Resident Evil is one of the longest running and most successful series in the history of gaming.
Not only that, but it is also still one of the best, with developer Capcom managing to keep things fresh by never being afraid of taking risks with the formula; at least not with the last generation.
For this generation, however, Resident Evil 5 takes pretty much all the gameplay features of Resident Evil 4 and dabs them with a polished coat of paint for next-gen systems. One welcome change for the series is that checkpoints and automatic saves have finally been introduced to the game, which means death isn’t too much of an inconvenience this time. The other major feature this time around is the addition of co-op play.
Whilst being able to play with others isn’t exactly a first for the series, it is safe to say this is the first time it's been done extremely well. It also adds another layer or tension to the game, because if either you or your partner dies it is game over. So working together and helping each other is definitely the key to survival. This is a game that was build to be played with a friend; you’ll be able to swap items, heal each other and use a variety of context sensitive team assist moves. This is all best to best to be done online, because the split screen… well… it just doesn’t look very good.
What does look good are the graphics. Resident Evil 5 is an extremely good looking game, especially its lighting effects, which do a great job of capturing the bright African sun. As someone from Africa, I can honestly testify to how authentic the tribal and shanty town areas look. The environments are all very well designed and impressively varied and detailed. There are even some areas in the game that would make a great argument for Capcom developing the next Indiana Jones game.
Resident Evil 5 has you once again in the experienced shoes of Chris Redfield, who is arguably the lead male character of the entire series. His partner this time is Sheva; an African agent working for the BSAA; an anti Bio-terrorist organisation that Chris also works for.
When playing co-op, Sheva is controlled by the second player. However, if you choose to play alone, Sheva will be taken over by a somewhat capable AI.
She’s a pretty decent shot and does a good job of usually not getting herself killed. Unfortunately she's not very good at reserving ammo, which is important considering how scarce it can be in some battles. She will also occasionally get stuck somewhere far away from you, or will take the longest possible route to where you need her to be.
Some boss fights would be made a lot easier if you could split up, so one player would distract the enemy while the other shoots them from the best angle in order to hit their weak spot. This was particularly annoying during the very final boss fight which took considerably longer than it should have otherwise.
Another thing that takes a bit longer with the AI is inventory management. As with almost all Resident Evil games, this is a major part of the game and will have you spending plenty of time tinkering with both your partners and your own inventories. You will also get to spend money you collect on buying/upgrading your weapons.
To make all this a little easier during missions, the AI will know to give you ammo it doesn’t need based on the different weapons you may be carrying. You also have to ability to choose which one of you should pick up any given item. While this is definitely useful, it also quickly shows you the limited amount of dialogue Chris and Sheva have outside of cutscenes. Sure, the first few times I heard Chris say “take it” and Sheva say “ok” I might have giggled a little (I promise someday to come out of the gutter, just not today!), but after hearing that for the entire game, it gets old and a little annoying.