Review: Resident Evil 5 (Switch)

The series’ fifth and most divisive installment is on Switch, but is it still worthy of a play ten years later?

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 02/06/2020 11:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
1-Up Mushroom for...
Solid co-op experience; delightful aesthetic with a bunch of gorgeous African locales mixed with foreboding, claustrophobic spaces; Mercenaries Mode adds tons of replay value; both DLC expansions are here and add to the experience; gyro aiming is handled very well
Poison Mushroom for...
Sheva's AI burns through resources and places her too often in Chris's way; over-the-top action might be a turnoff for those who want traditional survival horror; the boulder punch is just silly

Resident Evil 4 was a landmark, watershed moment in the video game industry. Resident Evil 5, meanwhile, let players punch a boulder. No, really. Not that punching boulders is a bad thing, necessarily. What’s important about being able to hit rocks in RE5 is that it’s emblematic of the sharp shift in tone that the game brought to the table. There are those who think that RE4 did away with the “survival” in the series’ survival horror formula, but there are arguably even more who think that RE5 well and truly buried it. There’s no denying that action is at front and center in RE5 more than any other installment in the series, but to dismiss the game because of this would be a mistake. Boulder-punches and all, this is a fine (albeit flawed) chapter in Resident Evil history.

The events of RE5 pick up some time after what happened in RE4. Leon’s encounters with the Los Illuminados cult and the Las Plagas parasite have been documented and the operations of the BSAA (Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance) continue in an effort to rid the world of biological weapons of mass destruction. Chris Redfield finds himself in Africa and partnered with local BSAA agent Sheva Alomar where the pair set out to learn the truth behind the death of Jill Valentine, the Uroboros Virus, and the infected hordes of Majini. As a narrative, RE5 leans into the look and feel of a typical summer blockbuster. The explosions are plentiful, the set pieces are large and grand, and the action is almost constant.

Still, for all its spectacle, RE5 doesn’t veer away from all of the standard Resident Evil traditions. The story is dense with lore and twists. At the time, RE5 acted as a firm point of delineation between what had come before and the future of the series, and on that front, it still succeeds. How pleasing RE5‘s resolution is will vary from fan to fan, but overall the game concludes with a bang and turns the franchise’s eyes firmly towards the horizon. Two sequels later, everyone knows where Resident Evil ultimately decided to go, but for that moment, and still today, RE5 was and is a satisfying “end.”

In terms of gameplay, RE5 isn’t too much different from RE4‘s revolutionary over-the-shoulder, third-person setup, but it’s definitely beefier (not unlike Chris). While Chris and Sheva are locked in place when it’s time to shoot, the gunplay itself packs more kick and feels more impactful. All the munitions hit their mark with more weight and power, which engenders a real sense of strength. At the same time, it also removes some of the fear that came in older Resident Evil titles. With the pair’s robust counter moves, replete with spinning kicks and right hooks, outside of boss battles Chris and Sheva come across as superheroes— for both better and worse.

To say that Capcom sucked all of the fright and horror out of RE5 would be a serious overstatement, though. The Majini, this game’s take on RE4‘s Ganado enemies, are lithe and quick, and also not afraid to take on Sheva and Chris in full daylight. While the heroes do come across as untouchable, there are plenty of times when packs of charging Majini melt that confidence away. Gatling Gun and Chainsaw Majini are particularly ferocious and prove so relentless that every victory against them is well and truly earned. Admittedly, a lot of these thrills are about adrenaline versus the slowburn of a shambling zombie inching closer, but the gameplay in RE5 is scary in its own right even if it’s not always dialed up to the max.

RE5 backs all this bravado and swagger with a bold aesthetic. The African grasslands and villages presented here are still stunning to look at. There’s a wild segment where Chris and Sheva fire gun turrets from a moving Hummer against the backdrop of a wide, open savanna that is every bit as beautiful today as it was in 2009. Some of the character models come across as marionettes in this remaster, however, and Chris is almost comically muscular. So much so that Chris looks slightly out of place compared to everyone else. Overall, though, the bulk of the design work here is sublime, from the desaturated colors to the Executioner Majini’s enormous cleaver on through to the claustrophobic corridors of the mine.

Performance on Switch in comparison to other platforms is always tricky to nail down. For the optimal experience, RE5 should be played while docked and on a TV. Playing in Handheld mode is perfectly workable, it’s just that some of the textures lose their luster, and the framerate isn’t quite so high. That said, at its best RE5 tops out at above 30fps, but it’s not capped, so there is some fluctuation. For all this talk about performance, it’s worth noting that outside of some very hectic battles, RE5 looks and plays fine. Never once did performance woes make the experience unplayable or negatively impact gameplay. It’s a little frustrating that Switch would need to make any compromises to run a last-gen video game, but this is nonetheless a solid port.

This version of RE5 brings with it something that many fans of Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition will appreciate— gyro controls! Aiming with a Joy-Con is easy and fun, and adds a visceral layer that’s unique to using motion controls versus a traditional control stick. I tend to skew away from gyro controls, myself, but RE4 on Wii is still my favorite version of that game, in no small part because of how satisfying it was to aim the Wii Remote to fire. That fun has carried over to RE5 on Switch. Co-op is also back for this version of the game, with players able to take control of either Sheva or Chris in person or online. It’s easy to set up and makes the campaign even more enjoyable.

Co-op is also a nice way of circumventing one of the more troubling aspects of RE5: Sheva’s insanely aggressive AI. She burns through resources with reckless abandon and is constantly getting in Chris’s path. There are ways of mitigating her impact beyond co-op. It’s possible to limit her to weapons like rifles and handguns to keep her from using up more precious munitions for things like shotguns and machine guns. It’s also possible to manually remove healing items from her inventory, too. That all said, Sheva’s AI is burdensome and can cause frustration. It’s a shame that Capcom hasn’t gone in to tinker with it after all of these revisions and rereleases of RE5.

Mercenaries Mode is also back from RE4. In it, players can choose between a variety of different Resident Evil characters, including series-antagonist Albert Wesker and heroine Jill Valentine. In Mercenaries Mode, waves of enemies attack the player. The more foes that are taken out, the higher the score. Trying to put together a perfect run can become truly addicting. As its own self-contained mode, Mercenaries remains one of the best secondary modes in any video game. Along with co-op, RE5 has plenty on offer to bring players back to the game over and over. If only Leon made an appearance… sigh…

Rounding things out are the two DLC expansions Lost in Nightmares and Desperate Escape. Lost in Nightmares puts players in a setting highly evocative of the mansion in the original Resident Evil. The campaign lasts about an hour and has a far more restrained tone; it also gives some excellent background info on certain characters and events from the main plot of RE5. Desperate Escape, meanwhile, doubles down on the action of the core storyline, casting players as the cool and heroic Josh (it also can be beaten in around 60 minutes). Both of these DLC packs are great and flesh out an already lengthy game. They’re not essential, but for those itching for more RE5, it’s wonderful that both expansions are part of the package.

RE5 has lost none of its luster a decade later. On Switch, some of the graphical bells and whistles have been slightly diminished, but that’s offset by a bevy of control options and the ability to play the game anywhere. With plentiful modes and content to tackle, RE5 should keep fans busy for quite a while. What’s more, for series diehards there’s a ton of extra content (including an entire written history of Resident Evil) to parse through. Extra costumes, DLC, Mercenaries Mode— this is a very complete and generous package. It might be more action-focused than what came before it, but RE5 is still very much a game from the classic mold and deserves a play.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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