Let loose in March 2009, Capcom's original release of Resident Evil 5 was received with critical acclaim, but was recognised as having more in common with third-person action games than the survival horror premise of earlier titles in the series. With extra features available in the Gold Edition, gamers have the chance to revisit the action in a stack of extra content, now armed with PS Move for increased shooting accuracy. However, eighteen months is a long time in gaming, and since then the PS3's third-person action catalogue has been boosted considerably, with third-person shooting on the system mastered by Uncharted 2. In 2010, Resident Evil 5 faces stiffer competition.
There are three versions of Resident Evil 5 available and this review is based on the latest disc version of Resident Evil 5: Gold Edition, which states that it is 'PlayStation Move Compatible' on the box. There is also an older version of Gold Edition, for which there is a free patch to download that enables the Move controls in-game. However, the original 2009 release of Resident Evil 5 is not Move compatible, even if you download the PSN patch, due to technical reasons.
Therefore, two questions must be answered when considering buying Resident Evil 5: Gold Edition. Firstly, do the Move controls and extra content add to the original experience? Second of all, are the new features enough to warrant an extra purchase for gamers who already own the 2009 release of the game?
The first question is easiest to answer: the Move controls work splendidly and take inspiration from Capcom's well developed Wii Remote system for Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition. In Gold Edition you walk with the Navigation controller's analogue stick and run by holding the X button. The exciting part happens with the motion controller. You hold the T trigger on the Move to ready your weapon and then aim the gun's reticle around the screen, firing off rounds with the Move button. It is important to note that where you point the wand does not determine your turning mechanic and you still cannot run and shoot. If a Majini-infected enemy is lurking higher up, or behind you, then you hold T and search for them using the analogue stick. It is once you find them that you aim with the wand, as picking out head shots or particular body parts is now faster and more efficient than with DualShock 3, particularly if you change the aiming speed to 'fastest' in the controller settings.
The story is engrossing and revolves around a theme of partnership. It has been three years since Chris Redfield witnessed the death of his partner, Jill Valentine, in a battle against Albert Wesker (more on that later). Since then, he has become obsessed with his mission to eradicate all Bio-Organic Weapons (BOW). Spurred by guilt and revenge, he is working overtime for the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance (BSAA), which takes him to Africa on a hunt for bio-weapons smuggler Ricardo Irving. He is assigned a new local partner, Sheva Alomar, and they both uncover how sinister pharmaceutical company, Tricell, has picked up from Umbrella's demise. Led by Excella Gionne as well as a mysterious figure, Tricell plans to unleash Uroboros, the most lethal BOW yet.
The idea of playing with a partner is consistent throughout the series, and notable from Resident Evil Zero's gameplay, but the partner theme here is especially instrumental as this is built from the ground up as a co-op experience. You play the entire game with Sheva by your side, controlled either by AI or a gaming buddy. Throughout the game you will defend each other, solve puzzles and manage items together: you may be winding up the mechanism of a bridge for her to cross with your Move one moment, then zooming in and out of your sniper rifle's sights as she is attacked by rabid Adjule dogs the next.
Online co-op with a friend is superb, particularly if you have a Navigation and Move motion controller each. Split-screen is still fun, although graphical demands determine that the windows are small with borders on each side, which actually increases your anxiety levels on the numerous occasions the game throws waves of infected Majini at you. On the most part Sheva's AI is functional in single player and on occasion she can be a fine shot with a sniper rifle. However, it seems that she is overly keen to impress Chris, because her trigger happy finger haemorrhages precious ammo. Also, she will stick to a O button instruction with no thought towards self-preservation or common sense: even if she is being smothered with an Uroboros boss's leech tentacles, she just will not let go of a furnace lever.
There are three difficulty levels from the outset and plenty of challenge to face during the twelve hours of story mode's sixteen chapters. The gameplay is varied, with hovercraft and Humvee vehicle sections breaking up the third-person action, although as with the sniper rifle all aiming with the Humvee's mounted gun is handled by the Navigation's analogue stick and not the motion controller. Three quarters of the way into the game, during Chapter 5-2's Experimental Facility, Majini soldiers are introduced and the mechanics change to a cover-and-shoot dynamic. It is here that the accuracy of aiming with the wand truly excels and it differentiates the Gold Edition from other similar games.
The varied gameplay continues with interactive cutscenes and context sensitive actions, as you hold the wand vertically and shake it to 'break free' from an enemy's grasp, or swoop the wand in a loop to dodge a boss's fierce attack. The visuals and audio have been created with high production values, exemplified by an epic boss battle with Uroboros on the main deck of a ship, as well as the vast scale of Chapter 4-1's Caves, which draws comparisons with Uncharted's environments. The audio is superb throughout, with meaty gun shots and weight to its sound effects, as well as a score performed by The Hollywood Studio Symphony. An example of this is the music to Chapter 6-1's Ship Deck, with pulsating heartbeat rhythms inducing panic as you anticipate an attack.
Dead Space created an edgy sci-fi survival horror, and whilst Resident Evil 5's action sections are not especially scary there are moments, particularly a classic enemy hiding in the claustrophobic laboratory corridors below the Underground Garden, making for a tense atmosphere. Some enemies are more frightening than others, like the huge insect-like Reaper, whose attack will kill you instantly with a vicious impalement. It is during confined corridor moments that mastering the stun rod is vital, as holding T to ready the weapon and then swinging the wand to strike is a satisfying and effective form of defence. However, whilst gamers who have already accustomed themselves to the DualShock 3 controls will take the longest to shed old habits and transition to Move, it is worth taking the time to master all of the motion sensing improvements.
In regard to the survival horror roots of the franchise, special mention must go to the Gold Edition's wonderfully tense 'Lost in Nightmares'. This flashback level is unlocked after completing Chapter 3-1 of the main story and it harks back to the foreboding atmosphere of the first Resident Evil. Here you journey with the original game's S.T.A.R.S, Chris and Jill, tiptoeing through the Spencer Estate as creepy lightning and marble-floored footsteps lead to numerous jumpy moments on your journey to discover exactly how Jill met her demise.
When you complete the main story, the Gold Edition showers you with extra content, including an action-packed 'Desperate Escape' level that relates to story events from the latter parts of the game, and 'The Mercenaries Reunion' mini-game, an arcade-style game that arms Chris with unlimited ammo for a gatling gun to go to town with the new Move controls. An online versus game is also included in the package, although 'Lost in Nightmares' which is the real treat from Capcom for fans of the series.
Resident Evil 5: Gold Edition takes the original 2009 release and greatly expands on its overall package. Whilst the majority of the game's chapters are a continuation rather than a reinvention of the action gameplay template set in Resident Evil 4, there are elements in the extra content, 'Lost in Nightmares' in particular, which act as fan service by harking back to the first Resident Evil. The Move controls help differentiate this title from other PS3 third-person action games, especially for the cover-and-shoot elements during latter parts of the game, as the speed and accuracy enabled by aiming with the motion controller is an improvement. Similarly, swinging the wand to attack with the stun rod, and shaking to reload your gun, is a fun way to experience its gameplay. The Gold Edition is overflowing with content and at its bargain price it should be snapped up by gamers who do not own the original game. It loses value as a purchase for those who already own and have completed the original, because they have experienced its core gameplay. It is for them to decide if well-implemented Move controls and an abundance of extra content is enough to warrant a second purchase.