Six months ago, Capcom returned to its survival horror roots by unleashing Resident Evil 5, the latest installment of its acclaimed franchise, on consoles. Reuniting some of the classic characters while at the same time taking advantage of features from the previous title in the series, RE5 was an evolution of the genre. The addition of co-op further added to the fast paced action, as you had a hand to fend off the infected denizens of Kijuju. However, up till now, only console players could enjoy fighting the hordes; fortunately, that's about to change. Resident Evil 5 has arrived on PCs, and while the release on computers isn't a director's cut, packing tons of additional content, the few new bells and whistles included definitely make it a solid improvement over the console versions, and arguably the best version of the game that's been released.
If you're not aware of the story of Resident Evil 5, allow me to provide a brief and spoiler free summary. Chris Redfield, one of the survivors of the Arklay Mansion incident in the original Resident Evil title, has joined a new group known as the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance, a worldwide organization whose task is to prevent the spread of biological weapons from being used. Chris is sent to a fictional region of Africa because of a possible outbreak, and is met by his new partner, Sheva Alomar, who helps in his investigation. Along the way, Chris and Sheva find themselves facing familiar people from Chris' past as well as discover a plot that could be the deadliest threat the world has ever faced.
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For the most part, this is exactly the same story on the PC that you'll find on the consoles. (If you're looking for a breakdown of combat, the racism controversy and more about the game, check out our original review
.) That means that you won't find any additional chapters or quick time events, nor is there an epilogue that highlights what happens to the characters at the end of the game. That's not to say that there aren't any new features that have been implemented within the gameplay. In fact, there are a few adjustments that have been made which improve the experience. The first adjustment involves making the inventory of both Chris and Sheva hot swappable thanks to the 1 through 9 keys. Hitting any one of these keys instantly equips the item, reducing the amount of steps that you need to perform. This can be particularly vital, especially in the midst of combat where you don't have the time to access the menu screen, select and equip an object and avoid an incoming blow.
Another adjustment that's been made is the addition of mouse and keyboard support, which you'd expect with a game that's been ported to the PC, even though it supports the 360 controller as well and can be swapped back and forth at will. But it's more than just a simple WASD adjustment that you'll find here. For one thing, the keyboard provides a quick turn button that can instantly be pressed to rotate your characters around. This is effective when you're trying to prevent yourself from being surrounded by Majini or other creatures that are looking to rip you to pieces. Another plus is the inclusion of a quick knife button that allows you to instantly swing your knife at an enemy or an object in quick succession, giving you a last second item of protection. But perhaps the largest and most significant adjustment is the larger aiming reticule for the mouse, which allows you to ready a firearm with the right mouse button and fire with the left. No longer are you forced to rely on a laser pointer to indicate where bullets are going to go; instead, you can line up your target in the expanded sight and fire away.
There is one section where this fails, however. During the vehicle sequences, where you and your partner leap onto a turret to repel incoming attacks and defeat your enemies, the expanded reticule mysteriously shrinks for some strange reason to an incredibly tiny red cross. This can be extremely difficult to see and aim properly, potentially reducing your chances of success. It's not like this can't be adjusted or even compensated for, nor is it one of those issues that radically breaks the gameplay, but it is a big adjustment to be forced back to when you're accustomed to the larger reticule for a majority of the game. Just prepare to spray and pray...
Players can choose to take on the game by themselves or with a friend thanks to Games for Windows Live, although the title does wind up having a bit of a clunky menu system for joining players together. You can search for other games or invite players to leap into a mission with you, but the title is really set up for establishing a session with friends once you're already in a chapter. Immediately hosting a session and extending an invite to someone can potentially get lost within the clunky menu system, which hasn't been simplified for computer users and can cause a few minutes of confusion. However, like the console version, if a player winds up dropping out of the game, the AI instantly picks up where they were and allows the game to continue, which is a great plus.
Once you've completed the game, you'll discover that you've really only acquired two new "extras" that weren't seen on the consoles before. The smaller of the two "extras" that you'll unlock after beating the game are two new costumes that haven't been included within the console versions. Chris gets a Road Warrior-like outfit, while Sheva can don a business suit complete with mini-skirt. It's somewhat lame and disappointing that there aren't many more outfits that you can acquire, or even find that some outfits provide you with additional protection or abilities. On top of that, you might not like the look of either one of the new outfits; at least you're not forced to wear them. As you can tell, this isn't a vast improvement on the replayability of the title.
The other extra, however, will definitely give the hardcore player a challenge. Like the console, you unlock Mercenaries mode after you complete the game, and you try to kill as many enemies as possible alone or with a friend within a time limit. While the PC version has scrapped the Versus mode from the console which many people didn't particularly like, it has replaced this feature with No Mercy mode, a solo-only mission where you take on three times the enemies for every one within the normal Mercenaries mode. Needless to say, while this can provide you with incredible combos (like ten or twenty kill combos with a well placed grenade or proximity mine), it can also lead to hordes of Majini, creatures and other enemies swarming you in insane numbers that seem ripped from a Romero zombie film. The downside of this hardcore mode that is a lot of fun is that the framerate of the game tends to take a hit when the game tries to display more than thirty Majini on screen at once.
That brings me to the visuals, which are noticeably sharper than the consoles thanks to the higher resolution that PC video cards can provide. While the game is optimized for Core i7's and has been optimized to run in Windows 7 once it's released, RE5 will run quite comfortably on a dual or quad core that meets the basic specs with minimal issues. Running on our quad core machine at 2.4Ghz with 4 gigs of RAM and our twin GTX 275s gave us absolutely no problems whatsoever, and I only found a slight amount of frame drops or hitches that cropped up here and there, usually in the middle of extremely hectic battle sequences. However, it is readily apparent that RE5 is optimized for monitors that are running at 120Hz to take advantage of Nvidia's 3D Vision. When I ran the game on an older 60Hz monitor, there was a ton of screen tearing to be found. While it was still a very pretty game to look at, turning rapidly (especially if the mouse sensitivity was cranked up) could cause tearing to be extremely prevalent during play. It's not enough to hamper a game session or cause you to die because of an incoming attack, but it can detract from the experience.
However, if you do happen to have a 120Hz monitor and you have the Nvidia 3D vision glasses, you're definitely in for a serious treat. RE5 was designed to fully take advantage of 3D, and it doesn't disappoint, rendering Chris and Sheva in a way that provides them with the visual illusion of weight and mass as they move through their environments instead of being flat 2D images onscreen. Objects and enemies also appear to pop out of the screen during certain segments of the game as well, piercing the digital "fourth wall" with a sense of negative depth that is quite incredible. Once you see the slithering worms of the first boss of the game seemingly drip through the screen at your face, you'll know you're seeing something special. Since you're able to tailor the perception of the depth to your personal taste, you can also adjust how much of an impact the 3D has, which allows you to make the experience fully subjective to your tastes. While not everyone with a PC may have the gear to take advantage of the 3D, it's extremely easy to enable, and RE5 provides two benchmark tests to help you configure your experience. If you have the means, definitely check out the game like this – you'll enjoy the experience.
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