It has come to my attention that as of March 5, 2019, a little game called Resident Evil 5 is a whopping ten years old. While this shouldn’t come as a shock that old game is old, considering how many entries have come and gone since, this one is special. There’s a certain energy to Resident Evil 5 that has made it a massive success over a long period of time. This is in contrast to its incredibly divisive reception among gamers and Resident Evil fans, many of whom are still going back and forth on what they think of it.
That legacy is part of what makes Resident Evil 5 special. Everyone has an opinion on it, for better or worse. There just aren’t many games like it, and part of that is how totally all-in on cooperative play it was in an era of booming online multiplayer. Split screen play was literally dying due to power demands. Yet Capcom built an entire game out of the concept, using its tentpole horror franchise to do it. This game doesn’t make any sense and is riddled with problems, but playing it with a friend is one of the best experiences you can have in gaming.
Resident Evil 5, in the ten years it has been available (in multiple SKUs and even a reappearance on modern platforms), has risen to be Capcom’s number two game in terms of sales, second only to the explosive Monster Hunter: World. What has supported this is things like Steam sales and the PS4 version being nice and cheap, but that only goes so far (look at Resident Evil 6 for example, which is number three but short by several million).
What has kept this game alive is its mechanically perfect co-op play. This game is designed specifically to be enjoyed by two people working together, to the point that single players have to do a few extra things to keep the partner AI in check. But the co-op gameplay loop works so well, it no longer matters what the “spirit” of Resident Evil 5 is once you get into it.
I used to be a Resident Evil purist, even being on the fence about the legendary Resident Evil 4 because it eschews horror about halfway through for some big action setpieces. Resident Evil 5 goes a step further and is pure video game-ass video game from the jump. It has satisfying two-player puzzles, cooperative melee combat moves, and real-time inventory management. It also has that crisp, third-person shooting play that was introduced in the previous game and only polished from there. Knee-capping a zombie, then punching it in the face as a team to set up a co-op move was one hundred percent lit, and that’s without all the boulder-punching nonsense from the story.
Resident Evil 5 is a game that is all over the place, from its weird impact on the series overall, to its tone and messy structure. But where it shines is in sharing the experience with a friend, which has led to a long stretch of quiet success. People love to share this game and have been more than willing to pick it up and give it a whirl over multiple years and platforms. While the Resident Evil series continues to change and evolve with each new release, it’s clear that Resident Evil 5 had a big impact, albeit an incredibly divisive one.