chore.
Bring A Friend
Fortunately, Resident Evil 5 does allow players to join up through either online or local co-op, and that makes for a much smoother experience, although lots of time will likely be wasted arguing over how the group inventory should be split. Plus, adding another person into the mix essentially reduces the chances of the game being at all scary to zero, though RE 5 is pretty conservative when it comes to horror elements to being with.
Still, knowing what we know now about the series’ direction, Resident Evil 5 isn’t a bad title. It may be a fairly lackluster entry in an otherwise well-regarded series, but it's far from a bad game. It’s guaranteed to be a fun journey with friends involved, and, with Capcom having recently released a Resident Evil Triple Pack on Switch featuring the fourth, fifth, and sixth entries in the franchise, it’s a great time to go back and rediscover these survival horror heavy-hitters.
A Switch review copy of Resident Evil 5 was provided to TheGamer for this review. Resident Evil 5 is now available on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
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