You have to give it to the team over at Capcom: 10 games, five movies, enough merchandise to thematically kit out your step-dad’s basement - and they’ve still refrained from creating a pinball version of their Resident Evil franchise.
But maybe they’re close. In many ways it feels like Resident Evil - a series that has helped to reignite our love/hate relationship with zombies over the past thirteen years - has been usurped by more lithe competitors and is now playing catch-up on its own track.
2005’s Resident Evil 4 was both a departure from the series’ genre-defining roots and a kiss of life for a franchise that was ironically close to becoming one of the walking dead. Resident Evil 5 has continued the survival-action format, this time dropping original zombie veteran Chris Redfield in the fictional Kijuju, Africa, and teaming him up with local vixen and ammo-dumpster Sheva Alomar to clean up another clichéd Umbrella corporation plot.
This review concerns itself with what’s new, exciting (and less-than-exciting) about the title’s PC port - so we hope you’ll forgive us if we cut right to the chase and give you a quick heads up that you can read a full review of Resident Evil 5 here. In short: there's enough here to make the PC version of the game possibly the best iteration of the current title.
As you might expect, the superior accuracy and nuance afforded by the use of a keyboard and mouse offer vast improvements over more cumbersome controller aiming. What hasn’t changed is the manjini AI, which means the zombies are somewhat trivialised and they’ll be receiving more explosive head-shots than Shane Cameron. Be sure to wind up the difficulty.
Capcom have also added inventory hotkeys, cutting down on one of the few remaining puzzles in the series: just how to swap the correct items from allies Sheva to Chris and vice versa. A new quick-turn button is also a welcome addition, as is a keyboard shortcut for your knife, which makes for an easy last line of defence and simplifies barrel breaking - although it must be said: we thought we were done with breaking barrels for loot back in Diablo. Most importantly, Resident Evil 5, already a graphical leader on consoles, is visually spectacular on the PC.
But on the other hand Capcom have also painstakingly - at times painfully - translated some shortcomings and from the console to the PC. Chris Redfield’s ridiculously cartoonish proportions still clutter up our field of vision. Given, Resident Evil has never been first-person but the OTS perspective creates an immersive disconnect. Had the PC port done away with sighting past Chris’ peanut-sized head and down his ‘roid-enhanced biceps, the game would no doubt be more frightening.
And while we’re discussing horror, static shooting - an evolutionary redundancy from Resident Evil’s heritage - remains. The format makes sense in a survival horror game where it brings the ‘fight or flight’ conundrum right to the fore for the player. But as Resident Evil has cast aside its lengthy genre credentials, ‘run and gun’ would now seem more fitting.
Sheva continues to be both irresponsible with her ammunition and remains too ambitious with her healing. Moreover, the game’s multiplayer functionality is less than impressive. A poor menu system can take some getting used to and players joining a game must wait until the host either checkpoints or restarts the game. For better or worse, weapons can’t be traded between two players online.
Resident Evil 5’s PC port includes two new extras. The first are a couple of outfits for Chris and Sheva: Chris dons an “Outlands raider” getup replete with spikes and straps, and Sheva models a blouse, jacket, miniskirt and stiletto heels. The other is a spin on the standard Mercenaries mode called No Mercy. In essence, three manjini are spawned for every one manjini in Mercenaries mode. The objective is to clock up kills and combo kills using Chris’ full weaponry array. Online leaderboards allow you to keep track of your progress against other players around the world.
Like all ports, Resident Evil 5 begs a simple question: have the developers done enough within the six month lag between iterations to warrant your interest if you’ve already experienced the game on a console? Naturally, there’s no quick answer and certainly there’s a longer ongoing discussion to dabble in regarding PC gaming and piracy. Admirably, Capcom have done more than most but on the whole, probably less than necessary to pique your average gamer’s interest in owning two copies of the same game.