Resident Evil 5 isn’t a survival horror game, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t learned a great deal from the genre. Tension is the central element of survival horror games, and in the past it has been conveyed by the gloomy settings, the sense of isolation, and the frustratingly clunky camera angles and controls–all RE5 does differently is convey this feeling through other outlets. Having a partner introduces new types of tension, because you’re forced to rely on each other’s support, find ways to manage both of your inventories during battles, and cover larger areas since enemies can appear from almost anywhere. Waves of enemies wax and wane with just the right frequency, and while the brightly lit environments make them less scary, they can be tough to deal with because they attack in large numbers and are smarter, faster, and stronger than their counterparts in previous games. Major encounters and boss fights are doled out with excellent pacing, and since you’re never sure what to expect around the corner, you have to remain vigilant. The active inventory management system helps keep that anxiety up as well.
RE5 is easily one of the most visually stunning games available, and its huge variety of environments are meticulously detailed in every way. There are lots of large, open areas, and you’ll constantly be on the move through them since there are usually so many enemies. In-game cutscenes are top-notch (though sometimes a bit over the top), and Chris and Sheva are incredibly well animated, especially their faces. Though the dialogue is often full of the series’ trademark goofiness, the voice acting is competent, and when paired with the excellent facial expressions, it breathes a great deal of realism into the characters. Likewise, the fantastic orchestral soundtrack heightens the gameplay with everything from the low-key, ambient tracks that play during downtimes, to the frantic, upbeat songs that accompany the massive boss battles.
On the first play-through, Resident Evil 5 lasts about 12 hours, which is considerably shorter than its predecessor. Once you’re finished, though, there’s still plenty to see and do. There are hidden B.S.A.A. badges scattered throughout most levels to find; you can strive to get better scores or times in each chapter to show off on the online leaderboards; and there are three initial difficulties available with a fourth unlockable. In-game points can be spent on collectible trophies of various characters and enemies, on additional costumes and graphics filters, and on special infinite-ammo versions of guns that you’ve fully upgraded. Finally, the Mercenaries minigame returns in a format very similar to its last incarnation in Resident Evil 4 but with support for co-op.