In 2005, developer Capcom completely changed the direction of its survival horror franchise Resident Evil with its fourth iteration of the beloved series. Gone were the tedious tank controls (that means that the up direction always moved the character forward regardless of camera angle … it sucked) and a glorious new era of over-the-shoulder shooting mechanics was ushered in. The game is completely brilliant, which was why the follow-up in the core series, 2009’s Resident Evil 5, was under a lot of pressure. The control mechanics remained intact; the story and atmosphere, however, were taken in an odd direction. RE has always been known for its mix of tense zombie hordes, strategic item management and devious puzzles, but to follow BSAA agent Chris Redfield out of the spooky dark corridors of previous games and into the harsh sunlight of Africa was jarring, but still—it kinda worked. The stark daylight provided a false sense of comfort, and the new enemy types—ravaged and evil-ified at the hands of the Las Plagas virus (think of it like one of those parasites that can control their host’s brain) added variety. Even better was the addition of African BSAA agent Sheva Alomar, a female character who could provide AI support with minimal default commands (support or attack) and, awesomely, be played by one of your buddies for a completely cooperative campaign experience. Resident Evil 5 was, arguably, the last good game in the series, and it was exciting to bring a friend along for the ride, even if it did cut down drastically on the spooks.
Fast-forward to now, and Capcom has reissued RE5, up-scaled to 1080p and complete with all the DLC and extras that were parsed out over time in ’09. It’s a clever move that worked well with 4 (although that one is widely regarded as one of the best of all time) but that now relies a little more heavily on the nostalgia factor than its own merit. The game looked great back then, and most assets look only slightly better now: Character design and animation are both detailed and iconic, even if Chris Redfield looks a little jock-ish, and the variety of environments, weaponry and story pacing come together well. Backgrounds look more crisp and clean this time around, however, and the world, overall, is pretty cool. Boss battles are every bit as exciting as they’ve always been in the series (especially the brutal El Gigante, a massive ogre kind of dude who wears a belt of human corpses), and coming back with more gaming experience makes it all the more fun. Of course, there are certain aspects that show their age.
Not being able to move while shooting or reloading, for example, or the extremely game-y idea that some tiny, out-of-the-way village in Africa would somehow have their doors rigged up to locking mechanisms operated by cranks or buttons. The name of the game these days is something like immersion/realism, and Resident Evil’s longtime insistence on using game tropes is still a concern. Oh sure, they tried to open it up a little with RE6, but, well … it wasn’t great.
Voice acting sucks every bit as usual, not counting Roger Craig Smith (Ezio Auditore from the Assassin’s Creed Italian trilogy) as Chris Redfield, but even worse than that is in how the cinematic cut-scenes sound like they were recorded with a mic that was about a hundred yards away. It really pulls you further out of an already ludicrous narrative, and it would ultimately be forgivable if not for the whole thing where you just spent more money on a game you probably already owned. Besides, it’s a small grievance when stacked up against the many hours of excitement that comes from replaying a completely solid game.
Again, most of the enjoyment comes from remembering the little bits and pieces you’d forgotten—like that one cool bat demon or that part where there are a bunch of zombified virus victims zipping around on motorcycles and, like, trying to whip you with chains and stuff—or even just getting back into the RE universe at a time when everything in games was changing. If you’ve still got your copy from last generation, you can go ahead and save your $19.99, but if you’ve been missing the series or even just want to get yourself amped for the upcoming Resident Evil 7, it’s a great way to reacquaint yourself with Capcom’s darling—these guys pretty much wrote the book on the genre. There are absolutely better games in the series, and this may not be a great jumping-off point for those coming in new, but it still holds up. And anyway, there aren't a whole lot of great AAA titles coming out until August, so suck it up and make sure you upgrade your default pistol—it's a whole lot better than you think.
3.5 out of 5
New territory it ain’t, but RE fans should probably just pick it up.
Resident Evil 5 Remastered
Rated M (There will be chainsaws)
Available on Xbox One and PS4