Hands-On: Resident Evil 5 (Switch)

Hands-On: Resident Evil 5 (Switch)

by October 3, 2019

The Switch has become something of a springboard for previous-generation titles to find new life and a new audience. Many of Nintendo’s better Wii U titles found even better sales figures and more critical love on the Switch, including Mario Kart 8, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, and more. Third-party publishers have seized this opportunity over the years as well, with Capcom re-releasing several popular Resident Evil titles on the platform in recent months. Now, the company is further expanding its Switch offerings with Resident Evil 5 and 6, the former of which we’ll talk about now. The game has hardly languished in obscurity with over 11 million sales across all platforms since 2009, but it will certainly move more units on Nintendo’s in-demand system. Soon enough, Switch players will get to experience a game that, in some ways, looks to be past its prime.

As is occasionally the case with this franchise, the first thing that jumps out at you upon picking up the controller is, well, the controls. The Resident Evil franchise has featured obtuse and restrictive control schemes, meant to heighten tension and stress through a feeling of restricted movement, but with this title’s more action-oriented aspirations, the results are less impressive. Everything from running by holding down the left stick to interaction prompts requiring very specific character placement makes even mundane movement tasks sluggish and irritating. Perhaps the worst offender in this regard is being unable to move as you shoot or swing your knife; forcing you to stop and attack something does make the action more deliberate, but also makes the action cumbersome as can be. Series purists and fans of the title may see this as a positive, but from the casual player’s perspective, it’s something of a turn-off.

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So how does it run on the Switch? The demo features strong and smooth performance, which one would expect from a ten-year-old game on hardware eclipsing its original release platform. Given the rather poor texture and lighting quality of the demo level (carried over, assumedly, from the version this port was based on), we’d be pretty upset to see performance issues at this point, but we saw nary a hitch or stutter across ten minutes of busy gameplay. The game’s co-op mode returns, which also runs well; given the added level of excitement a second player brings, this is probably still the best way to experience the game, especially considering the occasionally-frustrating AI of your computer-controlled partner when you play solo.

For something that straddles the line between horror and action, Resident Evil 5 kind of misses the mark on both. As an action game, the controls are too restrictive and stiff to appeal to fans of modern, more fluid titles. As a horror experience, the game leans too heavily into action thrills and deemphasizes scares as a result. A decade on the market has definitely aged this game, and you could argue that it’s not for the better. This entry began a new era for the franchise, one that stepped away from its survival-horror roots; how well it did (and continues to do) so depends on your perspective.

Resident Evil 5 launches for the Nintendo Switch on October 29th for $30.