For once I'm going to cut back on the pretension and tell it like it is. I don't hold Resident Evil 4 at a level of esteem unreachable by almost all videogames. I enjoyed the game enough to give it two playthroughs on both the Playstation 2 and the Wii but I can't remember much of anything about them. I look at Resident Evil 4 the same way I look at part 5, as just another videogame. Nobody wants to read about that garbage though. Resident Evil 5 exists to be constantly and unfavorably compared to its predecessor until the end of time. Yes aspects of RE5 feel kind of phoned-in and at times an original set-piece or even a sense of humor would have done wonders but otherwise I don't see the point in continuing with this comparison.
In fact let's go a bit further and zip through all of the nonsense that brings Resident Evil 5 down. The story is the kind of absolute pap where the only things the cutscenes can do to keep the player's interest is to make sure something "cool" happens every time or there's a QTE. The bosses tend to be giant targets with a lot of QTE prompts to mash through and absolutely little in the way of inspired design. There are also vehicle sections and you all know how I feel about those. The campaign is essentially a grind where until somebody handed me one of those cheat eggs that can be re-sold an infinite number of times I had to suffer through a lot of mediocre filler.
Breaking it down a bit further we have the campaign which is about as exciting as reading the phone-book. There are never any worries about limited resources and even the toughest-looking foe is weak since its movements have to be adjusted to account for the player-character's lack of mobility. I suspect the only real challenge in the game is going to come from playing the hardest difficulty, where I assume anything can leave the player in critical health with a single hit. It's too bad because it feels like that's all the game really can do to make things harder. It's not good design in the slightest but the campaign really feels like all potential was exhausted early on and everyone just goes through the motions until the credits roll. I won't even mention the story because I skipped all of the cutscenes I could.
Mercenaries mode on the other hand, this is what the entire game should have been. If anything the campaign feels like some overlong tutorial that runs the player through all of the basics and helps them get adjusted to the mechanics of movement and shooting. It's here where all of the good qualities of the game shine. The pacing for combat is exceptionally well-done and the cooperative system works wonderfully when two competent players team-up. In this mode mistakes have more weight to them and handling resources becomes imperative to not only surviving but to also get a great score/rank.
A better version of Resident Evil 5 would have come up with some way of rolling other aspects of the campaign into the mercenaries mode. Take for example the boss-fights. On their own they just aren't any good as they seem more adept to repeating attacks that must be QTE-dodged rather than showing any inspiration. Having a Mercenaries stage where Wesker is stalking the players while they deal with the other enemies could have been pretty awesome. What we got might have sounded good on paper but in the game itself it's overly stiff, not practical, and again just not challenging in the slightest. This could also work with something like the Irving battle. Instead of just sitting on top of a mounted gun waiting for something to happen the players could be assaulted from all sides as Majini storm the ship.
Still with the campaign as it is I can't strongly recommend Resident Evil 5. Where its controls and style may have given the game its identity in the past now it just seems like it's holding everything back. Simply changing the system to account for those who would like to move while shooting most likely wouldn't lead to any improvement. It seems like what's really missing is a better campaign and with enough creativity there are any number of ways to fix that. However thanks to the Mercenaries mode the controls and overall design of the game cease to be an issue and it really makes the game come together. The core of Resident Evil 5 is great but it's wrapped up by a lousy first impression and you can't access mercenaries mode without beating the campaign. Still if you're willing to throw away ten hours or so on something you'll only remember when asked about why you hate the game then give it a go. Just don't bash the game too much without at least giving mercenaries mode a look.
Game rating - 3 out of 5
My rating - 3 out of 5