This past weekend we had a good sort through our XBOX 360 collection in order to update our Pile of Shame/To Play lists for this site. A few of the games we had borrowed from a good friend some 18 months past and decided to bring these titles to the fore so as to be able to return them to their rightful owner. First amongst these was Resident Evil 5.
My personal history with the Resident Evil/Biohazard series is patchy. I tried to play some of the early games on friends PlayStations without ever catching the bug, and then actually purchased Code Veronica for our Dreamcast but didn’t get too far with that either. And so I have ignored the whole franchise, labelling it as a game style I just didn’t like. I have no real problem with doing such things unlike many, with so many quality games about I rather like being able to ignore some and allow more room for others to flourish.
The advantage RE5 had for getting an actual play through was of course our favourite feature, co-op play. And specifically, with only having a single borrowed copy, split screen co-op. Admittedly this has some drawbacks in RE5, the engine clearly struggles to handle the two viewpoints and the split screens are not full width, so it resembles playing split screen on an old 4:3 display with just a slight offset the spare space around just black not even used for the minimap display or collectables. Also the 360 implementation seems to suffer from some of the worst screen tearing I’ve witnessed on the console, perhaps I’ve just been lucky or maybe the port was just a little poorly handled assuming the game was developed primarily for the PlayStation which may be entirely wrong.
The game play however took us by surprise. At first we did struggle having jumped into this game, with little experience of the series and even more importantly having ploughed many hours into Gears 3 over the past couple of weeks. We kept trying to clear rooms and take out all the enemies, only slowly coming to the realisation that in many cases it was just about surviving and staying out of trouble for a set amount of time, or finding an escape route. Also the hot topic of ‘turret’ style shooting reared it’s head. I can see why the game needs to not have you running and gunning, it wouldn’t be a Resident Evil game if you could, however I could see the game allowing some slow side stepping whilst aiming without breaking the style or atmosphere. Either way we did eventually adapt over the course of the first chapter of the game and started to really understand how the game wanted to be played. The addition of collectables, as always, lit up Linda’s eyes and so we would spend a good deal of time finding the treasures and emblems as we went, although this effects your rankings at the end of each chapter given time is one of the criteria so that seems a little counter productive.
By the start of Chapter 2, of the 6 in the game, we were really starting to enjoy ourselves. I should point out we were playing through on Amateur which is the lowest difficulty in the game. Perhaps this means in some ways we are not really playing a Resident Evil game, that it makes the ammo supply better and thus less management is required, I’m not sure. But having a fun time is really what gaming is about for us, second only to having a shared experience. What it did allow though was for us to finish the game without ever hitting a real stumbling block. Sure we had a fair few downs, and more than a dozen full deaths but we always knew what we were doing and how to progress building our skills as we went as well as upgrading out chosen weapon specialisations. Myself favouring Handgun, Shotgun and heavy weapons, whilst Linda went Handgun, Machine Gun, Rifle.
The game had a satisfying conclusion, and despite this being our first encounter with Wesker we were more than happy to see the Matrix aping fool dealt with, though clearly this had happened previously also and in true villain style had survived so who know eh? We’re now replaying through the sections required to get the emblems and pick up various treasures and achievements we missed so it’s fair to say the game has risen in our expectations and we would now look forward to another in the series, provided of course the co-op play is maintained.
It’s always nice to have a game take you by surprise in this way and rise above being just play through and become an experience.
As a side note the new Cane and Rinse podcast has chosen Resident Evil 4’s HD remake as it’s topic for episode 2 and due to it’s in depth coverage handles the entire RE series so is well worth a listen to anyone with more than a passing interest in the series, or who just loves a good meaty games discussion.