Resident Evil 5
I’ll be honest here, I came into this series at around the middle mark. As a horror newbie around the Psone era, I wasn’t in a rush to try Resident Evil at all. However, I did dip my toe into survival horror with Fear Effect 2. And while I was impressed with the crazy stories and monsters, the fixed camera style grated me. That and the laughable dialogue script too. So I generally gave 1, 2 and Resident Evil 3 a miss during those 90’s.
Resident Evil 4 finally got my attention. The graphical overhaul stood out in comparison to its predecessor, even its peers. There was certainly more atmosphere with its realism. Aiming and shooting felt far more natural than a typical fixed camera method. And the story was only a tangent from the larger canon. Newcomers, like myself, could start from here.
So it was an overall enjoyable experience to behold. I’ll admit I didn’t get five-star ratings on Mercenaries or push through professional difficulty. I even found Ada’s stories difficult in places and regenerators horrifying (I was too afraid to get that infra-red scope from the freezer). But it was tentative steps into a new genre of gaming that I wouldn’t have otherwise considered.
So a few years into the PlayStation 3 and I was hyped up for the next incarnation. The fifth game hadn’t been even released and already idiots were screaming at the apparently racist setting of Africa. Regardless, I think it was around 2009 that the demo finally launched and I was chomping at the bit to try it.
I found the new locale a much-needed breath of fresh air, much as the rural setting did in the previous title. The controls felt very familiar, as did the stop-and-shoot/reload mechanics. Mobs of enemies were more frequent but you weren’t alone in your fight for survival.
Playing with friends
The demo came out with the ability to play cooperatively with friends, a first for the series. Traditionally the saga has been primarily about survival horror and going alone. Apart from a smattering of other non-playable characters, you faced the creatures one-on-one. Encased within a maze of police stations, sewers and the infamous mansion, going solo made for a thicker atmosphere. You only had yourself to blame if you ran out of healing herbs, or you couldn’t find ammo to fight with. Even going alone in RE4s castle made for a chilling experience, until you found Ashley again.
But with this new cooperative ability, the fifth game lightened up somewhat and now you traversed the plains of Africa with a friend or stranger. And believe me, you’d better pick a familiar face.
A few months after it came out, I got down to experimenting with the Mercenaries mini-game. This is essentially a timed minigame of shooting zombies for points. You’ve a selection of characters to choose from, all with different weapon sets and unique melee moves. You can increase the time available by striking power-ups dotted throughout the level. Each stage is a level taken from the story, made into an enclosed arena.
Mini-bosses from the main story are present. These require considerably more firepower to conquer.
And with lots of practice, learning each characters equipment and the assistance of a good friend, you can easily hit that A or S rank.
Over the coming months, I’d meet my share of strangers to team up with. Some were complete idiots, demanding I’d stick close all the time. Others simply hogged all the ammunition floating around. And some even quit the game completely because the consecutive combo meter ran out. But eventually, I’d find friends that were on my level enough to roll through the story or play on Mercenaries from time to time.
You know the type; helpful friends that wouldn’t cry so much if they got wounded. Friends who would help out if you needed healing or ammo for your particular weapon type.
Two of them come to mind and they helped me a lot in the story and mercenaries modes. With friends, the experience may not be as scary or tense but having someone to take on a boss was always fun. It was certainly frustrating on harder difficulties but together you could eventually win. Puzzles were now made for two players. The game would control the other player if you had no friends available, leaving you to solve the puzzle alone. And while the AI was accurate in gunfights, you’d best stick to a friend who’d know where/when to shoot and how to execute the best combos.
Perhaps much to the chagrin of die hard fans, ammo is scattered around the place. Dropped from both enemies and within barrels, you’ll rarely run low on bullets. Sometimes it is a little jarring to see a tribal zombie drop a free hand grenade or a box of magnum rounds. But the ammo isn’t shared i.e each player can’t pick up their individual portion. However, once picked up you are able to manually give out ammo to your partner, such as splitting a box of fifty bullets in half. Sharing healing is done by standing close when either of you uses a herb spray.
This is essential to when they are in a dying state and you apply a lifesaving first aid spray or a simple reassuring pat on the stomach (if you’ve no curative items).
Unfortunately, the AI is rather enthusiastic in healing you. That doesn’t sound like a bad thing from the outset. But when your health barely takes a paper cut, it will pursue you, curative in hand until you are at full. A human player would normally stave off healing until your health is worryingly close to red. Naturally, it would prove useful in harder difficulties where damage received would be much more severe. And this is where the cooperative element shines. Professional difficulty demands you to stay close to your friend/AI.
I even had moments where standing between both AI partner and zombie results in the AI trying to shoot through me!
But on the plus side, the AI help is generally accurate. It’ll instinctively hit headshots where possible and make use of the best weapon to hand, except grenades. It’ll thank you for items you give it, plus it’ll scavenge any ammo for you laying around the area. But having said this, a human player can rely on instincts and still be susceptible to surprises. A human player knows to keep health ready for emergencies and not to top up the health bar every single time we land a graze. And we all try to avoid friendly fire where possible!
Though I have occasionally jumped and felt a sense of unease in Resident Evil, nothing really made me shriek. As mentioned earlier, you’ll lose a little of the fear factor when playing a horror game with a friend. But saying that it’s still an adventure to explore and defend yourself with someone you trust. There’s no competitive nature when it comes to a cooperative game. Competitiveness lies within the more heated Versus mode. But your primary goal in the story and mercenaries is to stay alive.
You understand what weapons your friend prefers and you help them to keep their choices stocked with ammo. You share healing herbs wherever you may find them and you keep an eye out for a curative if the mobs grow in size. Tactfully repositioning yourself around a boss with someone you know kills the creature that much sooner. All these and more make recent iterations of Resident Evil that much more enjoyable.
In my opinion anyway! I understand the nostalgia brought upon with the original games. But these are games I didn’t grow up with. Going back to them is somewhat enjoyable, such as the intricate puzzle design. But I found the fighting and backtracking doesn’t age well overall. The dialogue in the entire series isn’t exactly award winning. But that really wasn’t the point. A friend of mine told me the saga lampoons classic horror films. I’m sure you know the type; where the protagonists aren’t exactly geniuses. Plus most of the time, you’d be rooting for the monsters to end their miserable existence.