Resident Evil 5 HD Review

Resident Evil 5 HD Review

English Title Resident Evil 5
Japanese Title Biohazard 5
Kana Title バイオハザード5
Director Kenichi Ueda
Release Date 2009, 2016
Developer Capcom
Series Resident Evil
Platforms Playstation 3
Playstation 4
Xbox 360
Xbox One

Despite glowing reviews on its original release, as fan perception goes time hasn’t been kind to Resident Evil 5. Upping the ante in terms of action and with a new focus on co-operative gameplay, the element of fear integral to the series that arguably defines the entire sub genre of survival horror largely disappeared in to the background. In 2017 Resident Evil 5 is a game that’s showing its age in a way that 0 through 4 aren’t. There’s an insincerity to the game’s desperately contemporary vision that has aged it heavily in a mere eight years.

In terms of the game’s single player Resident Evil 5 suffers from the decision to add a second player to the proceedings. While there’s nothing wrong with the character of Sheva herself (in fact, she’s actually quite a nice addition), having a second character with you the entire way through the game takes the majority of the fear away. If an enemy is rushing at you, you can be sure Sheva will spot it before you. Is there ammo nearby? Don’t worry, Sheva will find it. In any other game this wouldn’t be such a hindrance, but in Resident Evil the presence of a second friendly character constantly distances the player from the experience.

The biggest reason for this of course is the AI. To be fair to Capcom, Sheva isn’t a badly designed AI, it’s just that as with many thing in Resident Evil, she’s at odds with the series. In a franchise as dependent on item conservation as this, Sheva will have you pulling your hair out as she wastes your last green herb that you were saving to combine with a red on just a minor scratch. Sheva runs out of handgun ammo? Then she’ll go straight to pulling out a magnum. Now of course most people would never dare to give Sheva a weapon that has a real ammo scarcity, but the very fact that the player knows not to points to a flaw in the design. You’re always thinking about how this AI partner is just a minute away from doing something you don’t want her to do rather than the experience of the game itself. Co-op gameplay works in Gears of War because it’s a series balanced around that very idea, but that isn’t Resident Evil.

The controls suffer in a similar fashion. While Resident Evil 5 had long been in development by the time survival horror underdog Dead Space arrived on the scene, RE5 refusing to allow the player to move and shoot, or worse still, run and control the camera are its real aging factors. The game’s control scheme is finicky even by 2009 standards. It isn’t that forcing the character to stay in place whilst shooting is necessarily the game’s death sentence. Resident Evil 4, an inarguable classic, does much the same thing. The problem is that the game’s mechanics simply aren’t in tune with the terrorist hunting action movie the game aspires to be.

Resident Evil 5’s biggest issue however is Capcom’s set piece envy. Responding to the enthusiastic response to RE4’s opening village sequence and cabin attack, RE5 is comprised almost entirely of set pieces and nothing else. This isn’t inherently bad, but RE5’s over-reliance quickly becomes a chore as players routinely find themselves stuck in environments, forced to kill the determined number of majini to continue or until an arbitrary amount of time has passed. Aside from the feeling of repetition, a side effect of this is that none of the environments feel like real locations and often show their hand as battle arenas before enemies even reveal themselves. For a series established on environmental storytelling and atmosphere this is a large step back.

Surprisingly however one of Resident Evil 5’s best aspects actually is its narrative; though chances are you missed it. For all the good Resident Evil 4 did for the series, and despite its endearing camp appeal, there wasn’t much there to tie its story in to past Resident Evil lore. For those that care however, 5 does a surprisingly good job at tying the plagas back in to the series’ origins, particularly Zero and the first game. Visiting the birth place of the G and T virus,  discovering Cohen’s origin from Zero, to witnessing the makeshift beginnings of the Spencer mansion; It all ties in surprisingly well.

Unfortunately however, the game appears almost ashamed of these roots as 5’s most interesting story beats are hidden in notes and behind computer screens. Contextual storytelling has been a long celebrated trope of the series, but with the game’s core mission concerning uroboros disappointing and a lazer focus on Wesker that will make even lovers of camp cringe, it feels like wasted potential. After reading such revelations that shake the series foundations, protagonists Chris and Sheva have almost nothing to say on the matter, creating a strange separation between the game you’re playing and the one you’re reading.

This paints a generally negative view of the game, but are there good things still to be said about it? In a sense, yes. While they don’t quite match the vision of the game, the mechanics introduced in Resident Evil 4 are still a solid foundation, from the now standard over the shoulder camera to its weapon upgrade system. Even by today’s standards Resident Evil 5 is still a beautiful game and Capcom more than achieved their goal of bringing horror to daylight in the early chapters.

The core appeal of the game however is in its co-op gameplay. While I lament the sacrifice of any meaningful single player, the game is a great way to waste a few evenings with a friend. From cooperative item management to bosses which demand communication, Resident Evil 5’s multiplayer appeal can’t be denied. It also introduces a great deal of suspense befitting of the series’ heritage as you both find having each others back as your swarmed by majini, a far cry from the immersion breaking frustration of the single player.

Desperately contemporaneous in vision yet stubbornly archaic in controls, Resident Evil 5 stands as perhaps the most out of touch game in the series. For all its beautifully rendered graphics and locations it’s hard to shake the feeling of insincerity. Featuring fantastic ties to other games in the series that are barely acknowledged, to a superbly suspenseful co-op experience at the expense of a decent single player, it’s a consistently rocky experience. There is a good time to be mined here, especially when playing with friends, but Resident Evil fans are the one’s who will find themselves disappointed most of all.

Lost in Nightmares

Lost in Nightmares is arguably the crown jewel of the Resident Evil 5 package. A hint at what could have been, this DLC takes Jill and Chris in to a replica of the Spencer mansion on the hunt for Spencer himself. Roughly an hour and a half long the first half of the game is spent simply exploring the environment with nary an enemy in sight. With a focus on disempowering the player, Lost in Nightmares recaptures some of that survival horror magic that tasks players to survive on their wits rather than luck or sheer brute force.

Desperate Escape

Desperate Escape fares noticeably worse than the previous DLC. Following Jill and Josh’s escape from Africa this bonus campaign doubles down on some of the main campaign’s biggest sins. Featuring a scant two locations, neither of which of the quality and devotion put in to Lost in Nightmares, Desperate Escape is little more than Mercenaries mode with a narrative wrapping. Never ending monster closets and environments that are little more than challenge arenas, Desperate Escape is a fun enough 40 minute long experience when played with a friend, but offers nothing that Chris and Sheva’s campaign hadn’t repeated ad nauseum.

Resident Evil 5 HD Playstation 4 Edition

While some of the textures in the environment struggle when viewed close up, for the most part Resident Evil 5 remains a stunningly beautiful game, particularly in the earlier chapters. No work has been made to improve the game’s mechanics and at 1080p the HUD takes up far too much screen real estate, but the core of the game survives intact flaws and all. Most impressive however is the sheer value of the package. Compiling the same bonus features as the Gold Edition, Resident Evil 5 HD includes the bonus chapters Lost in Nightmare and Desperate Escape, the horde mode The Mercenaries Reunion and a few new costumes. Whether you’re a fan of the game or not, the extra content and polish probably won’t change your mind much either way.





Previous The Real Ghostbusters vs Gegege no Kitaro?
Next Halloween Streamin' Day One! Yellow Fangs (1990)

About author

Craig 41 posts

Horror Japan is Craig Hatch, a Brit currently living in Tokyo, Japan. Horror Japan is a project that aims to review and collate media from all aspects of Japanese horror culture.

View all posts by this author →

Editor review

Resident Evil 5
Lost in Nightmares
Desperate Escape



Desperately contemporaneous in vision yet stubbornly archaic in controls, Resident Evil 5 stands as perhaps the most out of touch game in the series. Featuring fantastic ties to other games in the series that are barely acknowledged, to a superbly suspenseful co-op experience at the expense of a decent single player, it’s a constantly rocky experience. There is a good time to be mined from here, especially if playing with a friend, but Resident Evil fans are the one’s who will find themselves disappointed most of all.