Don't let anyone tell you that Resident Evil 5's a rotter – it's only partially decomposed. Seven years removed from its original release, Capcom's controversial African adventure remains somewhat entertaining – even if old problems die hard. This schizophrenic outback outing has a bit of an identity crisis, but its biggest issue is not necessarily in its genetic makeup – it's the fact that it's the follow-up to one of the finest games ever made. As an undead David Moyes will tell you, brilliance is an impossible thing to best.
Set aside the sunbaked scenery and infamous infectees, and this anticipated sequel can feel a little like one of those American Pie movies without the original cast; it's got all of Resident Evil 4's distinctive ingredients – from ill-advised jetski sequences through to shack-based shootouts and everything in between – but the delicious delicacy has been tampered with upon removal from the organisation's oven. That's not to say that the release revolts – it just has a salty aftertaste that sticks out in the aftermath of Shinji Mikami's sweet, sweet creation.
Alas! This is still a solid game – and it's remarkable how well it holds up when observed with a modern eye. The stop-on-the-spot shooting that proved such a source of derision in 2009 feels strangely refreshing; spatial awareness and tactical targeting augment shootouts with a tension seldom seen elsewhere – particularly not in the title's Frankenstein monster of a successor, Resident Evil 6. Shooting the limbs of the Majini – essentially the Ganados in African attire – will often disarm them or force them to stumble, allowing you to unleash devastating melee attacks.
It's a fun system which excels in co-op, and it's only really let down by a control scheme that will cause your hands to cramp. Capcom has attempted to tidy things up by increasing the field of view in this remaster – purists can revert to the outing's original settings if they want to really punish themselves – but protagonist Chris Redfield still moves like he's downed one too many protein shakes. You will acclimatise to it after a couple of hours, but it's debatable whether an objectively poor control scheme is acceptable – no matter how intentionally vulnerable it makes you feel.
And you will be exposed. For such a linear experience, Resident Evil 5 does a decent job of making combat bowls feel big; you'll get flanked by undead hordes if you don't pay particular attention to your surroundings, and it's this sense of defencelessness that injects just the teensiest drop of horror into what is ostensibly an action game. It's genuinely good stuff: the title strikes a nice balance between bombast and hopelessness, meaning that you'll often scrape through encounters unscathed – but you'll almost always come under enough pressure to make your heart race.
But there are, as already alluded, frustrations. The emphasis on co-operative play means that the single player experience suffers, and while it can be outstanding fun working alongside a real-life Sheva Alomar, her computer-controlled counterpart can be braindead at the best of times. It could be worse: the artificial intelligence engages reasonably well in combat, and doesn't blow bullets like in so many other games. But it occasionally functions in mind-boggling ways, like wasting herb sprays when you're almost at full health – or wilfully accepting a blow to the face.
It's because of this that battles can feel a little like babysitting sessions when you play solo, and while there's some good level design that forces you to take different paths at points, you'll rue these decisions by the designers when you occasionally meet a sticky end because of the AI's incompetence. It's still perfectly playable, and the irritations don't come as often as you may expect – but when they do arrive, you'll be cursing Capcom's name. Fortunately, the net code works fine – and you can even set the game to search for online partners while you play.
Which is a good thing, because this is a title that's devilishly moreish. While it lacks the Tetris-esque inventory management of Leon S. Kennedy's campaign, it makes up for it with a deep upgrade loop that sees you collecting cash in order to enhance your arsenal. Sadly, there's no shopkeeper here, but hoovering up chests of gold and hidden jewels is enjoyable all the same; you can really overhaul your weaponry in order to significantly up its efficiency, making subsequent playthroughs on higher difficulties enjoyable as opposed to annoying.
There's a lot of content, then – which expands to the now obligatory Mercenaries mini-game (entertaining, as ever) and two DLC chapters. The first of these, Lost Nightmare, is a more story-driven sequence, which takes series S.T.A.R.S. Jill Valentine and beefcake Chris to Umbrella founder Oswell E. Spencer's mansion, while Desperate Escape is a more action-heavy outing starring Ms. Valentine and jarhead Josh Stone. Both are short but worth playing – and come with online leaderboards and co-op support.
The less said about the competitive multiplayer mode, though, the better. Versus is a four-player extra which sees you either operating in Deathmatch or Team Deathmatch scenarios. There are two modes: one which sees you attempting to rack up points by chaining zombie kills, or another whereby your primary objective is to attack each other. Sadly, despite a meaty cast of classic characters, networking issues and an overall lack of care mean that the extra is surplus to requirements.
This is a more than generous package in spite of its adversarial shortcomings, however, so we'll cut Capcom some slack for that clusterf*ck. Less forgivable are the presentation issues; the visuals have been bumped up to 1080p on the PS4, of course, but some textures are really starting to show their age. Even more pronounced are the framerate dips, which prevent the title from maintaining a smooth 60 frames-per-second. Considering that the controls are already clunky, these frequent stutters don't help, making the game feel laggy in a manner that grates.
Resident Evil 5 is a confounding game: it can be criticised for both mirroring its predecessor too closely and also for changing too much. When all's said and done, though, it's a decent romp that's brilliant when it's not bewildering – and when you consider the sheer amount of content included for the asking price, it's worth a punt. Plus, you get to punch a boulder.