I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about certain sequels that people shun as ‘not living up to’ the previous title(s). I may make a line of articles on more retrospectives as and when I discover/rediscover them. For the time being though let’s delve into my most recent case. Was Resident Evil 5 really not as good as Resident Evil 4?
I think the major problem for Resident Evil is that it had mighty big shoes to fill. 4 was after-all the title that reanimated the slowly decaying corpse of the franchise (see what I did there?). It dragged Resident Evil from the survival horror genre into an action title with much more user friendly controls and shed loads of guns/ammo. Still it managed to maintain a grim feel and a few good ‘jump’ moments to keep the feel of a series based on horror. It certainly had buckets full of tension through the new faster moving enemies that could also use tools and weapons. Classic enemies were gone for now as Umbrella had been disbanded in the plot-line, but we didn’t mind at all. In fact Resident Evil 4 was met with stark reviews from almost everyone as the game that saved the franchise.
To my memory when 5 came out people really complained about it. Somewhere in bringing some of the old enemies back (i.e. Lickers), having a plot about Wesker and adding a great co-op mode (a first for the series) people seemed to turn on 5. I enjoyed both games greatly being that I’ve been a massive Resi fan since the original title. I enjoyed 5 for both fulfilling gaps in the story and continuing the improvements 4 started. When playing the HD remake of 4, I was quite surprised at the unnatural layout of the controls in that you had to press square/X to fire/attack while aiming as opposed to using the left trigger to aim and right to fire/attack. It sounds silly, but something as simple as the button being in a different place actually caught me off guard a few times during the first hour of replaying the game. When you consider the opening of 4 when the villagers all attack you, you’ll probably guess my reaction to not firing as the foes drew ever closer towards me. Another thing that shocked me was the lack of action prompts in 4. In 5 pretty much every time you pull off a decent leg shot you’ll be prompted to press a button to land an attack melee attack on enemies which is really useful in tight spots. I think the only time I saw a prompt in 4 was when the enemy was lying on the floor for Leon to perform a finishing kick which although was nicely animated, didn’t do much for helping me save ammo.
I think the problem with 5 lies in the setting. There isn’t much ‘fear’ to be had in broad day-light, nothing can hide in the shadows to jump out at you. I’ve talked about the whole ‘de-horroring’ of once proud survival horror titles, but when you think about it 5 is only really a step or further down the road from 4′s action orientation.
As for the co-op in 5, I loved it! I think I played through the game once or twice by myself at first and then as friends purchased it I got into trying out the co-op. It ran very smoothly and although added an extra human player in to branch off and lure bosses for weak point exposure meant you also had to then go and revive them (your partner) when downed (and they you) instead of the easier solo-play button mashing self revive. The co-op play came into it’s own when added to the beloved mercenaries mode (another feature brought in on 4). I’d always found mercenaries fun, but with the benefit and chatter of another player the life-span of playing it for hours in a single sitting increased (for me) dramatically. Verses mode had it’s ups and downs though. I think it’s the only mode in the game that I experienced lag (or the violent anger of Xbox Live gamers). It was fun to play when it was playable, but I’m not 100% sure that it’ll be making a return in 6.
Playing 4 has in-turn got me wanting to play through 5 again, but both are just preparations for Resident Evil 6 which will no doubt blow my mind when it lands in October. It’s basically looking to improve the 4/5 action formula, with more co-op gameplay, more classic characters returning and more ACTION! I only hope there’s a return of Resi 4′s mighty merchants and of course Wesker….. No real Resident Evil is complete with swerve old Albert Wesker.