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The evil within

An hour into playing Resident Evil 5 you realise the obvious: the game is more action than survival horror. You can explore the beautifully detailed continent of Africa with a beautiful partner and fight zombies...

tech reviews Updated: Mar 17, 2009 19:26 IST

An hour into playing Resident Evil 5 you realise the obvious: the game is more action than survival horror. You can explore the beautifully detailed continent of Africa with a beautiful partner and fight zombies amidst terrific production values and epic set pieces.

Ah, this sounds good
Doesn’t it? Here’s how. You’re Chris Redfield, a BSAA (Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance) operative who’s been sent to Africa to investigate reports of the Las Plagas virus. Your beautiful partner is Sheva Alomar, a fellow agent with a personal stake in the operation. She was orphaned as a child by the infamous Umbrella Corporation. The hyper-violent locals of the place you’re sent to don’t take too kindly to you or your dusky friend. Let the games begin.

In true Capcom style, Resident Evil 5 is full of over the top villains and characters with a penchant to state the obvious in awful accents. Luckily, the story is interesting and the game does a great job of initiating newcomers to the Resident Evil lore, and educating players on the history of the Umbrella Corporation via text messages that pop up during the loading screen.

A bit like the old
Gameplay is pretty similar to RE4. You’ll explore a certain area, indulge in a bit of zombie slaughter and end the chapter with a huge boss fight. It’s predictable and linear but the game’s production values keep you hooked till the very end. I was very impressed with nearly all the bosses even though every encounter boiled down to the same old find-the-weakness-and-hammer-away formula. The mini-bosses you face are not slow and dumb — they prove to be dangerous adversaries. Monster design in this game is amazing and you’ll be genuinely creeped out with some of them.

The addition of an AI controlled partner (Sheva) is a boon no doubt, but friendly AI isn’t as impressive as I’d hoped. No matter what weapon I handed Sheva, she still felt the need to use her pistol even against 20 feet tall bosses. Also, once she ran out of ammo with one weapon, she didn’t feel the need to remove another weapon from her inventory and use it. The commands you can issue to your partner are limited as well and you can only order her to cover you or attack a target. But to give her credit, she did bring me back from the brink of death multiple times.

Death by faulty controls
The game’s not too tough or anything; in fact Capcom has made the game terribly accessible to newcomers. You now have an awesome checkpoint system that kicks in ever so often, reducing much of the backtracking and frustration associated with this series. What will get you killed are the game’s annoying controls and inventory system.

For starters, you are stuck with just one inventory bag and a limited amount of slots. While playing solo, you’ll have access to Sheva’s bag as well, so you can pretty much stock it with whatever you feel like and then ask her for that particular weapon during the game. But, unlike most action games, you can’t switch weapons on the fly. You’d have to open your inventory for that in real time, which means changing weapons could cost you your life.

Reloading weapons causes your character to stop moving completely. Same goes with shooting, that cannot be done while walking. You have to stand still just like in RE4. This is an unnecessary and highly archaic gameplay mechanism in my opinion. A simple quick switch key would have solved matters here. If Capcom was trying to heighten the tension with this control scheme, it has failed miserably.

But at least you’ll cop it happy
And that’s all thanks to the visuals. Resident Evil 5 is a technical marvel. Major brownie points should be handed out to Capcom who’ve maintained a constant 30 FPS even with gigantic bosses on screen and no matter how intense things get, the frame rate never skips a beat.

They’ve paid a ridiculous amount of attention to character, level and creature design, some of whom were truly disturbing to look at. Weapons sound authentic enough and the musical score is pretty atmospheric.
So is this game worth its Rs 3,499? RE 5 is a very linear game and offers little replayability. Sure there’s the Mercenary mode that gets unlocked after you complete the game and then you and a friend can take on wave after wave of the Majhini during a stipulated time period.

But it’s not full fledged multiplayer. The game’s also plagued by an annoying inventory system and bad controls.
But it’s one of the most technically proficient games on the block, so if you have the dough, I recommend shelling out the big bucks for this game, because this is one ride you won’t regret. Resident Evil 5 became locally available last Friday for PS3 and Xbox360.