April 4, 2009
I picked up Resident Evil 5 because I liked Resident Evil 4, and the demo for 5 showed there were lots of similarities between the games, and most of what wasn't similar felt like an improvement to the format.
The biggest feature of the game is the coop aspect, it's been built from the ground up to be played by 2 people at a time, and just isn't the same if you're playing by yourself. To Capcom's credit, they did a pretty good job on the AI, so long as you had the decency to turn it off of the default "Useless Mode" setting, where Sheva runs around wasting all of your healing items whenever you sneeze or stub your toe. Also, if you don't set Sheva to the "Attack!" setting, she will exclusively use her peashooter of a handgun, regardless of enemy range, strength, number or other weapons she might have in her arsenal. She does stick by you while she is set in "Useless Mode", but she neglects to pick up any items, leaving you to do all of her dirty work. Again, this is solved by changing the setting on her behavior, wherein she goes and fetches what you would expect her to and it really has me wondering why Capcom set her up to be useless by default.
The inventory no longer drags down your game every time you want to switch a weapon. There are 9 slots in you inventory, laid out in a square. Weapons automagically go into your inventory on one of the four cardinal directions of the inventory square, where they can be selected by hitting the designated direction on your d-pad. The game isn't paused while you're dealing with your inventory, which makes the first hour or so with the game very tense, as you're getting accustomed to messing around with it can lead to the occasional fumble. Once you are practised enough with the inventory to never spend more than a second shuffling items, you won't have to worry about it slowing you down. Now, 9 slots isn't a whole lot of inventory space, but that blow to your carrying capacity is softened by the fact that between levels you can dump anything you won't immediately need into a larger inventory, which would take scrounging up every last item you can find in multiple playthroughs of the game to fill up.
As you go through the game, you upgrade your weapons just to be able to survive, but at a certain point, it becomes less a matter of survival, and more of splattering all of your enemies with a single shot. Most of the weapons in the game are overpowered for all but the very hardest difficulty level, which isn't even unlocked from the start of the game, requiring completion of the previous difficulty. Further overpowering the weapons, is the ability to unlock unlimited ammunition for every single weapon in the game. I actually enjoy this ability, as it allows me to play the game without constantly fearing my life will be ended by running out of ammo, but still allowing me to turn off those godlike powers if I do want a challenge.
One thing I don't agree with what they've done with the game, is that they got rid of The Merchant, one of my favorite characters. I understand why they changed the shopping system the way they did, as it would be frustrating to have your partner pause the game to go shopping in the middle of a mission when all you really wanted to do was keep moving. Still, it would have been a neat addition just to have his voice while you are in the shop, and maybe have him physically present, but functionless at the beginning of every level as an homage to the role he played in Resident Evil 4. I guess what all this means, is that I'm expecting to see him again in Resident Evil 6.
The ingame story reminds me heavily of the previous installment, at times taking itself seriously, and others pushing the dialog so far over the top, it becomes comedic. There's alot of pamphlets hidden throughout the game containing backstory, and I would love to go through and read it, but the only time you can do so is right when you come up on it, making you immobile. I thought this was a strange choice given how streamlined they made the inventory. There are files you can read in the game's library, outside of actual gameplay, but I believe those are entirely different documents.
You can play online coop with anyone, but I recommend that if you pick up this game, you find a second controller and a friend to play with, as nothing beats good old-fashioned splitscreen coop.