I was riding high off of the Resident Evil 7 buzz, even if it was just a little taste. I wanted to play some of the series while I waited, anticipating its eventual release, so I started up Resident Evil 5, before realizing I could have waited and spent money on a remaster of it. I chose this fifth installment because I had revisited Resident Evil 4 recently, and this one is way better than the near-abomination we know as part six. I remember beating RE5 when the game came out and it having a few really good bits with some better controls than the previous entry, but there were certainly problems, the biggest one being my AI partner. I tried to like her, I swear, but she kept shooting me in the back of the neck during boss fights. So, I wanted to go back and see how it would hold up with the help of a human partner through the whole game.
This is a title that was built from the ground up as a co-op experience. I’m not sure why, but I’ll play their way this time. Thankfully, the incomparable Geeketiquette agreed to help me traverse Africa, sing some Toto, and make bad puns along the way. I took on the role of Chris Redfield and she played Sheva Alomar—hey, Geek offered, I just didn’t give her a chance to take it back. Don’t misunderstand. We both like the character of Sheva. It was good to see a new face in the fight, someone who was a native to the area and had ties there, as well as a personality that complimented Chris’ well. This was a strong female character that was not overshadowed—except by Chris’ arms—and they even tried to give her a small bit of backstory and motivation. The developers also dressed her appropriately for the environment, not too scantly, until we get to the alternate costumes. This did not stop Geek from saying, “dat ass,” on multiple occasions though.
Having a human partner doesn’t necessarily make the game easier than it is with the AI in most parts, but it makes things more efficient and cuts down on some silly deaths. What’s great is having a communication that allows for planning and overwatch. Now, when I check my inventory I can ask my partner to watch my back and vice versa, or more importantly she can warn me about chainsaw wielding maniacs when there are cranks and valves to be turned.
I still say that RE4 has the best inventory system, or at least my favorite. It kind of became its own little organization mini-game. This installment went back to something similar to the earlier games, with each player having only nine slots of space, and no matter the size of the item, it takes up one full spot. So carrying an egg, which heals only a small bit of life, takes as much space as my rocket launcher. This is one of the points where having a human partner can hurt, as the AI doesn’t require as much and burns through items faster, but a living partner needs more weapons and hoards items for survivability. Really, the inventory is a pain either way.
Going back to someone watching over you though, human partners also solve one of the biggest problems fans had with the controls in my opinion. As the series progressed it became a different type of action, but still did not allow players to move and fire at the same time, creating a tension and forcing quick decision making on when to move, shoot, or melee, depending on the situation. Playing like this allows one partner to attack while the other re-positions or covers another mob. This changes the encounters from how it works with an AI partner, takes away a bit of the tension, and creates some good team building moments. Many of the large encounters became way more fun and about practical strategies, until the boss battles at least.
Boss encounters for RE5 waver in difficulty, but each one, other than the first, feels overdone—concepts that should have stayed simple and much shorter. Many of these fights had mechanics that simply added unnecessary time to the encounter, having to wait for a weapon to recharge or a boss to expose himself in a certain way. Each failed attempt led to another encounter that seemed to work differently. No matter if we knew what to do, it seemed like the game was unsure of whether or not I had satisfied it with enough blood, fire, and cursing. The flamethrower boss and Wesker stand out the most in my last run (we did two). After the horrible boulder punching scene we went to Albert’s last form and ran out of ammo shooting at his weak points, with no option now but to wait and die. The second time though we took him down by barely going through any of our weapons. The previously mentioned flamethrower boss was just a slog and it never seems like he is getting any weaker, a twenty plus minute boss fight each time, and I’m told not using the flamethrower at all can actually go faster. Certain bosses were made harder with a human partner, others easier, but many times it just depended on the mood the AI was in.
I think the game is best with a human partner, especially on new game plus, but it doesn’t help with everything, if readers haven’t picked up on that already. Having a partner there didn’t help with the puzzles, which can be a bit annoying on their own even when knowing how to accomplish them, but that’s nothing for the hate this game made me feel about alligators—or are those crocodiles? More importantly, RE5 does nice shorter cutscenes, but they have several QTEs. These are actually much harder with a human partner, doubling the chance for someone to mess up and cause a restart. The coolest part of the whole experience though was working through things with my partner, figuring out how she played, planning after we messed up, setting up general roles for each other—I made her be the sniper. Overall, this new experience drastically increased my love of RE5, especially now that we made the horrible mistake of moving onto part six. I think we’ll just go back and try the two DLC add-ons. I hear they’re better, and I’m looking forward to more co-op zombie killing.