Summary: Sporting a new mercenaries mode with more enemies on screen, higher resolution DX10 graphics, and 3D Vision support, Resident Evil 5 is definitely best experienced on the PC. But does the PC version of the game suffer from any consoleitis? Vandy doesn't think so. Read his take on the game inside!
Ten years after the Mansion Incident at Raccoon City, Chris Redfield is still hard at work trying to clean up the Umbrella Corporation’s mess. Co-founder of the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance, he has just been dispatched to a remote desert village called Kijuju, where he meets a local BSAA agent named Sheva Alomar. She is to help him catch a known terrorist who is trying to sell a bio-organic weapon on the black market. It is soon discovered that something seriously wrong is happening to the people of Kijuju… Chris and Sheva must work together and search out the cause of the strange happenings, the very source of the BOW threat. Welcome to Africa.
This seventh game in the series seems to be even more action-oriented than RE4, the first to take a radical turn from the classic survival horror style of gameplay. In RE5, puzzles take a backseat to large-scale battles against many infected, and one stage is set entirely on rails behind a mounted machinegun. Additionally, a cover system has been implemented to facilitate combat with enemies that shoot back at you. More guns, more thrills, but will it still give you the chills?
While we had to wait 6 months for the PC version, it brings with it better graphics, free online multiplayer, enhanced keyboard/mouse controls, an improved Mercenaries minigame, and more! Of course, all of that is for naught if the core game itself isn’t any good, right? Even though you probably have read reviews for the console versions or maybe even played them a bit yourself, just pretend you didn’t and proceed!
NVIDIA 3D Vision
Resident Evil 5 is the first game to be officially certified as “3D Vision Ready” by NVIDIA. This means that, when paired with a modern GeForce video card and select LCDs or HDTVs, their 3D Vision glasses will deliver the ultimate visual experience! Or something like that… The entire game, from the menus, cutscenes, and of course actual gameplay, is displayed in eye-popping stereoscopic 3D.
In order to maintain a fluid framerate throughout 3D rendering, the process requires a true 120Hz refresh rate – basically, 60Hz for each eye. At the moment, few displays support this; only two LCD computer monitors are listed as compatible on the NVIDIA website. To try out the setup, I was provided the 22” Samsung 2233RZ, which has actually made a noticeable difference outside of 3D compatibility. A higher refresh rate means a higher effective framerate in 2D games and I could swear I even saw a difference in Windows Aero, with something as simple as moving a window around the desktop looking so much smoother.
Within the first fifteen minutes of play, you’re thrust into a very sizeable scuffle with these restless locals wherein it’s nearly impossible to kill them all. Stay in one spot and you’ll be overwhelmed, running out of ammo and dying in short order. Instead, you must break through the onslaught, evade enemy advances, climb to higher ground, and quickly search for supplies, all the while waiting for backup.
The smart player will conserve ammunition, using melee attacks when possible, and use the environment to his advantage. Explosive barrels or tanks are not uncommon and chokepoints exist to make better use of grenades, shotguns, and piercing weapons. The bottom line is, you have to keep cool under pressure to succeed. Such is the nature of a game that makes no reservations in deviating even further from the “survival horror” genre than its predecessor.
Don’t believe the hype calling this “the next generation of fear” – there is very little to be scared of in Resident Evil 5. And that’s coming from a guy who usually avoids the horror genre as a whole… I only briefly played the originals, but once rented REmake for the GCN and it scared the bejeezus out of me so bad I never even made it to the second typewriter!
Granted, I’m older now, but nothing in this game gave me that feeling of dread I got when I turned a corner and ran into a zombie or heard a ferocious Doberman crash through the window behind me. Capcom is a bit overzealous in their use of introductory cutscenes, effectively ruining most surprises by giving you 5-10 seconds to realize what’s happening.
The most major fear-reducer is the fact that you virtually always have your partner with you, covering your back. You’ll rarely become separated and even then it is only for a short time during which you remain in each others’ line of sight. There are still a few tense moments, such as wading through a swamp infested with overgrown alligators, but they’re few and far between.
You’ll come across a wide variety of bosses throughout the game, as is par for the course in the series. They range from tougher-than-usual Majini to ginormous mutated monstrosities and you will fight them both traditionally and through interactive cutscenes. Each mega baddie registered differently on my intimidation scale, from “Uh-oh” to “HOLY SHIT!” Most of the encounters are straightforward enough, but a few can be frustrating, to say the least. The worst of them wasn’t even really a boss fight at all, and involved an extreme amount of button mashing.
The inventory grid system from previous games has been scrapped for a simpler one that allows you and your partner to carry 9 items each. You can swap items between the two of you at will, while pretty much everything except for weapons and healing sprays can be stacked – one spot can hold up to 5 grenades or 50 pistol bullets, etc. You access the inventory on-the-fly, meaning you don’t have the protection of pause when you do so. To counter-balance this, you are now allowed to access the items via hotkeys or the D-pad, letting you equip them more quickly and without blocking your view.
The shifty merchant character from RE4 has been replaced with an inventory management interface that you access between stages to maintain your stock of supplies. Through this menu, you can buy and sell things, upgrade weapons, and store what I’m assuming is an unlimited amount of excess items. This system allows you to keep anything you picked up during a partial run-through of a level, which is nice for when you save and quit or die and restart, but I can see it being easily exploited. On top of that, your entire inventory rolls over after you beat the game, so you can start anew with all of your accumulated assets in tow.
A wide variety of weapons are available for your enjoyment, including several variations of each of the basic types, such as handgun, machinegun, shotgun, and rifle. Everything is fully upgradeable in terms of stopping power, reload time, and magazine capacity, with a fourth upgrade like critical headshot chance or piercing ability available on select arms. You cannot buy ammunition, but a neat trick allows you to acquire some: Upgrade your gun’s capacity and its new, larger clip will be refilled. This is especially useful for the magnums, since extra bullets are scarce and each one is capable of dealing massive damage.
As the game’s native control scheme, I found the controller to be better than the improved keyboard/mouse mechanics. Sure, you have a lot easier time aiming with the mouse, and more hotkeys could come in handy, but otherwise it’s a bit awkward. It’s obvious that Capcom has put a lot of effort into making a third-person shooter work on a gamepad, refining the controls introduced in RE4. For example, I use control type D, which isn’t unlike how a console FPS is controlled, allowing you to strafe and use the trigger to fire. A very cool feature is the dynamic switching between a gamepad and keyboard/mouse. Simply using one or the other instantly changes the control scheme and on-screen prompts without having to open the menu.
New to the series is the chance to play through the entire story mode with a friend taking the place of your AI partner. It works either through LAN or online, and either player can come and go as they please, leaving the AI to take over, without interrupting play. I know I’d be interested in playing a new game as Sheva for a fresh perspective on events and to see places only she can go via the assisted jump. Don’t worry if you don’t have someone else to play with; you can unlock the ability to select her by completing the game.
The partner AI is somewhat hit and miss. Sheva will collect items, heal you, give you ammo, but then she’ll run right into a trap. What aggravated me the most, though, is that she’s pretty bad about using range-appropriate weapons. Don’t bother giving her a stun baton as a backup weapon because she’ll just stand there holding it. I would prefer if she used a sniper rifle for long range and switch to the pistol when they come closer, but she tends to choose one or the other and use it all the time. I was pleasantly surprised when she switched from an SMG to a shotgun when they got close, but it was only at point-blank range.
Resident Evil 5 uses the same proprietary graphics engine as Devil May Cry 4 and Lost Planet: Extreme Condition. It isn’t anything revolutionary but it looks damn good, with its crisp textures, motion blur, and advanced lighting and particle effects. Character and object models are also exquisite, adding a lot to realism and eliminating the need for pre-rendered cinematics.
Gore effects are as gruesome as ever; Heads explode fantastically, blood flies every which way, infected dogs split halfway down the middle to expose a disgusting, dripping maw that runs at you with large claws and tentacles whipping about… not to mention the animal and human corpses in varying stages of destruction that often serve as props in the environment. I think it goes without saying, but the squeamish need not apply.
Included with the game is a very handy benchmarking tool with two tests, each with its own applications. The “Fixed” benchmark renders the same scene every time and is useful for comparing results with other systems. However, it’s not indicative of in-game performance, but that’s where the “Variable” test comes in. This one takes about 5 minutes and demonstrates 4 different gameplay situations with AI controlling both Chris and Sheva. Using the results shown at the end, you should be able to make an educated decision as to what settings to play on.
When the game launcher loads, you are given a choice between DirectX 9 and DirectX 10 versions of the executable. The two are virtually identical, both visually and performance-wise. Officially, the only reason to run DX10 is that it’s required for NVIDIA’s 3D Vision, which is a moot point for the vast majority of you. As such, you can skip to the next section, but if you’re curious…
RE5 is built from the ground up for 3D, and it shows. While other games are compatible to varying degrees, this one is meant to work perfectly with it. 3D Vision is in no way required to enjoy the visuals, but it does make a difference in immersion that you have to see to believe. The performance hit is not what you’d expect either, at only about 30%. This is certainly acceptable when you consider the added cost and where it should lie on your list of priorities. Meaning, if you’re spending the extra green on a 3D setup, you probably have the beefy rig to make it shine.
Be on the lookout for a dedicated 3D Vision performance and impressions article shortly.
The sound effects in RE5 are very well done. Each weapon has its own satisfying blast, footsteps on various materials are natural, and the leather and metal equipment you wear rattle in time. Shouts, howls, screams, cries, roars, growls, gurgles, and shrill chirping of persons and creatures of every persuasion fill the air as you do battle. Parasites burst from their hosts with sickening sloshes and cracking sounds, explosions are full and booming, even the various water vessel engines sound good. I could go on and on about all the little things you might hear and take for granted, but the fact is, you never once think “That doesn’t sound right.”
Action-heavy gameplay is wonderfully engrossing. You’re not quite swimming in munitions, but you aren’t scraping residue from spent rounds in hopes of producing your own, either. Context-based actions streamline maneuvers and quick-time events make sure you stay alert, even during the cinematics.
Partner AI has its shortcomings. Having a human partner instead is very beneficial, except maybe when it comes to sniping… Sheva is a sniping machine!
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It took me 9 ˝ hours to complete story mode on the easy difficulty. While I do tend to explore, fight defensively, and overall take my time more than some people, it would probably last even longer on higher difficulties. Plus, as I mentioned previously, there is more than enough extra content to keep you busy after you beat it. You can even compete with other players using the online Leaderboards, which are accessible from the main menu.
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